In honour of the day, we present some of the scariest marketing mistakes companies are making.

With the spookiest of days upon us, it seems like the perfect time to talk about the scary mistakes that so many companies – both small start-ups as well as large corporations – are making when it comes to their marketing strategies. Of course at William Joseph, we’ve never made any of these mistakes (tsk, tsk) but we see them happening all the time (not with our clients of course) and wanted to share them with you in an effort to ward off the evil spirits that contribute to them:  a lack of understanding, imagination and sometimes just plain cheapness. So like garlic to a vampire, arm yourself with these marketing horror stories and use the knowledge to save yourself from impending danger.

Marketing Horror Story #1 – Playing it too safe

Too many companies say they want to get noticed or do something ‘edgy’ but when it comes right down to it, they get scared off by ‘what people will think’. While it’s certainly true that not all brands can get away with edgy advertisements that push societal norms, most can in fact take a few risks with their advertising as long as the core message remains on brand and is authentic. It’s also important to note that ‘edgy’ advertising doesn’t need to be crude, rude or nude but just creative, clever and original.

Marketing Horror Story #2 – Snubbing social networks

It’s true that social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are fairly new marketing channels whose longevity hasn’t yet been truly tested, but don’t kid yourself into thinking they’re a fad or just for young people. The Internet has allowed us countless ways to communicate in the most genuine form as marketers – directly with the very people who use our products and buy our services. It allows us to have discussions with, and not just at, our customers. So if your company is not using social media to communicate, or you’re not taking advantage of running a social media ad campaign, you’re missing out on an invaluable way to reach customers on the most basic level – as a ‘friend’.

Marketing Horror Story #3 – Hiring an agency based solely on price

We know, we know…. Hiring an advertising agency can be a daunting and expensive task. Every agency will tell you that they’re creative and cool, and many will provide a quote that seems too good to be true. And it probably is, for two reasons. One, they’ve purposely low-balled the quote to win the business and will then end up tacking on ‘add-ons’ as the project proceeds so you end up paying just as much, or more, by the time the project is over. The second reason the quote is so low? Because that agency sucks (and I don’t mean the Vampire type of suck) and you’ll end up with marketing materials that are evidence of that. At WJ, we’ve heard it so many times: “I choose X agency over you because they were cheaper” but the result of that cheap work was that the client was left with materials that they were so disappointed in that they ended up coming back to us at shortly after. Having wasted money and time developing the crappy stuff, they then rely on us to fix it and it ends up costing them even more money in the long term. So do yourself and your budget a favour and choose your agency based on the strategy they recommend, their design portfolio and their fit with you as a client. Not on price.

Marketing Horror Story #4 – Not taking advantage of happy customers

Anyone who owns a business will tell you that it’s 10 times easier (and cheaper) to get business from return customers than it is to find brand new ones. And that’s true…but what’s even smarter is turning those happy customers into advocates for your business. Let’s say you’ve done a great job for them and they tell you that – so why not ask them to tell others? Ask them if they’d be willing to make a Facebook status update promoting the great service they just got from you – you never know how many of their FB friends are going to see their post and seek you out. But don’t stop there. Ask to write a Case Study on the work you did for them and post it on your website or social media page, include a testimonial from them on your site, or offer them a referral discount if they send new customers your way. If someone is happy with your business/service, make sure everyone knows it!

Marketing Horror Story #5 – Death by consensus

One of the most troubling things a marketing agency can hear is “We really liked it but then we showed it to Judy down the hall and she just isn’t sure.” Don’t get me wrong…I’m sure Judy is a lovely lady who is very good at her job, but I’m going guess that Judy’s job isn’t in marketing. Way too often, the agency and the client will spend weeks, if not months, developing a campaign or marketing concept that has strategic rationale and a creative execution developed to solve the client’s problems or needs. Everyone loves it…until… someone shows it to someone who shows it to someone and that someone “isn’t sure” if they like it, and then all of the sudden the client gets cold feet without evaluating the merit of the criticism. So the next time this happens, ask yourself: Is this person part of our target audience? Do they understand the background or context surrounding the idea? And, does their opinion even matter? If the answer is no, then you know what you need to do – trust the work of your agency and don’t kill the idea.