The #2 biggest mistake businesses make with their marketing

I’ve worked with a lot of different businesses, and I’ve consulted with even more. There are two evil twin sisters that keep cropping up in each preliminary call that I have with a new client, and they always say:

“Come and play with us Katie”

And I’ll be honest, I used to go in and play along with whatever was going on within that business and work with the marketing strategy that was given to me. But I’m bigger and bolder now, and I know that playing with either one of these evil twins will take your business nowhere. Hiring someone to work within a strategy that contains these perils will take you nowhere with a monthly retainer fee.

These girls are ready and waiting to waste your time and money, as well as causing you a big pile of stress. We know that’s worse than any horror movie.

Let’s start with wicked sister number 2, I can’t face number one just yet…

Little Miss ‘Let’s try something else – this isn’t working’

She may not have the most catchy name, so let me explain how a typical project goes with Little Miss LTSE:

“Blogging didn’t work for us – so we tried social media

Social media didn’t work for us, so we fired the social media manager

Then we hired an agency, but they didn’t work for us, so we hired a different one

The agency’s social didn’t work for us, so we invested all our money into Google ads

The Google ads didn’t work for us, so we tried Facebook ads

Facebook ads didn’t work for us, so we’re trying blogging.”

Businesses with this mentality drift from freelancer to agency and back again, complaining bitterly about the results they get. They’ll hop from platform to platform, from Google ads, to Bing ads, to LinkedIn ads.

Here’s where the problem lies 👇

It’s not that Little Miss LTSE has expectations that are too high, or that she isn’t measuring properly, or that she just wants to hop on a trend. There is a core issue here – she isn’t tracking overall business growth and sees marketing her business as many individual activities. She only knows how to track the success of an activity by a customer saying ‘I found you through your blog’ or ‘I bought from you because of social media’.

Now don’t get me wrong, you need to be able to track whether your Google ads or Facebook ads are working, but you can’t really tell how a particular marketing activity is affecting your business in the way that people expect. Yes you can measure traffic, impressions and reach, you can sometimes have a (limited) tracking of conversions. But measuring the success of one individual marketing activity and pinning all your hopes on one medium doesn’t make any sense.

Why’s that?

People don’t just see a Facebook ad and buy something right after seeing that ad.

People don’t see a consultant make a post on Linkedin and decide to ‘book a discovery call’ with them right then and there.

People don’t Google something and then immediately buy the thing.

In some instances, this will happen, I’ve seen it myself when selling jewellery a couple of days before Valentine’s day (panic buyers may not have much lifetime value to you), but here’s what will usually happen:

Someone will be scrolling through Instagram, looking at a few businesses that are similar to yours and maybe do some shopping by clicking through to their site.

Meta recognises that this individual is interested in products like yours, so it sends them advertisements on their Instagram and Facebook profiles.

The person sees the ads a few times, nothing happens, they may not even register that they’ve seen the ads.

Months later, you promote a special offer on meta ads. The person sees your campaign and clicks through, has a browse, they buy nothing. They don’t follow your social profiles.

They see something that reminds them that they wanted your product or that you have an offer on, and they Google you. This is one of the reasons brand keywords have high conversion rates.

They’ll have a browse and buy something. Your website matters – the format, its call to actions, its messaging, its social proof.

After it arrives, they photograph it and post it to their Instagram.

Your brand account likes it and reposts it to their profile. The customer follows you.

They open your emails to check for special offers. You send them a referral scheme and they recommend a friend in return for a voucher.

This is why we say marketing takes time

In B2C, the buyer journey can take months. In B2B it can take years. Marketers understand this and they work around this by segmenting audiences and being consistent with their brand amplification. However, in the agency/freelancing world, it’s very difficult to make customers understand that this is required. If people are hiring agencies or freelancers – they usually want quick results now. You’ll probably get 1-3 months to start proving that you can improve ROI. If you do make the numbers, your client won’t see the reason to spend money on a wider strategy, if you don’t, or if the numbers aren’t as high as some other guy promised – you get fired.

If your Google ads are working, but your Facebook ads aren’t – that could still mean that your Facebook ads are working. If you aren’t getting any direct sales from your blog but you’re getting loads of traffic from it, that blog could be positively impacting your SEO. And yet as marketers, we’re often told ‘I don’t care about traffic, I care about sales!’ As if brand awareness is just complete nonsense that means absolutely nothing to business success. 🤔

Analysis isn’t something everyone can do

The reality is, that marketing analysis is not something that all marketers can do never mind business owners. There are lots of numbers involved, and you need to be able to read and digest large amounts of figures and understand what they mean and what direction you should take next. In some ways, marketing analysis is much more difficult than doing a tax return because it’s not a plus/minus situation – in your marketing report the numbers have meanings that differ wildly. Two marketing analysts may even have totally differing opinions on what’s going on with your report.

It’s why I’m reluctant to simplify my reports down to the bare bones, some information we do need to keep track of, not just sales figures (which may be easier to read). It would be a shame to cull a campaign that was doing super well in brand awareness and engagement terms just because we couldn’t track direct sales numbers.

At the same time, you may be investing in something that isn’t right for you, or doing it in the wrong way.

If you don’t have a marketing analyst, then who is doing the marketing analysis for your business and making the important decisions about where to put spend?

What’s the best thing to do if you have limited time and money?

Create a customer journey map either within your team or with a strategist so you can understand how your customer buys and where you need to be showing up. There may be gaps to fill such as a leafletting campaign or even a simple chalkboard outside on the street that tells customers you’re open. Sit down and think about everything at once. The bigger picture.

Here’s a simple customer journey map I made with a small local store who have limited marketing resources. The map enables the store manager, who has no prior marketing experience, to understand their daily marketing duties and where they sit within the entire buyer decision-making process.

Sometimes with marketing strategy, simple is best. The best strategy is the one that you’re actually going to be able to implement.

How can you tell if your marketing is working?

I’m a really detail-orientated person. I love the details. But when measuring success you really have to look at the bigger picture as well as the details.

The big question is: are you balling? Are you making it rain? Okay I’m kidding but really….

Is your business growing? Are new customers finding you, even if you aren’t sure where they heard of you? Do people just know about your business? If so then your marketing strategy is working. Could it be better? Sure, then look at the details.

If it’s not working you will see slow growth, limited sales, struggles, disappointing seasons and find that nobody’s heard of you. Worst of all? You look around at your competitors and think…. ‘damn, I wish I could have that!’ It happens to everyone in business at some point or another.

If you’re in a situation where your marketing isn’t working firing your google ads guy and hiring a new one isn’t going to fix it. All that will happen is you’ll become disenchanted with the next one and then eventually blame Google ads as a platform. You need to take a step back and look at your messaging, your user experience, your strategy and your brand.

Trust me, if you are having issues getting business in – an Instagram account isn’t going to be a silver bullet.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (I end up repeating myself a lot in this job) – if your strategy is good, your messaging is good, marketing is easy.

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