5 Ways to Waste Money on Marketing

Date: January 13, 2014

Sending mass email blasts, banking on big-dog retailers and other ways to get zero ROI

About to embark on a marketing campaign? Great. How much money do you want to waste?

Despite everything you’ve heard, the promises of email, website links and even the Amazon marketplace will fall flat if you don’t know how to work them properly.

Here are five marketing strategies that have little to no return on investment:

1. Links alone.

"Link building" means attempting to get other credible websites to link to your website. "Theory has it, if you are successful having these other sites link to your site, it will improve your Google Page Rank and you’ll show up higher in the search engines," explains David Larson, president of Sale & Marketing Technologies in Altamonte Springs, Florida. "One test that we did a while back was on the effectiveness of link building. We stopped all marketing on our site and did a test of link building alone. We gave it 90 days to work. In the end, it had zero impact. No improvement in ranking, traffic, or leads."

Do This Instead: Focus on proven marketing tactics that help your business, and if you get a few good links back in the process...even better!

2. Without permission.

Buying email lists in bulk will be a waste of money. You can make email a powerful revenue generator, but only if you handle your lists right. "The problem is, 95 percent of any list you can buy does not want to hear from you, and you damage your brand’s reputation by trying to market to them," says Tyler Young, principal consultant with Conversion Insights in Kansas City, Missouri.

Do This Instead: Build opt-in lists through website visits, customer-service calls, tradeshows and invoices. “Getting an opt-in [list] is a harder path, but it produces much, much higher ROI in the long term,” says Young.

RELATED: 12 Ways to Grow Your Opt-in Email List

3. Rush job.

If you expect immediate results from any marketing program, you will be disappointed. “Marketing and breaking through an awareness barrier takes extensive time,” says Ethan Casavant of Main Security Surveillance in Augusta, Maine. “Too many small businesses try a tactic once and never do it again. This is a surefire way to fail.”

Do This Instead: Be persistent and keep with your marketing, even if it looks like it’s not working at first. And only then, after tracking and measuring if the program is a success or not, should you pull the plug.

4. Paper chase.

Flyers can be a valuable, low-cost attention-getter. So why don't they work all of the time? Because there is no plan, says Ryan Golden, CEO and Founder of Moasis Global, a location-based tech company in San Francisco. "Just to print flyers and hand them out to consumers is like giving other people your garbage to throw out."

Do This Instead: "Having a good-size street team and an objective--where to send them--takes time, resources and dollars," says Golden. "It is about reaching as many eyeballs as possible to inform the consumer of your offer, but it only works when you can plan ahead knowing where your customers will be."

RELATED: Design Advice for a Do-It-Yourself Direct Mail Campaign

5. Big dogs.

Yes, Amazon and eBay can put you in front of the masses, but the price is steep, sometimes 15 percent of the sale. It’s worth trying, but only in small doses.

Do This Instead: “We decided to use eBay for targeted, inexpensive loss leader products that would ship cheaply and allow us to package the items with coupons that lured these new customers back directly to our website, as ultimately we want them paying us and not eBay,” says Adam Henige, managing partner of Swimtown Pool Supplies in Lansing, Michigan. “These outlets can be great for building your overall sales numbers, but you need to have a margin that can absorb the fees or a plan to turn your loss leader into recurring direct business.”

RELATED: How to Set up a Successful Online Distribution Channel


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