5 Marketing Mistakes That Sabotage Good Companies

Written by Lisa Shepherd

In this column, I usually talk about best practices for business-to-business marketing. But this time, I’ve decided to focus on what you should not to do. By highlighting the mistakes so many B2B companies make, I hope to help you avoid sabotaging your business.

Mistake #1: Shiny-marketing syndrome

A lot of companies are attracted by hype and think “Ooh, it’s new, let’s try that!” or “Social media is cool, let’s get a Twitter account” or “Company XYZ is doing online videos, we should, too.” There’s nothing wrong with Twitter or online videos. Used correctly, they can be amazing marketing tools. But you have to know when and how to use them. Businesses often jump in without understanding how to use a specific marketing tool effectively, and the tactic ends up failing.

Before you spend time and money on something, set some clear objectives for your marketing initiatives.  Do you want to generate leads? Do you want to raise awareness?  Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you pick the marketing tools that make strategic sense. Not sure how to do that?  Here are three questions to help.

Read: Social media can be a powerful (and free!) customer-service tool. But it also can backfire if left unchecked

Mistake #2: Thinking that anyone can do your marketing

Marketing is like a renovating a house€“you should only tackle it yourself if a) you know what you’re doing and b) you have the time to do the job right. I can’t tell you how many companies think they can easily assign their marketing to someone with no marketing background. The marketing directors in my company have 10 plus years of experience €“ because that’s how long it takes to learn how to run an effective marketing program. Giving your marketing to an admin person or someone right out of school is a mistake. Just because they know Facebook doesn’t mean they can put together a good marketing strategy and execute it well. It’s much better to spend your money on someone with a track record.

Read: Can You Pull Off DIY Branding?

Pop Quiz: Should You Do Your Own Marketing?

Mistake #3: Impatience

I call this “if it doesn’t work this week let’s move onto something else next week” syndrome. So many companies expect instant gratification. But the reality is that reaching your audience takes time. Results are cumulative and need time to build. It can take months for the full benefit of a marketing tactic to be felt. You need potential customers to recognize multiple touchpoints.

There’s a tipping point where you’ll see you marketing campaign’s effectiveness, but if you stop before that happens, you’ve wasted your initial investment, and you may as well have done no marketing at all. How do you know if you’ve gone beyond the reasonable amount of time and should call it a failure?

Mistake #4: Shoestring budget

A lot of B2B companies don’t have big marketing budgets and it can definitely be very cost-effective to use some low-cost tactics in the right way. But below a certain investment level, it’s better not to bother with some tactics. I know of one company€“an architecture firm with a high-end audience€“that decided to save money on photos by hiring a college student for $2,000 instead of paying a pro $4,000. The  inexperienced student was unable to deliver the high-end look the firm needed. So they ended up having to hire the pro anyway. The professional photos were great€“they elevated the company and gave their marketing the premium look its audience expects. But making that mistake cost the company an EXTRA $2,000, when they should have just gone with the professional in the first place.

Spend where it counts, and you’ll get the results you want.

Read Low-Cost Marketing: Spend Less, Get More Results

Mistake #5: Taking an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach

Hey, it’s worked before, so why don’t we just keep doing it? Here’s why: buyer decision-making is changing, and if you don’t keep up with the ways in which people connect with companies, you’ll lose out on key touchpoints. Think about investing 10-15% of your marketing budget on new approaches. So if you’ve been relying on trade shows as your main marketing strategy, for example, try doing some online videos. You may not know how well it will work, but a small investment could pay off significantly if you do it right, and bring on experienced people to execute it. The only way to figure out how something will work for your company is to try it.

Read: Are You Losing the New Marketing War?

So there you have it. The biggest mistakes marketers can make and a few ideas on how to avoid them. It all comes down to taking your marketing seriously, planning it out carefully, and working with the right people. I hope you’ll avoid these 5 mistakes and be on your way to marketing success in 2014.

Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.

More columns by Lisa Shepherd

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