Treats or Tricks? 13 Timeless Marketing Horrors

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Spooky MarketingMarketing can be a high-wire act. Multi-tasking can turn into juggling, and the stakes have a way of going up all the time.

Maybe that’s why it’s such a thrill when things go well. When customers are happy, revenue is rising, and your CEO is smiling … that’s a treat.

But when things go wrong (your traffic falls flat, your campaigns fall flatter) it can begin to feel like you’re being tricked. With Halloween approaching, we thought we’d take a look at the tricks – and a few of the potential treats – of digital marketing.

Any of these 13 marketing horrors could await you if you don’t uphold the oath of marketing best practices and constant testing. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

1) You got lost on your way to the end of the quarter.

That can happen if you don’t have a documented marketing plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? Or, if you’re using marketing technology, do you have a map of all the inputs, actions, content and processes you’re building?

Whether you call it a “buyer’s journey” or a “funnel map”, it’s essential to have a plan that meshes how you use your technology with your business objectives. Just don’t keep it all in your head … unless you want it to explode.

2) You spent #BigBucks on content that didn’t work.

Did that racehorse fail to run, or did it never make it to the gate? The likeliest cause of content failure is the failure to manage it after you create it. If you don’t have a “content vault”, “content hub” or some other vault that lets you collect and deploy your content, you could be tricking yourself out of ROI. Content needs to be organized, accessible, and tracked for results. If people don’t know where to find it, how will they use it? Good content is way too expensive to have it get lost in the underworld.

Content also needs to be updated regularly – at least once a year. There’s no better way to sour a lead than to show them information they know darn well is no longer true. So if you’re in a business that changes rapidly (who isn’t?) make sure your content has expiration dates.

3) Your results are a black hole. 

You know the old saying, right? “That which is measured, improves.” blackholeWell, I think most of us are now measuring our marketing, but it kills me how infrequently some of us do anything with the measurements. If you never analyze the results of your updates, you’re pulling a nasty trick – on yourself.

Your reporting holds the secrets of what your customers like and don’t like, when to reach them and which channels to use. Could ignoring all that be the single best way to kill your ROI? Might be.

Solution: Check your reporting. Don’t trust your reporting? Don’t even have reporting (ack!)? Fix that.

4) You suddenly notice that you’re using a mono-channel strategy.

Multi-channel marketing can be a little scary to manage, but your buyers are roaming around using many – and you need to be where they are. (BTW, not to be self-referential but that’s exactly the sort of thing marketing automation systems were made for.) So don’t get stranded with using just email, or publishing only white papers.

Step out into videos (when you have content that’s suited to videos). Try some SMS messaging. Mock up some infographics. Get your people speaking slots at events. Participate in LinkedIn discussions. The buyer’s journey isn’t limited to just one or two channels, so your marketing shouldn’t be, either.

Still need inspiration? Watch our on-demand webinar, “The 3-Pronged Approach to Customer Journey Mapping.”  It’ll give you both the broad view and the details on how to bring multiple channels, customer information, and your buyer’s journey into sync.

5) Your automation process has dead ends.

Nobody likes to be led down a black hole. It’s not just because the boogie man could be down there. It’s worse. There’s nothing. And finding nothing makes prospects feel like all the time they spent arriving at the dead end was wasted.

Sales processes can do this in many ways:

  • They don’t close blog posts with related posts or related resources.
  • They don’t follow up white paper or case study downloads with related resources.
  • If someone fills out a contact form, they don’t respond to it quickly enough to fulfill the customer’s need.
  • They send email updates with no call to action.
  • They have major “content gaps” in the buyer’s journey.

The solution? Look for places in your sales funnel where people tend to get stuck, or just abandon the process. That indicates a disconnect, whether it’s a content gap or a misunderstanding about what the prospect needs.

Other solutions are pretty obvious: every piece of content needs a “breadcrumb” after it to lead the prospect along. Otherwise they’re stuck in no man’s land … also known as content purgatory.

6) The horror! Your marketing systems aren’t integrated.

Ooh, this is such a common bugaboo. Your email system won’t talk to your ordering system. Your website doesn’t automatically send leads to sales. And so instead of working together, your tools each vie for your time and attention. And you’re manually patching your efforts and data together instead of leveraging the system as a whole.

Unfortunately, your marketing pieces need to fit together if you want maximum benefits. If your different systems won’t talk to each other, it’s time to get your people together to talk about that. Maybe you should look into an open marketing platform that makes it easy to plug all your tools into one manageable integrated ecosystem.

7) Uh oh. All your prospects look exactly alike. Blank.

Yikes! This means you’re missing out on one of the biggest marketing benefits of all. Have you set up different prospect personas, or at least identified different types of buyers? If you aren’t personalizing or at least segmenting your leads and website visitors, then you’re probably treating every one of them the same. This is not the way to endear yourself to very many buyers. (If any.)

The other major sin here is that if you treat everybody the same, you probably aren’t scoring your leads and prospects. And as you know so well, not all leads are created equal. If your marketing automation system isn’t tuned to fast-track the best leads, or to hand them off to a real person if they qualify, then you haven’t brought lead scoring into your automation. That’s scary.

Want to know more about the ins and outs of lead scoring? See our on-demand webinar, The Lead Scoring Equation.

8) You woke up this morning and your pipeline was empty. (Cue the crickets.)

Picture this: Your website-to-sales funnel pipeline is a bit like a factory. New visitors (the raw materials) go in, and then get built (nurtured) into different products (types of leads or customers). But if you don’t have enough raw materials going in on that conveyor belt, the factory is mostly idle. Idle factories don’t make money. They go from being wonders of industry and technology to being … expensive overhead.

Solution: Get good at optimizing your content for search engine traffic, and for using social media to attract new prospects. Also consider watching the on-demand webinar, “3 Tactics for Creating SEO-Friendly Content.”

9) You set up a new form with lots and lots of fields to help you understand prospects better. But only a few people filled it out. And then you forgot to use that information.

This is a double whammy. First, by asking people to fill out any more than three or four fields, you’re suppressing opt-ins. That reduces how many people ever reach even the top of your funnel. Then, when you don’t use the information they gave you (via segmentation, dynamic content, or personalization), you’re also missing out on the engagement boost and increased conversions that data could have delivered.

Solution: Go back to your buyer’s journey map and your marketing automation system map. What information are you actually using? Put that essential information in one column.

Now, what information should you be using, but aren’t? Should you be segmenting emails with that data you collected in the forms? Should you be testing even some basic dynamic content on your website based on their business size (if you collected that on the opt-in form)?

Keep asking for the essential data you need, but ask for ONLY the data that will move your personalization and segmentation forward a step or two. No more. You can always go back and ask for more information from these people later with progressive forms. Or you could also personalize and segment based on behavior.

Now, go trim those opt-in forms down.

10) Your data looks like the blob.

It’s only fair to warn you: You’ve got some skeletons in your database. There are dark places in your processes. Some leads have gone into your system, never to be heard from again.

These days, marketing (and especially marketing automation) runs on data. If your data is old, incorrect or incomplete, or falling off some cliff to nowhere, that needs to be fixed. (See “The 7 Deadly Sins of Data”.)

11) Your sales team won’t return your emails. Or phone calls. Or respond to your IMs.

Did you forget that sales and marketing is a dance for two partners? Are you going it alone when figuring out nurturing and scoring and such? This is like walking around with your head chopped off. Sales and marketing must waltz in step. Especially if you’re using marketing automation. If sales isn’t at the table when marketing automation processes are being established and prioritized, you could end up with an expensive maze … not a sales funnel.

Solution: Invite sales in from the beginning. Keep them close at every step along the way. (If you don’t have marketing automation yet but are considering adoption, then let this be a pre-emptive lesson.

Want to know more? See the eBook – 10 ways Sales Benefits from Marketing Automation.


12) Your C-suite thinks you’re a cost center, not a profit center.  

Do you not have a snapshot or “dashboard” view of your results that the C-suite can access and understand? Everybody knows how essential buy-in from senior staff is. Make it easy for them to see how your system is doing. Have something to show them information they think is important – which is not necessarily the information you think is important. (Know the difference. Ask them what they want.)

13) Your marketing automation system is stuck in 2011.

Using marketing automation? Misusing marketing automation? While you can “set it and forget it”, that doesn’t mean you should. Smart marketing automation practitioners are always testing, tweaking, streamlining or expanding their programs and their marketing automation. You’ve got lots of options for input:

  • Reporting and tracking
  • Customer/client feedback
  • New technologies
  • New skills or approaches (learn from your peers, from training, from other industries)
  • Judicious competitive research (ummm, snitching your competitors’ best ideas and reworking them into your own marketing)


Don’t let this make you think marketing is nothing but tricks and troubles. No matter where you are with your programs and processes, it can always get better.

What marketing and marketing automation horrors have you come across? What keeps you up at night about your marketing? Tell us about it in the comments.