7 deadly marketing sins

The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing

Marketing’s reputation sometimes gets a bad rap. How did that happen?

No other discipline, other than IT, has changed so dramatically over the last decade than marketing. New strategies and solutions are constantly evolving, making common practices obsolete. The marketing technology market has exploded from just 150 tools in 2011 to over 11,000 today and is worth over $30 billion. It grew 4,500% in 8 years! Chief Marketing Officers now spend more on technology than Chief Information Officers. So why are executives and sales leaders so unhappy with marketing performance? Every one of those tech tools companies will pitch their wares claiming they can do it all for you. But these vendors are not accountable for the results. You are. Unless you have all sorts of extra time on your hands as a small business owner, simply keeping up with marketing tech is a chore. And many of these tools certainly aren’t helping drive more revenue.

What’s missing? We’re not talking about customers!

Marketing has spent too much money on new shiny tech tools to get reams of data analytics, often losing sight of customer needs. They are spending more time mired in the data than on getting new customers and keeping them satisfied!

Avoid the seven deadly sins of marketing.

I’d like to poke a little fun at my industry and give you tips on avoiding marketing pitfalls. Since the start of a new year is usually the time of good intentions and resolutions, I want to do the opposite and share my seven deadly sins of traditional sales and marketing funnels.

Deadly marketing sin #1

Marketing fails when we spend too much time on data. Pictures shows humans and lots of zeros and ones.

We focus on the data that is easiest to get, not the data that tells the best story.

Web visits are easy. Uncovering customer satisfaction is fuzzy. Have you filtered out your IP addresses at the office and your employees’ homes? I did after launching a new website, only to find that traffic declined by 40%. Boy did I catch hell for it. “Your shiny new website is not working!” But the real story was the most viewed piece of content was an old knowledge base article that a software developer authored. Why? Because new customers weren’t getting trained on trouble-shooting product XYZ. Now it’s addressed in onboarding for all new customers.

Marketing deadly sin #2Do not ignore data sources and methods. Person with fingers in ear, ignoring important information

We ignore the source of the data or the method to gather it.

I’ll give you two examples here. I was in charge of NPS – Net Promoter Score at an organization where they lived and died by the customer loyalty score. But leadership did NOTHING to help departments fix the satisfaction issues with our detractors. The customer-facing teams were furious because they had to deal with the backlash. Management simply checked the box – yes, we do NPS quarterly – but we really don’t care enough to dig deep and fix our problems.  Another example is when my boss wrinkled his nose at our lead quality because they weren’t good enough. He said we’ll never go after those market segments. Um, boss, the biz development rep and my team scrubbed EVERY single lead, and he has already qualified six leads on the phone (yes, it actually works talking to people live). The sales team is now actively pursuing these companies. They want to do business with us!

Marketing deadly sin #3

Watch out for too much data in one area and not enough customer data in others. Shows a full inbox on one side (webvisits) and empty box on the right (customer satisfaction).We collect lots of data in one place on the customer journey and nothing in other places.

Companies know who is on their website at all times because they have heatmaps, mouse hovers, and video snippets of all user activities, yet many haven’t measured customer satisfaction or spent the time to uncover why the company lost deals. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t do this more often in my career. It can be a hard thing to do because you’re so busy, there’s always so much to do, and easier to ignore, particularly if you have departmental silos between sales, marketing and account management. It is especially tough to be vulnerable as to why you didn’t win a sales deal. People? Product? Market forces? Reputation? Management? Arrogance? Often leadership and the sales team exclaim “We’re not spending a dime on win/loss efforts because we know why! We know our customers really well!” I call this an unbalanced diet, spending too much time on the left side of the sales funnel which is where marketing usually devotes all of their efforts and not enough on the right side of the funnel to keep customers happy and satisfied.

Marketing deadly sin #4Must have customer acquision and customer retention support. One way signs in both directions.

We don’t look to the left and right and left of our data and lose their connections.

You must devote resources to both client acquisition and customer retention. You can’t ignore one and expect to have consistent sustained growth. Sometimes you’ll have way too much data in some places or not enough in others. You’ll also have good data and bad data. Or you’ll have no data at all. This sin usually happens when teams don’t talk to each other and share the “data” in their heads. Sales and marketing are often like cats and dogs with lots of friction between the two groups. Marketing certainly gets in their corporate ivory towers because they think they know what prospects really want and don’t take the time to engage with customers because that’s “sales responsibility.” The magic happens when you get out in the field and talk with customers, even though it be tough to actually do it. I once had a sales director say to me and my team “YOU will NOT contact MY customers without me being present!” I also had a situation where the product manager decided on the feature improvements for a software product line but couldn’t be bothered talking with customer service. The customer experience team exclaimed “There are a 1,000 fixes that need to be addressed first. Our customers are calling this product the black hole of feature requests!” Often it is the people that get in the way of connecting the data dots in understanding the customer journey.

Marketing deadly sin #5Deadly Marketing Sins. Avoid sparkle pony marketing tech tools. Sparkle unicorn

We succumb to the “sparkle pony” effect: a cool metric, new martech toys, or pretty dashboard.

These tech tools are usually invisible to the customer. They simply don’t care about it! At one company, the boss said we should do Geofencing aka local-based advertising, because her fellow CEO buddy implemented it and saw a 30% increase in traffic. Fortunately, I knew their VP of Marketing. He asserted it was a complete squandering of money. Not one demo or sale came out of it. Another “shiny toy” I often get asked about from my clients is retargeting, also known as remarketing. Think about how annoyed you are when you purchase something online, and the company keeps bombarding you with ads. Or if your website is a clunker, why would you send them back to your site? Additionally, many companies have such a complex sale that it is an absolute waste of time and money. Absolutely, remarketing does work for some companies, typically high-transactional consumer products. You simply must justify the effort and value to the customer. Does it matter to them?

Marketing deadly sin #6Deadly Marketing Sins. Watch out for emerging trends

We don’t watch trends in our data over time until it’s too late. 

If you’re not looking to the right and left of your data and missing the connections, you won’t see emerging trends. Ask yourself: Has the market size increased significantly over the last five years, but perhaps slowed a bit, enough that new customers aren’t purchasing in the same frequency? So you do a quick analysis with existing customers and their product mix purchases and uncover that, yes, it changed, but only with one huge customer who stopped buying it completely. Then you rationalize the data because of one “lost” customer. But why did they stop buying? This company’s leadership saw the market shift and exited that market segment. Even a few important luminaries were talking about the same thing too, but it just didn’t seem real. Then suddenly regulations changed and overnight the industry tumbled 65%. This is a true story I experienced in my career. Of the top ten competitors in this market, only two remain today. Candidly, this is a hard one to uncover, so it’s important to keep your attention focused on what both new and existing customers are doing.

Marketing deadly sin #7Constant internal change does not help customers. Many crumpled pieces of paper on the floor next to an empty trash can

We have unclear goals or shifting priorities—change is good, but not for its own sake.

If customers change, then changing with them is a legitimate move. They will determine change for us and what’s important to them. Too often, in both massive and tiny companies that I worked for, we did an about-face that was purely internally focused. One company consistently reorganized every six months. Eventually, multiple customers called me and exclaimed “What the hell is your company doing?!” That just makes you one step further away from meeting customer needs. Of course, it is really hard keeping customers happy. Often they are not easy to deal with. But you must pay attention to them. Or else. Such as a real example of my GM saying to me “Our organization is not to spend one minute more on customer XYZ because we have so many other things to do.” But boss, they’re our #1 customer!

Bonus sin: beware the HIPPO effectBonus Deadly Marketing Sin. Watch out for the dangerous HIPPO (HIghest Paid Persons Opinion)

Here’s another bonus sin, called the HIPPO effect also known as the “HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion.” Big bosses simply must be cognizant of the impact their actions and words have on teams. Because employees often feel like they have no other choice but to follow orders even if it is not the right thing to do. What if the boss states “We need to do podcasts because that’s what I listen to on my long commute. The stats are there! It is over a $1 billion market! Average listening engagement is 48 minutes. Cool! Almost an hour to tell our story! It’s more marketing content that sales can share with our prospects!” Yet, only 32% of Americans listen, partly because podcasts are so hard to find. Just stop and think about the amount of time and money marketing will have to spend developing, producing and promoting a podcast channel. How does this meet customer needs? Are your customers and prospects even on that channel? Do they care?

Interested in a better way?

It’s time to throw out traditional sales and marketing approaches and focus efforts solely on getting and keeping customers. Ask us about a super simple sales funnel method that can help your business.

Keeping marketing accountable.




Jessica Kelley is a seasoned leader with more than two decades of marketing and finance experience in B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $200 billion corporation to a startup firm. Her company, HPZ Marketing is an interim CMO and fractional CMO business and is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a Women’s Business Enterprise and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB). They provide interim and fractional executive marketing services to help businesses achieve marketing ROI with executable strategy and a relentless focus on customer acquisition and retention. Learn more about hiring a fractional CMO for your business.