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Happy Halloween small business marketers! We’re taking the opportunity this scary season to discuss the frightening topic of marketing mistakes.

We all know that there is nothing more terrifying in your working life than the fear of making a mistake when implementing a marketing campaign. Whether it be reading over an email that you just sent out to 25,000 recipients and realising you had a typo in the subject line, or making a change to your offering that your buyers met with resounding distaste, mistakes can leave even the most resilient marketers with butterflies in their stomach and sweat on their brow.

Marketing a growing, small business requires taking risks and sometimes these risks don’t pay off. But it is important to understand that it is not a lack of mistakes that leads to a successful businessperson and company – every entrepreneur has made mistakes. There are two key ideas that successful businesspeople need to embrace when it comes to their business and their approach to risk. Firstly, don’t get complacent and secondly, don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes.

Lets take direct marketing guru, Drayton Bird. He has stated that “The worst habits are: first, to start thinking you’re good; second, to stop trying so hard.” Bird goes on to say “When we are successful, we tend to go out and celebrate. This in itself is usually a mistake. What we should do is capitalise on our success. For example, if you have a winning mailing or email, follow up. An email sent out the next day that repeats one that worked will get 80 to 90 per cent of the response. A follow-up mailing sent out two weeks later will usually get 50 per cent of the response.”

Drayton Bird and other savvy marketers embody the firm belief that we learn more from failure than success. “We are forced to ask ourselves what went wrong — and we learn,” he says. “As I have had far, far more failures than most people, I have learned a lot.”

Another example of someone who has experienced first-hand how success can make it hard to spot your mistakes is entrepreneur Rowan Gormley. The founder of online wine business, Naked Wines and colleague of Richard Branson at Virgin Wines, has stated; “The lowest point in my career was when I refused to acknowledge my mistakes and believed my own publicity. The data was telling us where we were going wrong at Virgin Wines but we kept reading how brilliant we were in the press.” By falling into the trap of believing that he was doing well, despite his inside knowledge of the company’s financial position, lead to a state of denial for the businessman.

“Once we accepted what was wrong, we stripped the business down and rebuilt it and then it really took off. It’s amazing how a group of highly intelligent people can get things so categorically wrong. What looks good on a PowerPoint presentation just didn’t do it for the customer.” Naked Wines now enjoys a healthy, loyal customer base that would not have been achieved had Gormley not awoken to the mistakes he was making and put into action a plan to save the company.

So what are the most common marketing mistakes made by small enterprises? They are exactly the same as those made by big business! Let’s have a look at some marketing blunders that companies have come back from in order to gain some insight and learn from others mistakes to build a strong business:

A Lesson In Email Marketing – The New York Times

In December of 2011, the New York Times planned to send an email to ex-subscribers of the newspaper who had recently cancelled. This email asked these ex-buyers to reconsider, and offered a discount in an effort to entice them back.

While this all sounded like a great idea to reclaim lost customers, an employee accidentally sent the email to the business’ 8 million subscribers instead of the list of 300 that it was meant for.

The result was upset loyal customers that were angry to not be getting the same discount. The company responded immediately, apologising and admitting the unfortunate human error. This is every email marketer’s nightmare, and it serves as a much-needed reminder to always double check your list before clicking ‘Send’ on any campaign!

A Lesson In Product/Service Changes – Coca-Cola

April, 1985: this is a date that goes down in marketing history as the day that “New Coke” was introduced to an unsuspecting public. Coke felt the need to regain market share from Pepsi and launched the sweeter and “bolder” alternative to their old product.

Loyal Coke drinkers, met this launch with outrage, and revolted in the tens of thousands. This resulted in the fast extinction of “New Coke” at a huge financial loss for the company. Coke learned the hard way that their buyers wanted the classic beverage that was synonymous with American culture. After retiring the “New Coke” and renaming the old offering “Coca-Cola Classic” the company saw sales rise significantly.

The moral of the story? – “If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it”. Learn what your customers want before spending time and money on a top-secret product or service change.

A Lesson In Market Expansion – Pepsi

Coke isn’t the only one to commit a marketing faux pas. When Pepsi expanded their market to China, they launched with the slogan, “Pepsi brings you back to life.” What they didn’t realise is that the phrase translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” While this may seem like a humorous mistake, it is a huge mistake when you’re making a big move like going international.

So what’s the moral here? If you’re launching in a new market, be sure to do some cultural research first! At the very least ensure you take the small amount of time necessary to ask native speakers of the language what your slogan means.

Marketing a growing, small business is not an easy feat and requires risk in order to flourish. Judging by the experiences of many of the worlds most successful businessmen and women it is often the mistakes that make them the success they are today, so don’t be so terrified of those slip-ups. The important thing is to be open-minded — spot the mistake early, and be proactive and responsive in your solutions. Remember that when it comes to marketing, it is absolutely essential to be prepared to adjust your strategy when it’s not working. So get out there and don’t be afraid to take some risks!


Need a B2B Marketing Consultant Melbourne? then contact the team at the Lead Agency today! And make sure you don’t forget to check out our other industries; Education Marketing | Financial Services Marketing | Industrial Marketing | Insurance Marketing | IT Marketing | Law Firm Marketing | Manufacturing Marketing

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