5 things you don’t want to hear about your marketing

We all like to think we are doing an amazing job, and it is a brave marketer who approaches performance and analysis with an honest and open mind. They are also usually the most successful.

Here are five truths that can be applied to every business’ marketing, no matter how big or small their budget.

Most email marketing sucks, and yours probably does as well

I can count on one hand the number of emails I get from companies that I actually read. And even then I’ve got fingers to spare.

This is despite my professional interest in email marketing. If I didn’t have that, I’d only open offer based emails from brands I already bought from, or emails that deliver really useful content.

Moz top 10

Really useful content from moz.com.

If you look at your email marketing metrics (opens, clicks, conversions, unsubscribes etc.) they rarely make for great reading.

This is usually because you are either going through the motions, or applying the same thinking as 10 years ago.

Putting together a generic newsletter every month, with a mix of company news and offers doesn’t cut it any more. Your marketing emails must serve the customer, not the product.

[quote name=”Noah Kagan, AppSumo”]Just ask yourself if your emails are valuable even if your potential customer never buys.[/quote]

This image below is a genuine screenshot from my a folder I created to highlight how many emails sportsdirect.com send.

sportsdirect emails

Whoever is running sportsdirect.com’s email marketing is certainly productive at putting them together and hitting send.

Running too many price promotions/offers reduces sales

Short-term price promotions are a great way to increase sales quickly. However, this quick win can lead to long term problems.

What you’ll often see is an immediate increase in sales, and then once the offer ends, a slump that goes below the previous non-promotional level.

The next promotion will raise sales again, albeit at a smaller level than before, but then you’ll see a decline yet gain post-promotion.


Regular price promotions train customers to expect them, and they’ll often wait for the next round of discounts before making a purchase.

A succession of short-term response-focused campaigns (including promotionally driven ones) will not succeed as strongly over the longer term as a single brand-building campaign designed to achieve year-on-year improvement to business success.

I’ll support this with a personal anecdote.

I came across sunglasses company Hawkers (http://hawkersco.com/) recently and really liked their designs.

However, being in the UK, I don’t have a lot of use for them and went on my way. I then started to be shown their remarketing banners, which varied from single product to multi-product adverts.

What was consistent was their use of discount codes for me to get money off. Oddly, these would also be different, sometimes 10% off and other times 30% off.

Facebook hawkers

I nearly purchased a pair a couple of times, but even if I decide to complete a purchase, I definitely won’t without a money off code.

They blinked too soon and too often.

Effective marketing is now permission based

Interruption marketing is firmly on the decline. People interact with media in radically different ways compared to the golden age of interruption marketing (1960’s to the late 80’s).

They no longer have to passively consume what is being distributed, a trend highlighted by the falling viewership/readership of TV, magazines and newspapers.

[quote name=”Thinkwithgoogle.com”]Like it or not, the ad industry’s traditional approach to a story arc—beginning, middle, and end in a 30-second spot—is a thing of the past.” [/quote]

Additionally, we no longer have to accept being part of a small number of large homogenous groups. All our preferences and tastes are now catered for, no matter how niche.

We are in control.

This means that brands have to work significantly harder to a) be noticed and b) be accepted.

Booking your magazine advert, combined with leaflet drops and the occasional email is not marketing in a modern sense.

90% of marketing is a simple 5 step process

Every industry or discipline likes to talk up what it does, and essentially create unnecessary layers of complexity.

Marketing is full of theories, frameworks and models from the 1970’s that are never used in the real world (E.g. The Boston Matrix), and we continue to add to this bloated universe by over complicating new technology such as social media (Amplification etc.)

The key to effective marketing is to:

  1. Understand your market
  2. Identify who your target audience are within that market (and their traits)
  3. Agree on how you want to position yourself
  4. Research where and how they consume media
  5. Go and do it

Pretty much everything else is bloat.

If you aren’t thinking mobile first, you are losing

We all know that most emails are now read on mobile devices.

But what is less known is people now turn to their phones or tablets to solve immediate problems, and they expect brands to deliver them with immediate answers.

For example, when choosing what to cook for their evening meal, research has found that while people over 35 are more likely to print out a recipe, 59% of 25- to 34-year-olds cook with either their smartphones or tablets handy.

The graph below shows the percentage of people in the UK who use their phones and tablets to research local information (restaurants, shops etc.) The two combined have overtaken traditional PCs.

Consumer Barometer(Source: https://www.consumerbarometer.com/en/graph-builder/?question=N44&filter=country:united_kingdom)

Mobile first marketing is a great opportunity for every business:

  • Of smartphone users, 91% turn to their devices for ideas while completing a task.
  • Nearly one in three millennials say they’ve purchased a product as a result of watching a how-to video.
  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their phone to influence a purchase decision while in a store.

The key is to identify which medium your target audience use to use to discover and consume this information on their mobile devices. These are typically…

  • YouTube videos
  • Step by step written guides
  • Map search

None of these are exclusive to big brands. For example, if you have a device to capture film and audio (most smart phones are good enough for this) and a YouTube account, you should be taking advantage of this huge opportunity.

One thought on “5 things you don’t want to hear about your marketing

  1. Great post Matt. Expected nothing less from Sports Direct!

    I find the contrast between simple text email marketing vs flashy content packed emails very intriguing. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried testing these.

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