Going Back to Basics: 7 Marketing Mistakes and How to Right the Wrongs

Andrew Stanten


In this column I normally cover the latest and greatest in marketing best practices. This month, however, never mind best practices. Instead, I’ve focused on mastering the basics.

In the last week, I’ve noticed these marketing mistakes in some way, shape or form. Yes, these missteps drive me crazy, but it’s a good reminder that we’ve all got to master the basics before we do a deep dive into advanced marketing and best practices.

Here are seven marketing mistakes no business can afford to continue to make and how to rectify them:

1. Not optimizing for mobile.

Depending on the report, mobile traffic makes up more than 30% of website visits and nearly 60% of users won’t recommend companies with poor mobile site experiences. Looking at a site on a smartphone is a very different experience and consumers expect access to different information, rapid page load and intuitive interactivity. If they have to pinch, flick and scroll just to read two sentences, you can bet those site visitors will bolt.

Don’t think you’re getting much traffic from mobile users? Check your analytics. You’ll get information about the percentage of site visits that come from mobile and see how much potential business might be slipping away.


Chances are, if your site is more than three years old, it’s not optimized for mobile, so make sure that’s on the checklist as you move forward with your next planned update. And if you have a fairly new website, call it up on your on smartphone. See how it performs. If you planned for mobile at the start, you’re probably in good shape. If not, you may have some post-launch work to do.

2. No clear – or a misleading — conversion funnel.

A conversion funnel describes the track a business wants a consumer to take through its website, culminating with a desired action – buy something, provide an email address, make a call, download a form, fill out a survey, etc. If you want to attract business through the web, you need to be thinking about that funnel.

Last week, a banner ad for a new car pulled me in with great creative. It instantly put me in the market. I was so excited – until I clicked on the ad. It took me to the homepage of the dealership. I navigated to the point of confusion, never was able to find the make/model I saw advertised, so I abandoned. Potential sale lost.

A proper funnel would have taken me right to a page dedicated to showcasing that particular car, getting me the information I need and getting out of me the desired course of action – me picking a day and time for a test drive.

3. No plan to bypass the gatekeeper.

A former client insisted the best way to reach very busy institutional decision makers was to send an oversized direct mail postcard. Don’t get me wrong – I believe direct mail can be effective if done properly and with the right audience. But a one-off mailer to decision makers has very little chance of getting past the gatekeeper – yet alone get a response. We agreed to execute the mailing – if we could run, in parallel, a job-title targeted LinkedIn campaign. In this case, LinkedIn was a great way to ensure we’d bypass the gatekeeper.

Don’t be afraid to test new ways of bypassing the gatekeepers. Use technology to your advantage. Responses from the post card? Zero. Qualified leads via LinkedIn? Sixteen.

4. Sending unsolicited email or not qualitatively scrubbing your email list.

You should clean your email marketing list with each send – make it easy to opt out, auto-retire dead email addresses, etc. It’s an easy task with any of the third-party email marketing tools out there.

But that doesn’t take care of the qualitative scrub.

Last week I received an unsolicited email selling me … (wait for it) … good websites. That’s a core competency of what Altitude does for our clients. I don’t need to be sold on why I need a website or why I need this company to build it for me.

Simply put, I shouldn’t even be on the website developer’s mailing list.

At a minimum, take the time to review your list every few months – gasp! – manually. Advanced platforms like Hubspot or Marketo enable you to score each person in the marketing database based on whatever qualifications you set. That’s ideal though cost- and time-prohibitive for some.

5. Misusing technology.

I got an unsolicited email containing an embedded JPEG – which is about as old school as it gets because I couldn’t click on it or take any action. It also contained a QR code, which was silly, because if I’m already online, give me the link. Don’t make me fire up a QR Code reader and try to scan my desktop monitor with my iPhone.

QR codes haven’t quite caught on the way we would have expected five years ago, but they can be useful on packaging, product manuals, point of purchase – even parking meters. But never in email. Please.

6. Being un-unsubscribe-able.

The other day, I tried to unsubscribe from a list. It was a four-step (four-step!) unsubscribe process. Ridiculous.

First, the link to unsubscribe took me to the company’s homepage. Then I had to navigate to find the privacy policies. Nested in those were email preferences. There I was finally able to unsubscribe after filling out two screens of repeat information. Needless to say, this company went from “unsubscribe’ to “blacklisted.”

Best practices dictate the use a third-party email marketing system – most of which provide a single click unsubscribe.

7. Making false promises.

Fear. It’s a good sales tactic if you’re targeting the ignorant … and nowhere is that greater these days than in the world of search engine optimization.

I recently received an email that shouted that I’ve probably seen a drop in non-paid search traffic by about 30 to 70% and urged me not to “PANIC.” And my favorite false promise of them all, “YOUR WEBSITE WILL BE ON PAGE ONE OF GOOGLE!!!!”  (Yes, they used four exclamation points.)

It’s easy to rank on page one for some obscure term that no one is searching for and no competitors really care to own. If someone makes you this promise, give them your list of top seven keywords and see what kind of promise they make.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.