Common Sense Needed To Avoid Common Mistakes

"The same easily avoided mistakes seem to be made repeatedly."

By David P. Kowal, APR

When it comes to marketing, common sense isn’t all that common. The same easily avoided mistakes seem to be made repeatedly. The offenders come from many different industries, from companies large and small, and from throughout the country. Many of the following mistakes are even made by communications professionals (excluding the author, of course):

  1. Having a technical expert develop your Web site. A Web site is a marketing tool. It should be professionally designed and all copy should be professionally written.
  2. Failing to update your Web site regularly. Content creates repeat visits and will help with your search engine ranking.
  3. Retaining different agencies to handle your Web site, publicity and advertising. Marketing works best when all of your communications are integrated. If different agencies are working on different aspects of your marketing program, communications messages will be inconsistent.
  4. Creating your Web site like an electronic brochure. Web sites are nonlinear and provide an opportunity to provide different things for different people.
  5. Printing insufficient quantities of brochures. The added cost to print, for example, 10,000 brochures instead of 5,000 brochures is relatively small, yet many companies will go with the lower quantity to save money – even after spending big money on four-color printing. When quantities are low, companies horde their brochures, which defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.
  6. Developing brochures without determining how they will be used. When a brochure sits on a shelf, it doesn’t help a company market itself.
  7. Spreading a small advertising budget over too many different media. It is much better to appear regularly in a small number of publications with a large enough ad to attract attention than it is to appear in many publications infrequently and with small ads.
  8. Failing to give advertising time to work. Many companies run an ad once in one publication, then, if it fails to bring in a sufficient amount of business, they move it to another publication, then another and another and another. The impact of advertising is cumulative. It is better to stay in a high-quality, well-targeted publication for at least six months than it is to move advertising around from publication to publication.
  9. Missing publishing deadlines. Failing to return calls from reporters in time to meet their deadlines, or handing in articles after deadline is a bad practice for a company seeking publicity. No matter how important you may think your news is, it is not important enough to hold up publication. If you don’t provide news to an editor on time, your competitors will.
  10. Telling an editor you’re an important advertiser, so he or she had better run your story. This is a sure-fire way to be the subject of the next “Investigative Spotlight.”
  11. Telling a reporter something is “off the record” after you’ve already said it.
  12. Demanding that a reporter submit whatever is written to you for approval before it is published.
  13. Using publicity photos taken by your administrative assistant. Your administrative assistant is probably very talented, but if you want your company to look professional, use a professional photographer.
  14. Relying too heavily on press releases. Many companies think that press releases are the only way to get publicity for their company. Press releases are fine for breaking news, but sending out a press release puts the editor on notice that other media are receiving the same release. Major media want exclusivity.
  15. Renting space at a trade show without having anything to show. You probably wouldn’t buy ad space without anything to advertise, so why rent space at a trade show if you don’t have a booth, professionally designed graphics and a product to promote?
  16. Going to a trade show without scheduling appointments ahead of time.
  17. Using outdated lists for your direct mail or e-mail campaign. A direct mail or e-mail campaign is only as good as the list you use. If you have an in-house database, update it regularly. If you rent lists, make certain you’re getting back any nixes. Just because a mail house promises that its lists are updated continuously doesn’t mean the list is accurate. When you use e-mail, be certain to track which e-mails bounce or are deleted without being opened.
  18. Failing to research your market, because you think you know what your customer needs and wants.
  19. Failing to ask former customers why they stopped doing business with you; and failing to contact them at a later date to see if they want to do business with you again.
  20. Allowing someone who doesn’t give a damn about your business to answer the phone.
  21. Going after new customers without paying sufficient attention to your existing customers.
  22. Failing to cross sell to your existing customers. Your existing customers are more likely to give you additional business than anyone else.
  23. Failing to ask your customers for referrals.
  24. Using a logo that looks like it was designed before World War I. Even Betty Crocker gets a facelift when she needs one.
  25. Trying to fill every bit of space in an ad with copy. You can’t sell every product and every service to every audience all at the same time.

David P. Kowal, APR is President of Kowal Communications, Inc. of Northboro, Mass. He can be reached at