3 Biggest Wastes of Money in Marketing

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I’m guilty. For a long time I spent money on marketing that never really worked.

In one of my first businesses, we redesigned our website, bought nice brochures, and went to tradeshows — SO. many. tradeshows. I hoped that the next thing we tried would be it. Maybe this time we’d capture the marketing “magic” that would drive sales and registrations.

Bad news: none of it ever worked — even though we had a great product.

I had fallen into the marketing trap — spending way too much money on great-looking marketing material that simply didn’t work.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you can relate to this story. Time after time, I’ve heard small business owners tell me about their expensive rebranding campaign. It pains me to hear it, and it sucks to tell them as nicely as I can, it was all a waste of money.

I’m fed up with business owners wasting money on marketing. So hopefully I can help you avoid the three biggest pitfalls.

  1. Overhauling your website, without first clarifying your message

Maybe you’re just starting out, and decide you need a website. Or perhaps you’re website iterations in and you’re still not getting subscribers. We all know how it goes, you say “I need a new website!”

So you shop around and find the next guru to help you create it. They redesign the site, and it looks amazing. Or you choose to build it yourself and it becomes your baby — you’re the proudest parent ever.

But launch day comes around, and nothing happens. Sales don’t go up, subscribers don’t come running. You have a beautiful new website, but nobody’s paying attention to it.

What’s the problem? Graphic artists have degrees in design, and you may have a degree in software engineering, but none of that matters. Whoever makes your website may be super talented at making something beautiful and user friendly. But here’s your problem: very few website designers (pros or newbies) have degrees in writing sales copy.

They don’t write words that sell things.

People buy… based on the words they hear and read.

People buy your products based on the words they hear and read. Yes, your design can make words more noticeable and readable. But ultimately, it’s the actual content that motivates us to take action.

When you have someone else build your website, they don’t know your product. They don’t know how to write the correct words that will sell your stuff!

So if you’re paying money to redesign a website, without first focusing on your message: you’re losing money. Your website can’t get by on its looks alone, you need a clear and concise message.

Before you redesign your website, check out Building a Storybrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen — and don’t assume that a beautiful site is an effective one.

2. Paying for an event or trade show booth without a solid one-liner

Is standing behind a booth of some kind part of your marketing strategy?

Showing up at trade shows or networking events is a great way to connect face-to-face with potential customers.

the average company spends a whopping 32% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows

According to Inc.com, the average company spends a whopping 32% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows. This means you’ve likely threw money at your displays, materials, and travel costs.

Hey, it looks great!

But what words are your team members saying when prospects visit your booth? How are they conveying what your company does and the problems you solve?

If you don’t know, you’re wasting all that investment. Because an eye-popping booth may attract attention, but guess what, it’s the words you use inside the booth that earns business.

In THE STARTUP CLUB Guidebook, we talk about creating an elevator pitch. A well-crafted sentence that gets people to care, listen, and buy your product.

First, this pitch describes the problem your customer faces. Then it describes how your product or service solves that problem. Finally it describes a resolution — how the customer’s life is better as a result of using the product.

Work on having a solid one-liner. Make sure every team member knows it by heart. Test out a couple, when you have the right formula, you’ll see customers begin to listen and remember it. Then finally, you’ll start to see a return on that trade show investment.

3. Creating an email newsletter that no one reads

Asking customers to sign up for your email newsletter? Stop. It’s a waste of money.

Here’s why.

Nobody wants to sign up for your email newsletter!

Maybe I need to say that again, no one wants to sign up for your newsletter. Think about it. How many newsletters do you sign up for in a given month? In a year? How many times are you asked to join one? Of the ones you do sign up for, which ones do you actually read, much less click on?

And guess what, say a few people do sign up for your newsletter. That means, every week or every month, you’ve got to actually send one.

You have to write or collect the content, track down images you can use, design, format, and test it all, and send it. Or you’ve got to ask one of your employees to spend their time (your money) doing it — instead of the thousands of other important tasks they could be doing.

What does a newsletter, and all that effort really do to drive business?

It’s time to drop the newsletter. There are far better email strategies out there that can:


Develop stronger, more trusting relationships with customers
Strengthen your authority as a leader in your industry
Generate more sales than a simple newsletter ever could

One of those strategies is simply to offer a free “lead generating” piece of content for your subscribers get when they sign up for your emails. Here’s how to grow your email list with a lead generator. Implementing this strategy — plus a series of smart follow-up emails — will probably take the same amount of staff time as a newsletter, but will deliver a far stronger return on that investment.

Too many companies waste money on marketing. I don’t want that to happen to you. If you’re doing anything on this list, don’t spend another penny! Instead, checkout other effective ways to market your business in the free book “How to Start and Grow a Business in San Antonio.” and subscribe to the THE STARTUP CLUB Podcast where Derek and I will teach you more ways to improve your business.