7 Deadly Marketing Sins Every New Directory Website Owner Commits (And How Not To)

wrong-way-e1318014293366Today, consumers have more options than ever. They can go online and search through thousands of natural toothpastes before choosing yours. They read reviews, search the web, and ask their friends.

It is not enough to simply market your small business at random and dream that customers will appear. Getting the word out is a ton of work! But could you be doing things that help more than hurt? Are you committing unspeakable marketing sins without knowing it?


Fear not. We’re here with 7 deadly marketing sins to avoid.

Sin #1: Publicly Arguing With Your Customers

Love them or hate them– online review sites are here to stay. From eBay user ratings to Yelp reviews, what your customers say about you has a powerful impact. You can’t hide, so respond to reviews (but use caution!)

Negative reviews are annoying, but angry rebuttals are unprofessional and always do more harm than good.

Last spring, Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, was featured on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares. After the host cut them off, they used their Facebook page to respond to negative comments and reviews on Yelp and Reddit. It got ugly.

Even BuzzFeed called it “the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever“:


Respond to reviews, but do so with caution.

Some rules for responding to angry customers:

  • Choose your words carefully. Make sure you don’t sound passive aggressive. It’s also helpful to have someone else check your answer before you post it, if you can.
  • Say sorry even if you’re not sorry. You may think you did nothing wrong, but at least acknowledging that the customer is upset with a simple “I’m sorry that this happened” can go a long way. Just make sure it sounds sincere.
  • See if there’s something you can do to make it right. Whether it’s a replacement for a defective product, a phone call to discuss the issue, or a handwritten note with a small gift of good will (a $10 gift card to a popular retailer is always a good choice), a small show of effort can make a huge difference in the outcome of the situation.

Try responding privately to negative reviews, asking the user to contact you for clarification. This can sometimes solve the issue and win back a customer. Respond publicly only when the information in the review is inaccurate, such as confusing you with another business, and do it gently and humbly.

The best way to deal with negative reviews, accurate or not, is to dilute them with good reviews.

Sin #2: Overloading Their Inbox

There are many products that can help you keep in touch with your customers: iContact, MailChimp, and Constant Contact are great tools. Social media can also be perfect for building relationships.

However, don’t overdo it. A monthly email is safe, but have something current and interesting to share: a contest, an event, or an offer. On social media, look at others who are successful on your platform of choice, and pay attention to what and how often they post. Different sites have different standards of etiquette.

How NOT to overload an inbox:

  • Only send emails with necessary, need-to-know, and useful information
  • Allow customers to choose their email preferences– allow them to opt in to daily, weekly, or monthly messages
  • Don’t “trick” people into subscribing. Don’t promise them something they won’t get or shadily add them to a list after they participate in something else on your site.

Sin #3: Constantly Complicating Contact

Are you hard to contact? Do you have a long, convoluted URL? Do you still lack a mobile website? Keep it simple!

Here’s how to keep it simple:

  • Brainstorm a better URL, one that’s short, easy to spell, descriptive, and unique.
  • Get an email address with that URL– info@yourbusiness.com is a good idea.
  • Make sure that your site has a simple “contact us” form.
  • Get a mobile site or make sure yours functions well when viewed on a mobile device.

Keeping things quick and simple will keep interested customers from getting confused or abandoning the effort of contacting you.

Sin #4: Not Asking For Referrals

Don’t you love to share a great new find with your friends and family? An awesome restaurant, a life-changing product, a service that simplifies your life? Your happy customers will refer others to you, but you need to make it easy.

Ways to facilitate referrals:

  • Create a club for frequent referrers with benefits – sales, discounts, previews, etc.
  • Ask for reviews online.
  • Offer check-in deals on mobile apps if you have a physical location.

Pinup Girl Clothing helps customers spread the word about their unique creations in an inexpensive way – all of their outfits ship with business cards that say “I got it at Pinup Girl Clothing” for their wearers to hand out to admirers. Can you think of something similar for your business?

Sin #5: Not Tracking Your Results

Track all of your marketing results carefully. If you send marketing emails and use social media, evaluate the results. What was clicked, opened, and liked? Check in on your web metrics frequently– you may be getting traffic from sites or terms you were unaware of. If you don’t have call trackers or complex software, there are still ways to get this done.

How to track marketing initiatives:

  • Distribute a redeemable special offer card or code.
  • Create a campaign with a vanity URL that points to a particular landing page on your site.
  • Ask new customers how they heard about you, and evaluate on a monthly and yearly basis.
  • Look at your performance on a seasonal basis. Do you have predictable slow and busy periods?

You can also take advantage of some free metrics services that are built into many social network channels. The Admin Panel on your Facebook page, for example, has a See Insights button that will show you how many people are seeing your posts and how your fans are engaging with your content. Mine these numbers to determine what types of contents, at what times of day, produce the best results for your brand.

All of this data combined will give you a fact-based formula to guide your future marketing efforts.

Sin #6: Being Disorganized

Keeping your contacts and projects in order will allow you to accomplish more, and in less time. If you are starting a brand new business, do so with good “data hygiene.” That doesn’t mean having a clean desk (frankly, we don’t care if you have coffee cups everywhere), but you do need to have systems and processes in place to make sure you’re efficient.

How to get organized, ya filthy animal:

  • Make sure that you select products with the features that you need. Check out tools like Basecamp and Trello.
  • Check that products will be compatible with each other and with what you already have.
  • Google Calendar can be for more than events– tasks, reminders, and sharing calendars are all useful.

Sin #7: Never Checking on the Competition

Is your competition offering more than you, or are you the top in your game? Highlight what makes you better and different– and it does not always have to be about price! Not checking in on what your competition has to offer can leave you in last place. It’s okay to secret shop, just don’t call out the competition.

Some tips to check in on the competition:

  • Check in on their website using Open Site Explorer (you can check up to 5 sites per day for free). Where are they getting links from?
  • Take a look around their website or visit their establishment. What are the strengths and weaknesses? Analyze and use for your advantage.

Avoid These Sins Like the Plague

If you are guilty of any of these seven deadly marketing sins, there is still hope. Stay organized, and do the penance of tracking the results of your marketing efforts. Do more of what works, and dump what doesn’t!

Don’t be afraid to ask your happy customers for help– most will be excited to share the pleasure they get from what you can deliver.

Categories: Marketing Tips

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