Learn from my mistake: don’t let your advertising dollars go to waste

Guest post from Maria Ross, founder and chief strategist of Red Slice  a branding and marketing consultancy based in the US. She is the author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget available on Amazon.co.uk


Forgive me, dear readers, for I have sinned.


Here I am, preaching about building a strong brand so you can choose the right marketing tactics in which to invest. I talk about measuring progress and success so you always know your ROI. But, as is often the case with doctors and consultants, we are our own worst patients/clients.


Let me share with you my faux pas so that you can learn what not to do.


I recently invested in an innovative social media advertising tactic. For a small, reasonable fee, the company creates a 24-hour advertising campaign, a custom sponsor video, multiple Twitter and Facebook posts to their loyal followers and a Search Engine Optimized post on the website. You can also purchase optional items such as an email sponsorship and publishing rights to your video. You become sole sponsor of the entire 24-hour period and in return, you also offer some sort of contest incentive to a few winners.


Visitors to this company’s site must post a comment on the promotion page to officially enter the contest. The company also encourages them to visit your website as well. I’m always eager to learn how innovative marketing tactics work, so I gave it a shot and bought a day to promote my book, Branding Basics for Small Business. I offered three free books as the giveaway.


The process was fairly easy but the customer service and sophistication were lacking.  They seemed overwhelmed and it took them a while to respond to emails - so sometimes price can be an indication of the level of hand-holding you will get.


Results? Here’s the lessons I learned that I’d like to share with you about where I fell down and how you can avoid them:

  1. Failure to set concrete goals: I really didn’t give this promotion enough time or attention because I’ve been so busy and because it was so inexpensive. I should have set a few metrics of what I wanted to see increase: Twitter followers, FB fans, newsletter signups, etc. and determined pre- and post benchmarks. Qualitatively, I think my followers and fans did increase on that day, but since I failed to take a snapshot the day beforehand, I can’t be sure.

    Set clear goals and capture a “before” benchmark so you can compare your “after” numbers to it. That is your responsibility, not the advertising partner’s.
  2. Failure to put a tracking mechanism in place: Because I don’t sell my book directly, I need to rely on Amazon figures or my publisher telling me if there was a spike in sales. There was a noticeable ranking increase on that day, but how Amazon decides rankings are not from pure sales. I also don’t have visibility into all my book sales data overall until I get my royalty payments (twice yearly).  The advertising partner told me they could not provide any clickthrough metrics, and did not provide me with a post-promotion list of “Number of Tweets, Number of Comments, Number of FB Posts” etc., which would have been nice.

    Create trackable response mechanisms. I should have created a custom URL so I could at least track clickthroughs and exposure, if not sales. But I also should not have invested in an advertiser that could not provide any tracking info to me from their side.
  3. Failure to determine audience fit: I knew upfront I was taking a risk on this one, as I just wanted to try this tactic and see what the experience was like to share with my followers. To be fair, I am not sure if I ever asked them to provide some any breakdown of who makes up their audience (again, lack of time and attention on managing this campaign on my part). I was lucky that many of them were indeed business owners, but what if they were not?

    LESSON: Always ask for an audience segment breakdown and try to get any info you can. If the advertising partner will not provide it, you should invest somewhere that can.

  4.  Failure to take time: All of my problems stemmed from simply paying for this tactic and yet not ensuring I had thought through it all. If I was too busy to properly leverage this tactic, I should never have done it.

    LESSON: Make sure that if you invest in marketing or advertising, you have the bandwidth or help to leverage it to its fullest and don’t just throw money away.

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