3 Ways to Waste Your Marketing Budget

I’ll admit it. 

Over my long career marketing all kinds of technology solutions, I’ve run a few marketing campaigns that flopped: events that attracted no real prospects, email campaigns that generated no serious leads, promotions that drew no response from prospective customers.  

It happens.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone among my marketing brethren.  In fact, if we're trying new ideas and taking a few chances, from time to time some program is bound to fail.

But these occasional duds usually won’t doom an entire marketing effort.  While they’re nothing to brag about,  a program or two that just fizzles won't sink a company.

What's really dangerous are the big mistakes. 

Three in particular can do serious damage to a company’s overall effort to attract customers:

Not measuring

If you’re not measuring the results of your marketing campaigns, you have no idea if they’re working or not.  

Your decisions on which programs to fund and which to cut need to be based on data:  how many leads, qualified prospects, and paying customers did a campaign yield.  

I know there are hazards to attributing a new customer to a particular campaign, but that doesn’t mean you just throw up your hands and give up on measuring entirely. (See "Marketing numbers can lie.")

Making funding decisions based only on a few anecdotes or seat-of-the-pants impressions - “it looked like steady traffic at our booth,” or “we got a few nice comments on our cool video” - is a mistake.  

Unless you’re carefully analyzing results, you could be wasting your marketing budget on one failed program after another.  

No end-to-end plan

SaaS buyers often follow a long evaluation and purchase process, interrupted by other priorities.   If your marketing plan doesn’t span that entire process, prospects will get stuck, or they’ll leak out of the pipeline. 

Spending lots of money on programs that build visibility and drive visitors to a website, for example, won’t work unless they’re followed up by efforts to convert those visitors into legitimate leads and paying customers.  

The same goes for marketing programs that convert leads into customers, but aren’t followed by efforts to bring those new customers on-board.  (Link “How to lose customers in the first 90 days.”)  

Any single program, no matter how matter how many “views,” or “opens” or “contacts” it generates, cannot stand on its own.  It needs to be connected to a well-structured, multi-step process - something that covers the entire customer evaluation journey.  Otherwise, it could simply be a waste of money.  

Remember, the goal of customer acquisition efforts isn’t “views,” “opens,” or “contacts.”  The goal is long-term paying customers.

Poor messages

SaaS buyers are usually busy people, and you don’t have a lot of time to make your case.  (See "Your prospect has a day job.")

There's precious little time to clearly and consistent present what they need to know about your solution:

  • Who should buy it?
  • What problem does it solve and how severe is the problem?
  • Why is it better than alternatives… including doing nothing?

If prospective customers can’t grasp the answers to these questions within a minute or two, then whatever time and money you’re spending on marketing is probably wasted.
 

  • You’re paying for SEO, adwords, or PR to drive people to a website… but visitors won’t wade through multiple pages to figure out why they should be there.  
  • You’re sending out emails and promotional offers, but prospects don’t know why they should learn more about your solution. 
  • Or you’re showing up a trade shows, but nobody walking by your booth has any idea why they should stop and ask for more information.

More than the marketing budget is at risk

Any marketer is bound to run programs or try new tactics that don’t deliver.  It goes with the territory.   

But a marketer that makes one the three big mistakes - inadequate measurement, lack of an end-to-end plan, and ineffective messages - risks wasting a big chunk of the marketing budget.  

And in SaaS companies, sales and marketing costs usually account for the largest single expense. 

That means that spending money on poor programs can do more than just waste your marketing budget.  It can bring down an entire company.