Make Sure You’re Not Wasting Your Business Marketing Dollars

Eliminating wasteful, unwise marketing spend is key to helping prevent decreased leads and sales

Make Sure You’re Not Wasting Your Business Marketing Dollars

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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There are countless ways you could be wasting your marketing dollars. As John Wanamaker, known for his successful use of advertising, once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

Marketing and advertising will always come with an element of risk. With each decision you make, you take a gamble that it will pay off and lead to new customers. Naturally, not all marketing decisions result in positive outcomes, resulting in wasted dollars.

For small-business owners, it is crucial to plan and monitor your marketing budget carefully. Unlike larger companies that have greater leeway and can afford to take bigger risks, small businesses have to be more careful and prudent.

Marketing decisions that waste your budget

The first step to eliminating wasteful marketing spending is to identify which methods are inefficient and lead to high expenses with little to no return. Many budget black holes are concentrated in the advertising and marketing side of running a business. In most cases, wasteful marketing spending stems from poor decisions due to the lack of a clear marketing strategy.

Here are five common marketing mistakes small-business owners make that can greatly contribute to wasted dollars:

  • Concentrating on brand awareness ads

Building awareness about your company should not be your only marketing goal. As such, not all of your ads should be about brand awareness. It is important to also put out advertisements that concentrate on generating leads and others that aim to convert those leads into paying customers.

  • Using the wrong keywords

Keywords are the foundation of good SEO and inbound marketing strategy. With the right keywords, you can improve your digital presence, reach your target audience, and gain more leads.

However, using the wrong keywords or employing the wrong keyword strategy will result in lower search result rankings, failure to reach your target market, fewer people finding your website or social media profiles, and wasted ad spend.

  • Lack of proper analytics and measuring

Using proper analytics and measuring how well your marketing campaigns are performing is essential to prevent wasting your budget. It allows you to identify which advertisements generate leads, which ad platforms reach your target audience, and much more.

Information like this helps you better organize your budget and concentrate on marketing endeavors with high returns on investment.

  • Testing and using inefficient ad formats

Trying new ad formats or ad platforms can pay off. However, without using proper analytics or key performance indicators, it can instead lead to continuously using inefficient ad formats and platforms. In some cases, you may even find yourself locked into a long-term ad placement agreement that does not produce leads. Even when testing ad formats and channels, it is important to base it on proper research and analytics to prevent wasting your marketing budget.

  • Broken website and lacking social media presence

In today’s digital age, it is impossible to fully maximize your marketing money without investing in your business website and social media profiles. These not only make up the bulk of your digital or online presence but also are where paid advertisements and search engine results direct consumers.

Broken website pages will result in high bounce rates, which can further lower your search result ranking. Advertisements should always land potential customers on a working landing page, complete with all the necessary information and a clear call to action. Meanwhile, social media pages should always contain the necessary contact details to help facilitate a sale or service.

Other ways you are wasting marketing dollars

Taking the time to create and polish your marketing strategy can help you avoid many common mistakes and cut down your wasteful marketing spending. However, it is possible to waste your marketing dollars in other ways.

It’s important to remember that all the things you do as part of running your business can affect your marketing and overall growth. One of the most important things you need to get right in order for your marketing strategy to work is customer service.

In some cases, exceptional customer service may help businesses overcome poor marketing decisions. Conversely, some businesses can have a well-thought-out marketing strategy yet still end up wasting their dollars if people avoid them due to poor customer service.

A survey found that 76% of respondents are willing to stop doing business with a company over one bad customer experience. This not only translates to losing one current customer — it can also lead to the loss of future potential customers due to developing a bad reputation. As such, customer service is essential for ensuring the success of your marketing efforts.

Here are some small ways you may be wasting your marketing dollars due to bad customer service:

  • Not answering phone calls, emails, or chat inquiries

Answering phone calls is always a must for business owners. If you are marketing your business properly, your contact information will be on almost everything — from your website and social media to any print ads you may have.

A bad phone experience ranks high among customers’ potential reasons to stop doing business with a company. This alone shows how much importance small-business owners should place on ensuring a good phone experience for anyone who may contact them.

Aside from answering phone calls, it is also important to do so in a respectful manner. Naturally, any rudeness also counts as a bad phone experience. Make sure to also answer any inquiries you may receive through email or chat.

Most of these inquiries likely come from potential customers who came across your paid ads, landing pages, or other marketing efforts. Answering their inquiries can help move them through your sales funnel.

  • Not getting back to the customer in a timely manner

Quick responses are essential when marketing your business. One study found that consumers are much more willing to do business with companies that respond to inquiries faster. As such, ensuring fast response times means you can convert more leads and generate higher revenue.

Fast response times show consumers how much you value them, and by extension, their business. Your response time is actually more important when offering services that customers may need at odd hours or in emergencies. It can make all the difference whether a potential customer goes with your company or your competitor.

Keeping your response time to an hour or less is generally preferred. If that is not possible, it’s still recommended to keep your response time within a couple of hours and no longer than half a day.

  • Not respecting customers’ preferred way of communication

Ensuring a good customer communication experience means more than just responding promptly or providing the information they requested. It is important to also account for their comfort level regarding communication channels.

Failure to pay attention to your customers’ preferred method of communication can bring down their overall experience with your company and lead to lower engagement rates. Paying attention to your target demographics can help determine the best communication methods to offer and use.

People’s preferred communication lines also differ depending on their needs or reasons for contacting your business. According to one survey, 49% of consumers prefer text messages for appointment notifications, 45% prefer calls for service-related inquiries, and 48% prefer online chat or messaging for self-service types of interactions.

  • Lack of communication throughout the process of the job

Keeping customers updated about the job shows how much you are putting them first. It can make customers feel special and help foster trust. This is especially true for businesses that require you to go into their homes, like plumbing and drain cleaning.

Transparency is always a well-received trait in any business industry. It is particularly important when dealing with any setbacks or problems on the job. Encountering problems on the job can lead to customers forming a bad impression, but keeping them abreast of any issues shows you are staying on top of the problem and are working to resolve it.

Similarly, make sure to communicate with your customers after resolving the problem or finishing the job. This still falls under keeping them updated about the process. Moreover, it will help resolve any doubt or anxiety they may have regarding the issues you faced. Learning how you managed to resolve the problem can also help build their trust in your expertise and knowledge.

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit


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