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Marketing Malpractice: The Trouble With Following the Herd

By Shaun Tinney
3 minute read | Last Updated: May 17, 2016

The old way of capturing visitor attention online is over. Pay attention to your customer instead and make a profit in the process.

The best marketing is often based on imitation and often for good reasons. Why reinvent the wheel if it’s already turning? Why spend the money taking a risk on an unproven tactic when there is an apparent safe way?

This thinking is okay, it’s safe, and for the most part can help brands stretch their marketing dollars further because they don’t have to create a whole new idea, just modify an old standby to fit a new campaign.

But what happens when this marketing group-think gets caught up perpetuating bad practices? What happens when the comment, “Well our competitors do it”, is the justification for every marketing decision?

What happens is, you end up with tactics and features that actually prevent your customers from buying products from your brand.

These virulent marketing malpractices (that would never be used in a retail store) have invaded brand websites and placed barriers in front of the consumer that prevent sales from occurring.

This malpractice has to stop.

Here are three tactics you must stop using. Your customers and site revenues will appreciate the help.

The Homepage Email Pop-Up

We don’t ask consumers to sign up for programs when they walk into a store, yet we think it’s okay to do so when they land on a website.

User testing and customer research has found that while the homepage email pop-up is great at collecting low-value emails, it is equally great at annoying customers, slowing down purchase intent, and increasing the bounce rates from the home page.

Don’t get us wrong, collecting customer email and data is important and a key to successful content marketing. There are better ways to build a valuable email list.

The Auto-Rotating Carousel

When a customer walks into a retail store and begins to shop we don’t show them a product and begin to talk about it only to shift to a new product and a new description 6 seconds later.
You’ll frustrate or lose that customer quickly. Once again, online this seems to be a best practice. It’s not.

So many websites include this feature that it is hardly even noticed anymore. In fact, it’s almost never even noticed at all. Nobody clicks anything past the first slide, if that. It’s science.

Stop the rotating insanity and put something more valuable front and center on your homepage.

Brand Story Yelling

There is a clear line between storytelling and story yelling.

Storytelling brings the listener into the story and involves the listener, often making them the center of the story (and a paying customer).

Story yelling brings the teller into the story, ignores the listener, making the listener an uninvolved participant.

If your brand story doesn’t involve the customer, the customer will not listen.

Assume your customers will only care about whatever your brand story is if it is also their story. Spend the time and effort and money it takes to figure out who you’re selling to and what they care about (use data, not gut feelings). Then spend your money making brand story videos that tell the stories that turn your site visitors into customers.

A New Way

There is no one size fits all approach to the web. Even best practices will fail in certain scenarios. The best approach is to start by caring about your customer, and finding ways to help them get un-stuck on your site.

Assume your web visitor has 10 total seconds of attention to give your site. Assume they’re not dying to give you their email address. Assume they won’t bother figuring out how to control your rotating banner. Assume the only story they care about is their own. Market accordingly.