The 10 Most Costly Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

By Robert Imbriale, The Motivational Marketer

I am constantly hearing the same dilemma over and over again: “what can I do to sell more of my products/services?”.  Look around, you’ll immediately see what you shouldn’t do.  Look at the very next ad you see. If you’re like me, what you’ll see are business communications that are self- centered, braggart, loaded with unnecessary information, and just plain ineffective marketing tools. In essence, a waste of the marketer’s time, the company’s money and a failure to gain the prospect’s interest.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of ads never accomplish their main objective: to sell the product! Just because an ad costs a lot of money doesn’t mean it is any more effective than one that costs thousands less.

The following 10 items are the most costly mistakes you can make as a business owner or marketing manager. So let’s get serious and help you to avoid these all-too-common mistakes before they cost you your job or your business!

1) Centering Your Focus on Your Company, NOT On Your Prospects

It is all too easy to focus all your advertising on you or your company and not on your prospects. We all do it, just look at any ad and ask yourself who the ad is really talking about. Is it talking about the prospect or about the company? You must focus ALL your marketing communications on the prospect…period!

To overcome this common mistake is the single most important step to selling more of your products or services. Remember the prospect is interested in one thing and one thing only: what’s in it for them! Forget about how great your company is, how long you’ve been in business, etc… Save that for later. Instead, begin with your focus on your prospects and their concerns.

2) Not Knowing Everything About Your Prospects And Their Problems

The more you know about your prospect, the easier it will be to convince them that they need your product or service. Every qualified prospect has a problem that your product can easily solve to ultimately make their life easier in some way. Your job is to uncover this problem, or set of problems, and show your prospect, (using facts based on benefits) that they must buy what you are selling in order to immediately solve their problem and lead a happier, more productive life.

To see what I mean, simply ask yourself why someone should buy what you are selling. Use your answers in all your marketing communications. It’s that simple, yet how often is it just not done? Remember this fact. People buy because they have a problem, rarely do they buy just for the sake of buying or because you’ve been in business over twenty years. Think about your own personal reasons for buying anything and you’ll see what I mean.

3) Not Knowing What Specific Benefits Your Product/Service Provides.

Study the true benefits of using and owning your products or services. A true “benefit” differs greatly from a “feature”. Features are about the product: benefits are about the prospect.

You will sell far more of your products or services if you focus on what is important to the prospect (benefits), not on the features of your product. Your prospects are only interested in the benefits they will receive by owning your products or services. In other words, your prospect is interested in your product mostly because of the problem(s) it solves and not much else.

4) Not Taking the Time to Qualify Your Prospects BEFORE You Spend ANY Money Marketing Your Products to Them

It astounds me to see how many times I get expensive promotional mailings sent to me without EVER having first been qualified as being; A) interested in the product, B) able to afford the product or C) having ANY need, currently or in the future, for the product! I know that I will never buy anything from that company, no matter how glitzy a promotion they present me with because I have no need for what they are selling! So why don’t they know that? Simple, they never took the time to qualify me as a potential customer!

There are many ways to qualify a prospect, the most simple methods being things such as having the prospect return a business reply mail card from a card-deck, calling an “800” number to request your information or catalog, or by buying a related product from either yourself or a similar business. If you don’t take these simple steps to qualify your prospects, your marketing efforts are being wasted on people who will NEVER buy what you are selling for any number of reasons. Smart marketing starts with qualifying leads.

5) Focusing Your Marketing Communications To The Masses-Not Speaking Directly To Your Prospect

All too often, marketing communications try to satisfy all the people all of the time and as a result end up alienating most prospects most of the time. Face it, you will never be all things to all people all the time so focus on a specific prospect. Describe to them a specific situation where your product could directly make their life easier.

Your marketing communications should speak directly to me, your prospect. Ask yourself what problems(s) your prospect is trying to solve and why is it very important that they solve them with your products or services. Stop wasting your precious marketing dollars talking over your prospects! Focus, focus, focus!

6) Not Stating The Specific Problem Your Prospect Has And What That Problem Is Costing Him/Her Every Minute It Is Left Unsolved.

Selling on fear is a powerful, yet widely misunderstood, marketing tool that is the most effective and most important element to any marketing communication you will ever write. In order to get your prospect to take notice of what you are selling, you have to blatantly tell them what it is costing them for ignoring your message. This can be done as a headline, followed by a sub- headline explaining the solution: your products or services. (Remember explain the main BENEFIT of your product as the SOLUTION to the problem you have just stated). For example:

Stop Wasting Your Valuable Time And Money Waiting For blah blah blah….

Use <your product/service> and get <specific benefit> immediately!

7) Not Using the Most Powerful First Line of Your Document to Attract Attention.

All too often we get caught up in a very common marketing trap. Look at your marketing materials, what is the first thing you see? Is it your fancy company logo, your address, something about how good you think you are? Chances are that is exactly what you will see. The problem is that the prospect doesn’t care about your logo, or how good a company you think you are. All they really care about is what’s in it for them.

Begin any marketing piece you write with a strong statement that will capture attention immediately. The first thing your prospect must see in order to attract their attention is a statement of a specific problem they have followed by the solution you have.

You might also back up your headline by stating the cost of not solving the problem immediately. Once you capture their attention, then you can take the time to explain your product in greater detail. Gain attention first, spell out details later.

8) Not Giving Your Prospect a Compelling Reason to act immediately: While You Have Their Attention!

Now that you have created a need for what you are selling, you have to motivate your prospect to take immediate action… while they are still excited about your products or services. Wait to long and you know what will happen: the average consumer will soon forget all about what you can do for do for them and quickly move on to the next exciting offer.

Convincing a prospect that you have a great solution to a problem they have is only the first step to making the sale. It will do you no good to have the prospect ready to act and not have a compelling reason for them to act immediately!

This can be accomplished by using special “limited time” offers, two for one sales, cash discounts, etc… You have to tell your prospect that you have a solid solution to their problem and if they order today, you will add some FREE bonus, grant a discount of XX%, double the order at no  charge, pay for shipping, etc… It is of no value to you to get your prospects motivated to buy and not give them ANY compelling reason to act TODAY!!!

9) Not Using Testimonials in ALL Your Marketing Communications

To a prospect that is receiving your marketing materials for the first time, your company may have little or no credibility. You may well be totally unknown to your prospect.

Getting around this hurdle and convincing your prospect that others with similar problems HAVE truly benefited in a positive way from your product is the fastest and most effective way of gaining your prospect’s confidence.

Every time you get ANY positive feedback from a prospect, ask them if you can quote them, even if it is just on the telephone. Keep a file of these quotes and have it handy the next time you sit down to create a new marketing piece.

Failure to use testimonials will result in undue difficulty in gaining a new prospect’s confidence and will directly impede your sales. My personal rule of thumb is to use about two testimonials per page.

10) Not Offering a Guarantee of Satisfaction

The common belief that offering a guarantee will simply entice more returns is false. By offering a guarantee of satisfaction you will invariably sell more of your products or services without necessarily increasing your net percentage of returns. Your prospects will be converted into customers more easily and will be less likely to return your products because your guarantee implies faith in the product or service by your company. This may be the final step in getting many stubborn prospects to commit to purchasing your product.

Not Simplifying the Purchasing Process As A Final Step

All too often ordering a product is difficult, if not at all worth the effort. All the marketing in the world is useless if purchasing your product is not made easy. If you are selling through the mail, include an order coupon that is large enough to fill out without having to crunch too much information into too small an area. Provide an “800” number with responsive people to answer questions and take orders. Provide a “postage-paid” return envelope so that orders can be returned to you immediately without making the prospect search endlessly for a stamp!

These response devices go a very long way into closing the sale while the prospect is still excited about it. We are a people accustomed to immediate gratification and it is not only necessary, but it is expected.


As you can see, marketing is a multi-faceted process that requires a great amount of preparation and is often over-looked as being nothing more than a nuisance to the person responsible for creating the marketing communications. I can promise you this: if you follow the 10 guidelines I’ve just presented to you, you will immediately increase you response rates and ultimately your sales. How high a response rate depends on how well you’ve applied the concepts to your marketing. I have personally achieved response rates as high as 77% on a direct mail campaign – a figure unheard of in today’s marketplace.

You can increase your sales, lower your marketing budget, and ultimately sell more of your products or services! Just follow these steps, and let me know how it works out for you. I’m always available to help you out and I do enjoy hearing your success stories!


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Robert Imbriale is a powerful speaker, best-selling author, and career marketing expert. His book, Motivational Marketing (Wiley: June 2007 – became an instant Marketing Classic and has gone on to change the way thousands of businesses market themselves. Robert is the founder and CEO or Ultimate Wealth, Inc. (

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