I made a ton of mistakes when I was a marketing executive at a financial institution. Yes, I won CUNA’s Marketing Professional of the Year award. But the truth is I had far more failures than successes. For every successful brand campaign I conducted there were a few promotions that totally flopped.Mistakes - 1

The good thing is we tend to learn from our mistakes (especially if we don’t keep making them!). In this post, I’m hoping you can learn from several of the missteps I took.

So here are some of my bigger mistakes. Hopefully you can avoid them and improve your own marketing skills.

  • Not showing ROI—When starting my career, I focused on words and not numbers. After all, marketers are word people. That may be true, but successful marketers are also numbers people. If my CEO would ask, “What’s the ROI of this campaign?” I initially had the “deer in the headlights” look. I soon realized I needed to show a return on investment for every promotion. Showing the numbers proves efforts. So do it—show the ROI! My website now has a few free marketing ROI worksheets to help you calculate some of your promotions.
  • Not using data—Initially I tended to go with my gut when making decisions. That can get you into trouble. Before making strategic and tactical decisions, be sure to examine your reports. MCIF data, demographics, NPS scores, focus groups and member surveys all provide invaluable information. So use it! I will issue a cautionary note about data, however: don’t drown in it and don’t let it prevent you from making a decision (paralysis by analysis).
  • Not drilling down marketing to staff—You may create your brand, but it’s your staff that lives it. I once famously created a “build your wealth campaign” using construction type elements. I was going to require all front line staff to wear hard hats as visuals. Fortunately, I talked with a few tellers before launching that lame “hat wearing” idea. If I had pushed on (without asking), the staff was going to burn me effigy (after all, no one wants “hat head”). So talk to your staff about your marketing ideas! Again, the trick is balancing their feedback with your expertise.
  • Not excluding—As marketers, you must be masters of exclusion. In other words, you can’t put everything about a product during a promotion. You know what happens: you are conducting an auto loan promotion and lead with one particular key feature. But then someone in lending wants to mention credit life, disability and gap insurance. And while we’re talking about auto loans, let’s also throw in our home equity loans. Before you know it, your focused marketing campaign is just a giant list of ineffective features. So do what I didn’t do for awhile: just say “no!”

So there you have it—four mistakes to avoid in your marketing efforts. Trust me, I’ve made a lot more mistakes than those. What about you? Are there any mistakes you’ve made from which we can learn?