Resources Hub » Blog » Marketing Mistakes: Why Paid-Only Strategies Fail [Interview]

Whether you’re an email marketing newbie or a veteran with hundreds of emails under your belt, everyone has room to improve, especially in a field that changes as frequently as digital marketing.

Marketing Mistakes is a recurring series from Campaign Monitor about the biggest email or digital marketing goofs made by various thought leaders across the industry.

As these leaders share some hard-won wisdom from earlier in their careers, the rest of us have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without the accompanying costly consequences.

In this series, we’ll cover the mistakes people have made, how they fixed them, and what they learned in order to make us all better email marketers.

Shane Phair’s biggest marketing mistake:

For our inaugural Marketing Mistakes post, Shane Phair, host of The Email Minute series and SVP of Marketing here at Campaign Monitor, sat down with us to share a big mistake he made earlier in his career and how that mistake has made him a better marketer.

Read on to discover what he learned and how you can adapt your marketing strategy to avoid falling into the same trap as Shane:

The problem: Over-reliance on paid channels

Earlier in his career, Shane Phair says he made the mistake of focusing heavily—too heavily—on paid media channels. By not diversifying, ultimately the lead flow stagnated and they were left scrambling to fire up other channels. Here’s how Shane puts it:

Paid channels were working really well for us at the time. And because this one area was working well for us, we put most of our eggs in that basket. Eventually, that channel changed and our results went sideways.

Because his marketing strategy was heavily dependent on paid channels, they didn’t have any other avenues they could rely on while sorting through the changes to their primary source of revenue.

Takeaway: In marketing, the only thing that won’t go away is the inevitability of change.

What I learned: Diversify marketing channels

“That’s the one thing I wish I’d known: how important it is to diversify channels, even when you’ve found something that works well for you and your company,” Shane said of his mistake.

When a company’s marketing strategy is struggling to produce the desired results, diversifying makes a lot of sense: test various channels and discover which drives returns for the company. However, it’s easy to grow complacent when your marketing strategy—for example, events or pay-per-click marketing—is working well and delivering a strong ROI.

But, according to Shane, that’s when it’s most important to find ways to diversify and innovate:

When things are going well, marketers often forget that things will change in the future, and if we aren’t preparing for this inevitability—regardless of how far in the future it might be—there could be trouble.

If you don’t already have plans in place to ramp up other channels, you’ll see a dip in your results, and that’s exactly what happened to us.

Takeaway: Diversify your marketing efforts instead of relying primarily on one avenue for results.

The solution: Leverage email marketing and social media to supplement paid

Shane and his team saw diminished returns when a change in technology blunted the effectiveness of the paid channel they were primarily utilizing at that time. The marketers then had to scramble to find other channels they could use to ramp up their efforts and their KPIs. Though they weren’t exactly starting from scratch in these other avenues, it still took time to get them rolling.

Takeaway: Shane said their numbers recovered when they discovered the potential of email marketing and social media to drive results.

The importance of patience when readjusting

Even when you’ve adjusted your efforts and found a solution after a big marketing mistake, Shane warns it takes time to see the change translate into results, especially when you don’t already have a contingency plan in place and haven’t been planning ahead. For them, it still took an entire quarter for their results to recover after adding additional channels as a part of their new, diverse strategy.

Takeaway: When you begin any new marketing endeavor, remember it’ll take time for you to see results.

Why email marketing and social media?

In an industry that relies on change, email marketing remains one of the best performing channels available to businesses and marketers.

When building your strategy, resist the temptation to assume that new equals better and instead incorporate channels such as email that have a proven ability to bring in positive results over time and regardless of emerging technologies.

Takeaway: Email marketing is known for its great returns (email marketing averages an ROI of 3800%) and requires little time or money.

which digital marketing channel generates the most ROI? [graph]

Source: Campaign Monitor

Likewise, social media marketing can help you expand your reach to new prospects while simultaneously building trust with your current customers. But, as Shane discovered, diversifying works best when you use various channels in tandem.

When done correctly, diversifying your marketing strategy means your various channels work together and build off one another, compounding your results.

Takeaway: “If a pay-per-click campaign is all we’re doing, it won’t be successful without supporting those efforts through other marketing channels.”

Why innovate when things are going well?

Making this mistake and seeing how suddenly it happened helped Shane realize how important it is to constantly be on the lookout for what’s next in both the marketing industry and for his team, even when the current marketing strategy is working well.

Takeaway: multiple high-performing marketing campaigns are definitely better than one and if you find yourself on the wrong side of a new algorithm, you’ll always have another avenue to rely on for conversions and driving revenue. As Shane said: 

Just because something’s working really well doesn’t mean that something else couldn’t work really well, too.

These days, Shane prioritizes educating himself on new technologies and new channels and finding new ways to improve and anticipate the needs of tomorrow in order to avoid making the same mistake. Shane learned to seek out innovation before trouble hits.

Takeaway: Don’t wait until you start losing revenue to search for ways to innovate, because then it’s already too late.

Shane’s advice for other marketers

“If I could tell my younger self one thing,” Shane said, “I would tell myself, don’t be afraid. It’s better to take a risk and fail and learn than it is to stay with the status quo and never learn anything from your experience.”

Take risks

If a marketer wants to grow, then you have to take risks. Luckily for us, marketing is one of the only disciplines in business where you can be right 50% of the time and still deliver world-class results, as long as you’re learning as you go.

Takeaway: Taking risks leads to data-driven learning, and marketers—whether you’ve been in the business for decades or you’re just starting out—will be better for it.

Always learn

Not only is there nothing inherently wrong with trying new things, but marketers actually need to be testing and failing as a part of the natural maturation of their career.

One of the good things about marketing is that a person can be right or wrong using the same strategy or tactic, since success often depends on the application. Remember, no two campaigns are alike. This means that marketers can take bits and pieces from what they see and learn every day in order to make themselves better and their campaigns more successful.

Takeaway: Getting your hands dirty and trying new things is far more important for success than never making mistakes.

Wrap up

Because he was over-reliant on paid channels, Shane Phair saw a drop in KPIs when that channel declined unexpectedly, making it difficult to generate the appropriate amount of demand for his organization. Eventually diversifying and branching out into email marketing, social, and organic search got their returns back where they wanted them, but it took time and more work than was necessary.

In order to avoid the pitfall Shane fell into early in his career, be sure that you take his advice and remain focused on innovation long—before there’s an obvious or immediate need for it.

But don’t forget: making mistakes is an important part of growing as a marketer, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Keep your focus on data-driven learning and you’ll be able to figure out where you went wrong and how to fix it.

Don’t be surprised if your revenue not only recovers, but ultimately exceeds your expectations.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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