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If there's one thing that makes our toes tingle (other than inbound marketing, of course), it's seeing examples of marketing done right. Great marketing makes us excited to be working in a trailblazing industry where other marketers are doing seriously innovative things to make marketing people actually like.

But to get so excited about awesome marketing means there's another end of the spectrum. A dark side where email spammers, poor segmenters, and keyword stuffers live trying to pass off their activities as marketing. Those guys give legitimate marketers a bad name, and the worst part of it is, sometimes they don't even know what they're doing is an indication of seriously stinky marketing. Enter this blog post.

We know what in marketing annoys us, but we were curious what our audience -- made up of business owners, marketers, content creators, and consumers -- had to say about the matter. "What annoys you about marketing?" we tweeted, and the answers poured in, straight from the horses' mouths (our target customers!). We sorted out the top 20 that really grind our gears, too, and have compiled them below for your reading pleasure. And while you're reading, ask yourself whether you're guilty of any of these warning signs of a cringeworthy marketing presence.

20 Hints That Your Marketing Stinks

1) The 'Party Planner' Stereotype: Real marketers know that marketing isn't about planning parties and sending out press releases; they see event marketing and PR as two parts of a larger inbound marketing strategy. Without a comprehensive, integrated approach to your marketing, your business will never reach its full potential, so if you're a marketer operating under the assumption that 'marketing' is just an excuse to plan parties, you've been sorely mislead, and your marketing results will suffer from it.

2) Mystery Links: Joy's hashtag really captures it all with this indication of subpar marketing -- if you're sharing links in social media without any context, your engagement will plummet. A link does not engaging content make; put a little #effort into the content you're sharing if you want people to follow you, RT you, and talk to you!

3) Mucked Up Mail Merges: While we applaud attempts at email personalization, it only works if you can execute correctly. If you're importing lists with bad lead information, you can't expect to deliver relevant, personal email content.

4) Twitter Customer Service Fail: Marketing and customer service should work together ... or at the very least, they should get an office romance going. But when you're implementing a social customer service program, make sure those running the accounts know the ins and outs of the social media network being used so you can actually help your customers!

5) Slimy Social Automation: Okay, I know many people who would dispute the effectiveness of the auto DM. Some say it's impersonal, while others agree but still see increased follower rates. Whichever side you fall on, Dan is right that directing someone to a product page after following you on Twitter is akin to proposing on the first date. If you insist on using an auto DM, keep it congenial, not sales-oriented!

6) Spammy Auto-Follows: Speaking of social media automation, don't be the company that incessantly follows and unfollows. It's an indication of spammy behavior that will get you blacklisted from Twitter's search results, and really annoy your followers. I'm not sure which is worse.

7) Gut Decision-Making: This is my own contribution. A marketer should never insist their marketing is effective or ineffective without backing it up with data! Be sure to always measure your marketing campaigns, and analyze the data so you can make improvements.

8) CAN-SPAM Non-Compliance: And while I didn't contribute this particular tweet, it's as if Jonna read my mind (and probably that of anyone who has been on the receiving end of email SPAM). Not only is it illegal not to include the option to unsubscribe in your emails, it's illegal not to honor the request. If there's one area of your marketing about which you are vigilant, please, let it be this. Your Sender Score will thank you.

9) Tricksy Email Subject Lines: Your email subject line is the gatekeeper of your email. You'd think, then, that email marketers would be more conscious of the copy they choose for their subject lines. Oh right, people who use "Re:" in their subject lines aren't email marketers. They're spammers.

10) Pushing, Not Pulling: What Mike points out in this tweet is the basis of inbound marketing. Stop shouting at people. Give them interesting content, and let them come to you.

11) Viral Goals: Virality is a product of amazing content, your reach, and how well you can optimize that video to spread organically. You know what it isn't? Magic.

12) Nonsensical QR Codes: There's a time and a place for everything. QR codes, for example, are excellent for connecting offline and online marketing. When someone visits your profile on Twitter, however, they are already online. If you're going to use QR codes -- or any marketing tactic, for that matter -- use them where they can get the most leverage!

13) The Purchased List: It doesn't matter how fantastic your email content is if it never lands in an inbox. To ensure you have excellent email deliverability, we developed a 5-question sniff test for you to take. Hint: if you buy your email lists, you're not going to pass the test.

14) Interruptive Advertising: There's a place for advertising in inbound marketing, but the key to doing it successfully is relevancy. So while the age of interruptive marketing is over, it's not interruptive if your audience finds it relevant!

15) Incomparable Comparisons: Sean is spot on to say that TV and internet advertising are two different beasts. Not only do they require different measurement mechanisms, but they work best when they are integrated. Don't miss easy opportunities to incorporate, say, your social media marketing into an advertising spot.

16) Customer Feedback Ignorance: If your marketing doesn't have an end-to-end view, what we like to call closed-loop reporting, how do you know that your campaigns and messaging actually work? Use closed-loop analytics to get data on which campaigns and channels perform best, and combine that with feedback from leads and customers to improve your marketing.

17) No Sense of Boundaries: Marketers must be respectful of a prospect's preferred method of communication. If they sign up for an email newsletter, communicate via email, and don't send them anything that's NOT an email newsletter. If they follow you on Twitter, speak to them on Twitter. If you'd like to speak to them through another medium, get their permission to do so first!

18) Self-Proclaimed, Unwarranted 'Experts': If you're hiring an agency or new employee to do your social media for you, beware of ninjas and gurus who claim to know these so called "secrets." Like this tweet states, the "secrets" to social media are posting engaging content, having conversations, monitoring your accounts, and analyzing the ROI you get from each channel.

19) Intrusive Tactics: I think we're all familiar with the commercial that's louder than the TV show, but this problem symbolizes a larger problem with marketing people view as bad -- being intrusive. If you're providing valuable content, people will invite you into their lives; you don't have to shove your way in.

20) The Ungrateful Taker: Marketing is getting more and more social, which means maintaining good relationships with your network is critical. Thank those who write about you, share your content, and give you feedback. And to ensure we're not guilty of this marketing faux pas Amber suggests, thank you all for reading, and for your submissions to this post!

What do you think is an indication that a brand's marketing is no good? Share your pet peeves and warning signs in the comments!

Image credit: Robert S. Donovan

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Originally published May 16, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated June 10 2021


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