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What’s the Worst Marketing Advice You Ever Received?

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Some bad advice is legendary. Like, “Floor it! There’s never any cops out at this time of night.” Or “Go ahead---what’s the worst that can happen?” (Which always precedes something truly terrible.)

But what about bad business advice? What’s the worst advice you’ve even received? Did you take it? (And spend considerable time trying to counter it?) Or did you ignore it?

Here’s how some of the Facebook friends of MarketingProfs answered the question, “What’s the worst marketing advice you ever received?”

“If you build it, they will come.” (Meg, Black Dog Education)

“You don't have to ask [people] what they want.” (Shareena Ali)

“[You] have no competitors for your ‘unique’ product/service.” (Kate Donlon)

“If we make a brochure, we'll increase sales.” (Amanda Brandon)

“Had a client who hired us to do a logo, and then wanted us to put five icons into the logo.” (Adam Kleinberg)

“If you just [advertise], you'll get customers.” (Abnormal Marketing)

“I can get you to page one on Google ... that's all you need.” (Doug Sherwood)

"I'm too busy with project work, so there is no need to market." (Cathy McKay)

“Just have the intern do it.”  (Ann Swanson)

“‘Join Share A Sale’ ---an affiliate program that costs a lot of money and delivers a lot of spam ‘coupon’ sites.” (Steve McNamara)

“A/B testing can wait.” (Marketing Sutra)

“Let us go through and delete all bad reviews on social sites for you ... ” (Signs By Tomorrow)

“We're going to do the same things as our competitors, but we'll do it better.” (Patrick Ifonge)

“Worst advice I ever got was from R&D on a new product launch: Even though we don't have product in the warehouse, go ahead and launch anyway. Production will catch up with inventory before your first orders come in." (Greg Sabala)

“Develop the business and if they are interested THEN we'll send them the proposal.” (Nameer Khan)

Your turn: What's the worst marketing advice you ever received?

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  • by Francis Moran Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    I've long had a presentation I call "Francis's favourite PR fictions," subtitled, "Everything I know that's wrong with PR I learned from technology company executives." Each line I share came straight from the mouth of a C-level tech company exec.

    They include:
    1. "It's all about relationships." Nope; relationships help but it's actually all about the story.
    2. "I want to be on the front page tomorrow." Can't be done unless you go home and commit a grievous crime tonight.
    3. "I can't measure it so I won't fund it." CFO told me this one; a failure for both CFO and CMO there.
    4. "We've already played the press release game and it doesn't work." Releases were written and issued but never actively followed up so of course it didn't work.
    5. "I do all my PR myself." This from a CEO of a publicly traded company.
    6. "PR is free advertising." It's neither free nor is it advertising.

  • by Edgar Diaz Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    worst advice came from the CFO: "just launch with a higher price, it's always easier to move it to lower one"

    Result: product was so expensive during launch, that getting customers attention after that was almost imposible!

  • by Roy Young Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    "Forget branding; all we need is sales-ready leads."

  • by Jim Peake Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    Just pay us and we'll get you to the top of the Google search results pages in 30 days, or less.

  • by Chris Scherting Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    A young AE once told me "F" the brief! Just get the postcard done! Of course I ignored his request, rocked the brief and the client approved the design with zero changes!

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    That's a good one, Roy. It's dumb, but I'll bet there are a lot of companies practicing that. :(

  • by Noura Bashshur Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    "Why do we have to do this inbound marketing? I think cold calling works just fine."

    This is what one of my CEO clients said after we spoke about the most cost effective ways to generate appropriately warm leads for the sales team.

  • by Michelle Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    From a former business partner--I don't look at nor am I worried about what our competition is doing, I"m just focusing on my job. That way they won't think we're copying them.

  • by Steve Kirstein Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    Received the following advice on the same day a few years ago:
    "Absolutely limit your resume to one page"
    "The length of your resume does not matter"
    "Remove dates from your resume"
    "Make sure your resume is in strict chronological order with no gaps"

    etc., etc.

  • by Don Tepper Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    Here are a few real estate-related ones that have universal application:

    "Just place this ad and your phone will ring off the hook." I've heard this one a bunch of times, and it's never been true.

    From real estate agents providing feedback on a property they've previewed or shown: "Gorgeous. Really nice. I can't think of anything negative." Most agents HATE providing any constructive/negative feedback. There's nothing wrong with asking for feedback, but you have to be able to understand when that input may be misleading or invalid.

    From sellers [almost identical to Edgar's item, above]: "Let's start out at a higher price. We can always lower it if we have to." Problem is, the higher price taints the property. Buyers will simply rule it out, and agents won't show an obviously overpriced property.

    And a non-real estate one:

    "I want our product to appeal to everyone." Response of my boss when told that the marketing pitch could be aimed at small companies, medium-sized companies, or large companies.

  • by Rob Krohn Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    Worst advice is always precluded by the same question: "Have you spoken with the sales team?"

  • by Jessica L. Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    My CEO said this to me the other day..."We should acquire this company so we can use their marketing design"...ouch.

  • by Mark Holdener Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    From multiple clients, something along the lines of "Make the logo bigger, tone down the headline in case we offend someone, add this list of support points, and we'll be good to go."

  • by Mark Wojtasiak Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    From the old direct mail days and advertising in print magazines, the owner says, "Just advertise everything at or below cost. We'll make the phones ring off the hook, and by the time this ad hits, costs will drop, so we'll be that much ahead of everyone else. Oh...and at the bottom of the ad, put "prices subject to change without notice to cover our..."... never worked...needless to say, out of business.

  • by Beth Harte Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    "The sooner you realize that marketing is a function of sales the better off you'll be in your career." said company president to me.

  • by Stacy Lukasavitz Tue May 3, 2011 via blog

    It wasn't really the worst advice I've ever received, but rather the best advice I ever gave that wasn't listened to.

    Some five years or so ago I was an overworked, over-educated, extremely underpaid copywriter at a company that made very bad websites with an outdated, archaic CMS, and claimed to be a "full-service interactive agency."

    I left that job after I suggested to the owner that he should seriously consider adding social media marketing to their scope of services, and asked why he wasn't doing it yet. He literally looked up from his desk and LAUGHED at me, saying "my clients are older than you" (implying that it was nothing but a fad and just kids playing around on Facebook), and insisted on cold calling as his main means of generating business. So I left the job to consult on my own and suddenly MY clients were older than HIM. Years later, that fad didn't go away and guess what's on their menu of services ... yet they themselves, nor their "Digital Marketing Specialist" (about 20 years old) have any social web presence whatsoever.

    So this is less a case of "worst marketing advice ever received" and instead "best advice ever ignored" ... but I can't complain, because many of his clients came to me and hired me after I left. ;)

  • by Donovan Banks Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    And how did you respond? I get similar statements. "My website is fine, I got 9 hits today."
    When I asked "how many of them contacted you?" he had no answer...

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    LOL I love this. Do you have it on slideshare?

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog


  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    Ahh... classic SEO snake oil.

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    Hilarious, Donovan.

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    That's smart. Heh.

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    Woa... what the heck were they thinking?

  • by Megan Leap Thu May 5, 2011 via blog

    "the marketing pitch could be aimed at small companies, medium-sized companies, or large companies." That's hilarious. Are they still in business?

  • by Kate Olsen Tue May 10, 2011 via blog

    Something similar to this has happened to us.
    SEO agency proposed us to get you on top of Google search results in 30 Days.

  • by Laura S Tue May 10, 2011 via blog

    The worst advice ever? It was actually creative direction given by a client:
    Look at what other companies are doing and either do the same thing or do the opposite.

  • by Victoria Ipri Mon May 16, 2011 via blog

    "The whole point of your LinkedIn profile is to drive traffic to your website."

    Still scratching my head over this one.

  • by TF White Mon May 23, 2011 via blog

    "Stop using direct mail. Email is the only channel we need."

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