We reached out to some of the world’s top marketers out there and asked them one simple question.
“What is the biggest digital marketing mistake that you’ve made in your career?”
This is what they had to say about it.
1. Larry Kim, CEO, MobileMonkey
“The biggest mistake I ever made in marketing was being late to having a Facebook page, both personally and for my company. A lot of smart marketers got huge boosts from Facebook in the early days between 2007-2011 by running “Page Like” ad campaigns and then posting a lot of content on their business pages, which was very effective back when organic post reach was very high and easy to get. I regret missing that bandwagon. Today, I haven’t made that mistake again, as I now jump on new emerging marketing channels very quickly and early because it’s easier to get traction early on when the new platforms are less competitive from a business perspective.”
Larry co-founded Wordstream, and is now heading MobileMonkey, a Facebook Messenger marketing platform. He is widely regarding to be one of the top marketers of our time.
2. Noor Uzzaman, Product Manager, Synup
“Back in 2014-2015 (early days for Synup), our PPC budget only used to be around $15000. Budget was tight, and we used to try and manage it very carefully. We’d try and get leads for every penny that we used to spend. I was handling marketing for the company almost single-handedly, then.
We used to keep aside only about $2000 a month for Bing, and I had set the daily limit as $500 on that account. We weren’t spending much on Bing since it was giving us only very little traction. What I didn’t notice, however, was that there was one keyword that was poorly optimized, and was very broad. I set it up and forgot about it, since I had a lot of other marketing tasks to take care of.
On the 21st of the month, I open the account to discover that that one keyword had maxed out the daily limit for almost every single day that whole month. We’d lost about $9000 as a result of that (which was well over 50% of the total budget for that month), and it had given almost no leads in return as well. The total spends amounted to about $24k that month, I think. I freaked out, initially, but I gathered the courage to tell my CEO about this right away (he was in the USA, then).
He wasn’t happy with it, but he told me I needed to be more careful with things like this. We ended up hiring a PPC expert for this purpose, so I wouldn’t have to worry about this department anymore.”
After this incident as a marketer, Noor went on to work as part of Synup’s tech team, build tools for the website, helped a bit more with the company’s marketing, and is currently a Product Manager at Synup.
3. Connor Gallic, Digital Operations, Open Road Auto Group
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was accidently putting the wrong car brand in my email campaign for one of my clients. I sent it out to 100k people and had the completely wrong cars and completely wrong information that was supposed to go out. That coupled with the fact that I had it as a weekend drip campaign did not go over well when I walked in on Monday Morning.”
Connor has worked with laying the foundation for marketing at companies, such as DroneCast and HYPR!, and now takes care of Digital Operations for Open Road Auto Group. He also runs an independent marketing consultancy.
4. Mike Ramsey, President, Nifty Marketing
“I would say the biggest mistake I have made was not working for an agency before I started my own. I really felt like I had to learn things the “hard way” and it probably cost me about 2-3 years of struggle that could have been avoided had I came into it with more experience.”
Mike Ramsey took a class in university on starting an online business and loved it. He initially sold Huge Idaho Potatoes online. He eventually decided that he could venture into helping small businesses, and founded Nifty Marketing, an agency that earned over $3.5M in revenue in 2017.
5. Keith Keller, Founder, Global Social Media Coaching
“I think that my biggest mistake in the early days was not paying enough attention to the trends in content consumption. I simply created what I thought would work, in the format that suited me best. Research is essential as part of a balanced approach to content creation but I had to learn that the hard way. Sure it’s great to “TRUST YOUR GUT” sometimes but it’s also important to research what people want, and in what format they want it. I now know that my tribe prefers videos, so I have decided to master this area and provide more content in the way because that is what my followers prefer.”
Keith has been named as one of the top 100 marketers of 2018 by Brand24. He is a reputed Twitter Marketing Specialist and SMM coach.
6. Sergiu Iacob, Product Marketing Manager, Bannersnack
“In an effort to automate a few campaigns in a once primitive advertising platform known as Bing Ads, we created a script that enabled us to ada IPs to our IP exclusion list in a automated manner. Everything looked fine and it worked when we ran some tests on it, but, when the script ran on it’s own it saved the new settings too fast so all our campaign settings were set to default. At that time the Bing Ads settings page loaded with the default settings first, and only after a few seconds it would import our campaign settings. Our script made the changes and saved the page before our defined settings were imported. Long story short, we ended up with a worldwide campaign that spent over $15000 in one day 🙂”
Sergiu is currently working as a Product Marketing Manager at Bannersnack. He now has over 10 years of experience in managing online marketing campaigns for small, medium and big clients in various highly competitive industries from the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Romania (Financial/lending , Accident compensation, eCommerce, lawyers).
7. Marcus Sheridan, Owner, The Sales Lion
“My biggest mistake was producing content that I thought would get comments and shares over producing content that would actually move the sales needle. Often times, the two are exclusive.Today, I focus on what content will actually generate real ROI, and no longer allow the vanity metrics like content and shares to affect me.”
Today, Marcus is an international keynote speaker known for his unique ability to excite, engage and motivate live audiences. He also works with hundreds of businesses, helping them to become the most trusted voice in their industry. His company, The Sales Lion, has now merged with IMPACT, HubSpot’s 2017 Partner of the Year.
8. Danny Brown, Owner, DannyBrown.me
“My biggest digital marketing mistake I’ve made in my career is originally buying into all the social media kool aid. You know the kind – “it’s all about the conversation”, “social media levels the playing fields”, etc.
Except it’s not all about the conversation, and social media does not level the playing fields. Consumers don’t want a “human brand” to converse with them – they just want a business that will meet their needs, in a timely manner, and look after them once they become a customer.
As for levelling the playing fields? Sure, you might have the same creative ideas as a small business owner that the bigger corporations have. But when it comes to execution, there’s no way you can equal their spend budget, marketing team size, outreach power, etc. You just have to do the best you can within your limitations, and know that the playing field will not be level.
I like the human angles of social media, and how it can play a big part in shaping people’s lives. It’s one of the reasons behind the tagline of the blog.
But, to a degree, there’s only so much you can say about social media before it just blends into all the other social media blogs that are out there. Some are good; others, not so much.
And, while it might be nice to have tens of thousands of subscribers – and it’d be fairly easy to attain this with popular and continuous Top 10 or List posts – that’s never been a goal here.
I’d rather have the involved community that’s here as opposed to ten times the subscribers but a less questioning community.“
Danny runs his own consultation firm, today. He authors books on marketing, and also has a podcast series.
9. Jeff Sheehan, Founder, Sheehan Marketing Strategies
“Not being focused on one discipline within digital marketing. Although it is imperative that everyone adopt a portfolio approach to all marketing, it is vital that you become known as a thought leader within a focused area in overall marketing and be the go-to person for that discipline.”
Jeff Sheehan founded Sheehan Marketing Strategies to assist with the growth and marketing success of companies based on his decades of marketing and sales experience working with some of the world’s largest high-tech aand other companies on both a supplier and consulting basis.
10. Sean Si, CEO, SEO Hacker
“I’ve experienced a lot of mistakes in my years as an SEO specialist – all of them I’ve learned from, but the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career is when we had a client that was already on the first page of Google SERPs through the efforts of my team. However, they decided to completely revamp their site without notifying us. This led to us not being able to monitor what was happening to their website and we weren’t able to work closely with their developer. The day that they released their revamped website, their rankings dropped significantly.
Without our cooperation with their site’s revamping, everything that our company did to make them rank on the first page of Google was not properly migrated to the revamped website. Everything that had SEO value was lost and we had to start from the ground up in order to make them rank again – as though we were trying to make a newly built website rank.
What I’ve learned from this is that agencies such as SEO Hacker have to always be aware of what’s going on with our client’s website. The solution to this is to always have an open communication network with the client wherein inquiries can be answered by both sides in the fastest way possible.”
Sean is the CEO of SEO-Hacker, one of the fastest growing SEO companies in the Phillippines.
11. Vinoth Shankaran, Marketing Manager, Synup
“This happened in my previous workplace, where I was handling our email marketing, and we decided to create an offer for a religious holiday. We created mailing list that contained almost 70k prospects to kick things off. The issue started with the presence of two “country” fields, one that contained the country of the prospect, and another that contained the headquarters of the company they were working for. There were other big complexities as well – like the mailing list containing duplicate records (owing to how the CRM handled the records), and us mistaking the region that the lead owner belonged to as the region that the lead belonged to.
Of course, we didn’t realize all this until we sent the email out. And when we did, there was a ton of backlash, with a varied range of reactions from people who did not belong to that religion. Some just found the email irrelevant, some laughed at it, and some got offended owing to their own religious sentiments. Several prospects started tweeting about it, and it ended up becoming a PR nightmare.
However, we learnt a lot of things from our mistake. We spent time cleaning up our data after that to ensure that something like this never happens like this ever again.”
Vinoth now heads marketing at Synup.
12. Robert Katai, Content Marketing Manager, Bannersnack
“My biggest digital marketing mistake is that I was afraid to try new things and also measuring my success to other people. The best marketer today is the one that is not afraid to try new things, to go ahead and launch a new side project, work on something new and analyze the results. Today are hundred of tools that allow you to do something new, and also make the work easier. That’s why a marketer today should always try new things, get their hands “dirty” and learn from mistakes. Also never ever ever measure your success with other marketers. You success is your own success and that’s all. You don’t know the circumstance about that marketer who got a better result than you. So don’t compare yourself to other marketers. Compare yourself with only yourself.”
Robert currently works as the Content Marketing Manager at Bannersnack.
13. David Reimherr, Founder, Magnificent Marketing
“Our one big mistake (that we have corrected!) is treating all content the same in regards to the ad distribution dollars put behind them.”
David brings 20 years of sales, marketing, strategy & branding experience to Magnificent Marketing’s table. He realizes that a mixture of tried and true marketing techniques combined with the latest and greatest marketing tools and strategies will result in the most effective and greatest results.
14. Katherine Watier Ong, Owner, WO Strategies
“My biggest career mistake became part of my biggest digital marketing success.
I was the Director of Digital Marketing at Environmental Working Group at the time they were about to release the first report linking cell phone use to brain cancer. I encouraged a slow down regarding the release of the report so I could line up all of the marketing pieces – Adwords ads, dynamically generated meta descriptions for all of the cell phones with radiation ratings in the database, social media outreach, and email blasts. There were also embargos with reporters across a wide set of industries including cell phone bloggers), big health papers, tech mags, online tech mags, and big press names.
I was worried if the site could take the increased server load as I had noticed that it was having issues under regular traffic surges. This was early in my career – I knew a lot less about server configuration and speed performance page enhancements than I do now-. I urged them to do a test of their server to see if it could handle the new traffic load. The CEO and head of IT asked me for estimates on how much traffic I was expecting which felt impossible to predict as no one had released a report like this, and we had no idea what the pick up would be. Ultimately, they concluded I was being alarmist with my traffic estimations.
So we launched the report and the embargos lifted. And EVERYONE covered the report. We were front page Digg (back when Digg was big), NYTimes, front page Yahoo, Gizmodo, Android Central, Fast Company and more. The server went down.
For 4 days.
We needed help figuring out how to get the server back up so I called my former director of IT from my 1-800-Volunteer.org days. He’d know exactly what to do (as we had issues keeping that website up too due to TV coverage. He answered his cell phone while on vacation with his family on an Alaskan cruise and proceeded to walk my EWG tech team through the necessary steps to recover the server.
We went from an average 300K visitors a month to 1.2 million that month – and that was WITH losing the site for 4 straight days after launch.
The takeaway for me is that managing up is just as important as managing the details of your digital marketing campaign. You can never be too optimistic about how successful your campaign could be. You’ll never regret getting your server ready for a high traffic load, but if your server can’t handle the load, you’ll never know how many visitors your website lost while it’s offline.”
Today, Katherine is an online marketing trainer, public speaker, and professional SEO consultant. She has over 20 years of experience in communications strategy and online delivery of communications messages, including ten years of SEO, social media, SEM, and web analytics management.