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One of the ironies of my life is that, although I am personally scornful of marketing, I’ve orchestrated two North American-wide campaigns and a dozen minor ones, including a couple of charities. This experience (which I can only say seemed like a good idea at the time), has made me sensitive to the mistakes that beginning marketers commonly make.

Read this list of strategies to avoid, and see how many you’ve done. I admit to having made all of them at one time or the other.

Avoid December to February product releases

In the month before Christmas, most people are distracted. They have a lot of demands on their income, including more requests from charities. After Christmas, they feel poor and depressed and are starting to think of putting whatever cash they have left over into retirement savings plans – all of which makes these three months the worst possible for starting a campaign. If you want people to buy for Christmas, you need to start by mid-October at the very latest. Otherwise, you’re almost guaranteed a lack of interest, no matter what you are promoting.

Don’t think that the second campaign is as easy as a first

When you first announce a product, you generally get a free ride. People are curious (with any luck), and they generally don’t know anything against the product, regardless of whether it’s a piece of merchandise, a service, or a cause.
But, the second time around, the product has a record. People have seen it before, and heard of the company or non-profit behind the product. Consequently, a successful followup campaign is much harder than a successful introductory campaign.

Don’t assume that what works once will work again

Just because a strategy or angle worked for you once doesn’t mean that it will work indefinitely. A clever campaign is a novelty the first time, and a bore the second time. You’ll do better with a different strategy for each campaign.

Don’t aim at the same audience continually

Members of an existing audience have already bought your product or donated to your cause. Appealing to them again makes you more likely to be ignored. You also risk losing what support you have built up. Instead, find a way to add to your audience.

Don’t assume that the value of your product is obvious

You may think that the value of what you are offering is obvious. By the time a campaign starts, the product’s value probably is obvious to you, especially if you are operating a non-profit or charity. But to your audience, which may not be paying close attention, that value is not obvious. Try to go beyond generalities and explain as concretely as possible the value of what you are offering.

Don’t shut out part of the audience

Understanding the demographics of a product is important to help you to understand the emphasis of the campaign. But don’t completely ignore other audiences. Just because your product mainly appeals to men doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay some attention to women in the campaign, or the other way around. Otherwise, developing a larger audience becomes much more difficult.

Don’t over-saturate

Faced with a less than successful campaign, the impulse of many marketers is to try harder. They step up the tweets, increase the automatic phone dialing, and take out more ads in a panicked effort to stave off failure. However, the result of such tactics is likely to be the loss of your existing audience members because you’ve ignored them. Probably, by the time you notice problems with a campaign you can’t cancel it altogether, but look for creative ways to tweak or supplement it rather than speeding the train wreck by increasing its speed.

When I was learning how to market – usually on the fly, half a step ahead of necessity – a time came when I was so aware of these faults that I would keep count of how many examples of each mistake I found. Sanity has since prevailed, but, like anyone with special knowledge or expertise, I still notice frequent examples of all of them. Look around, and the chances are that you will, too – maybe even in your own efforts.

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