Small businesses have to be careful in choosing and implementing online marketing tactics.
After all, when online marketing for small businesses goes wrong, mistakes are costly and resources to deal with them are slim.
Big brands throw money at marketing campaigns knowing if it fails they will just have more marketing data to help them optimize other campaigns and improve their future efforts.
As an SMB owner myself, I know that not everyone is operating with these deep pockets.
For me, and my small business clients, it is essential that we implement effective online marketing tactics. We simply don’t have enough time or money to test a ton of ideas just to see what works, we need results.
Rather than inundate you with yet another post on “Top Online Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses” (there are plenty of these, just Google it) I’m going to give you a better angle on the topic.
Today, I’m going to share the worst examples in history of online marketing for small businesses.
AKA the biggest #FAILS of online marketing for small businesses..
Because like I said, you and me are SMB owners on a budget and we cannot afford to make mistakes with our marketing efforts.
So, instead let’s research and analyze other businesses mistakes in online marketing so that we can learn what doesn’t work the easy way.
Trust me. Go make these same mistakes yourself, and you will have to learn these lessons the hard way.
Alright, ready to giggle at the competition?
I am! Let’s go.
1 – Don’t Compare Your Product or Services to $h*t
Ok so first off, let me just set the tone with a one of my favorite all time marketing fails. Although this was “offline” marketing, the lesson applies online as well.
Some marketers think this is a successful campaign as it gets people talking about the ad.
Other marketers look at this as a fail, the product is being compared to $h*t.
I think for most small businesses, a marketing campaign this risque is not going to generate the results you’re looking for.
Personally, I think this is a prime example of a company with funding testing out a risque marketing campaign. I think for any small business this campaign would be a fail and not a risk you’d want to take with your limited marketing resources.\
Lesson: Don’t compare your product to poop. Compare it to wealth, freedom, simplicity, something positive that humans desire.
Ok, let’s move onto some more online marketing fails that small business owners should outright avoid at all costs.
2 – Even Strip Clubs Need to Be Careful With Their Marketing
You would think that the “more conservative” businesses are the ones that need to be concerned about marketing fails.
This is not the case. Even a strip club will get called out on a risky marketing fail.
Source: Business Insider
Spearmint Rhino, a well-known strip club, thought they’d get cute with their social media marketing for their local Melbourne Australia strip club.
Long story short. They posted a photo of a baby stating it was a baby pic of one of their strippers.
The pic was time stamped making the now grown baby 14 at the time of the post.
14-year-old strippers, eh?
One troll simply commented, “hope she’s had a boob job.”
This is funny because 14 year old kids often times have not matured yet leaving them boob-less and horrible candidates to be strippers.
Plus they are 14 and stripping at 14 is super illegal.
Now, maybe spearmint can afford mistakes like these, but we can’t. When trying to be funny, let’s also be smart about risky marketing campaigns.
If being funny means pushing the envelope so much to suggest that your business engages in illegal or indecent activities, then don’t be funny.
Lesson: When in doubt. Keep it clean.
3 – If Your Campaign Tiptoes on Being Racist, then don’t. Just don’t.
Source: Business Insider
This one by Home Depot blew their Twitter up (in a bad way). This one tweet led to two days of apologizing online and firing a social media agency responsible.
And I’m sure, lost business.
But Home Depot probably laughed and moved on.
A local hardware store.. Eh not so much. They could take serious backlash from something like this in a small community.
Think about your local community that your small business serves. Would you make your marketing joke comfortably to your customers face to face?
If yes, then go for it.
If no, back to the white board.
Lesson: Never be racist. Don’t even toe the line. It is 2016.
4 & 5 – Don’t Capitalize on the Notoriety of Major Tragic Events
This should be a no-brainer.. But I’ve seen it numerous times.
Businesses think they can generate buzz or laughs by incorporating well-known and tragic events into their marketing campaigns.
Like London Luton airport posted a photo of an accident that led to the death of a 6-year-old boy:
Being clever is good. Just also be careful and know the backstory and relevance of any images you post. Or else you will be spending your limited resources making up for the mistake rather than converting new leads generated from your “clever marketing”.
London Luton’s mistake reminds me of a very recent example of this happening to a local business in my area.
A mattress company just down the road from me in Austin, Miracle Mattress operating (not anymore) down in San Antonio TX, launched an ad campaign that literally put them out of business immediately.
Ok seriously.. My question to the business owner that approved this is simple,
Are you high, bro?
I mean that was honestly one of the most offensive ads I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’m not the patriotic type scowling at anyone who doesn’t have their hand over their heart during the national anthem…
And that ad offended me.
Needless to say, this company immediately closed its doors after launching this ad.
Miracle Mattress is closing its doors due to the backlash from their 9/11 ad. pic.twitter.com/KbgtFyGEXy
— Jamie Barrientos † (@barrientosjamie) September 9, 2016
I could pull up more examples of brands messing up trying to capitalize with weaving marketing tactics into headlined tragic events.
But this should be a no-brainer, don’t make a mistake that is going to result in you closing your business’ doors.
Lesson: Tragic events are exactly that, tragic. They don’t mix with marketing, ever.
Over to You
Ok, I think those 5 examples should definitely help you set some parameters for your online marketing of your small business.
It is good to be clever, funny, and to talk about popular and well-known trends and events in your marketing.
But don’t cross the line.
After all, us SMB owners work hard to stay in business and grow our brands.
Don’t let one tweet ruin all your years of hard work.
Ever made one of these mistakes, or another, online marketing mistake for your small business? Tell me how you bounced back, leave a comment below right now.