Annoying Marketing Tactics and Practices That Drive Customers Away

Thoughts from an everyday consumer — who is also a marketer

The general consumer usually falls into 1 of 3 categories when it comes to how they feel about your brand’s marketing:

  1. They are huge and avid fans. Why? Because the messaging is engaging. It challenges the norm. Oh, and there’s a unique value proposition in each piece of content shared.
  2. They stand with no strong opinion. Why? Because it’s conservative. Your marketing plays it safe. And sometimes, that’s just fine depending on your target market and what you are talking about.
  3. They absolutely hate it. Why? Well, let’s discuss just a handful of examples.

More often than not, I fall into category No. 3. Often, I find myself picking apart non-responsive websites that are impossible to read on my phone. Rolling my eyes as the same ad I see time and time…and time again pops up on my Facebook newsfeed, prompting me to buy the shoes I had just purchased last week. Or throwing my hands in the air when a form requests for unnecessary information, like my blood type.

Okay, the last example is a tad bit dramatic. However, I have a point, I can assure you. Each of these examples makes it difficult (or nearly impossible) to engage with your brand. The content and messaging are no longer relevant. It takes valuable time out of my busy day. All major party fouls in the marketing playbook. And I hope it’s a wakeup call to end some of the annoying marketing practices that drive consumers mad.

While we all as consumers continue to experience frustration due to these annoying marketing tactics, we as marketers continue to deploy them. Why? Because the pressure to generate leads, grow sales and increase exposure is always pressing. And many of those efforts that we put into place to achieve those goals continue to frustrate customers.

I gathered up a list of some of the most annoying marketing tactics — in my humble opinion — that are commonly used, and I got some opinions from internal experts on how to mitigate them.

Website

Outdated SEO practices, especially keyword stuffing

Senior Media Specialist Kaylee Tritle said, “From the consumer’s standpoint, keyword stuffing just makes a piece not as inviting and can feel forced. It can make a piece of content seem like it’s ‘trying too hard’ to rank.” Through many algorithm updates and changes in technology, Google no longer needs us to spell out word for word (theoretically not literally) what a blog or landing page is being optimized for. As long as best practices are being used with the number of times a keyword is implemented and where it is implemented, there is no need to stuff that keyword into each sentence of every paragraph.

Design without accessibility in mind

From a design standpoint, there are countless ways to create a negative user experience on your website — whether it’s inadequate color contrast, non-responsive page layouts for different devices or forgoing metadata to support visual content. Countless studies show that accessible websites have better search engine results, reach a bigger audience, achieve faster download times and more. There are countless tools that can be installed to ensure your design is in compliance and even provide suggestions on how to improve the user experience. Here are just a handful to try out:

Complicated signups and form fills

If you make it simple, they will come. This is especially true for website forms on your website. Digital Strategist Laura Plumb shared this insight: “Shorter forms are easier to fill out, plain and simple. When you make things easier, you are more likely to get what you are asking for.” And she’s got data to back this statement up. Data from ConversionXL found that shortening a form from 11 to 4 questions generated 120% more conversions. Length isn’t the only factor to consider. Making sure the form has a good user experience can be key to generating conversions too. If someone can’t figure out how to work a dropdown or the fields run offscreen on mobile devices, you’ll see a hit to conversion no matter how many fields there are.

Leaving out the option to opt in or opt out

Opting in: Consumers are becoming more privacy conscious and aware of the ways their activity is tracked online — and I’m one of them. Avoiding the cookieless world is no longer an option for marketers as there have been growing movements to enact stronger policies to give individuals greater control of their data (such as the GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California and PIPEDA in Canada). It is crucial that your brand get ahead of this by doing a few things:

  • Refocus on collecting first-person data via a login on your website, lead generation efforts, newsletter subscribers, gated content or other avenues.
  • Review your privacy policy to ensure it reflects all trackers currently on your website.
  • Consider implementing a more explicit opt in on your website to allow users to accept or decline cookies.

Opting out: Similar to having the option to opt in to engage with your brand, I also want the option to remove my information from your database or marketing contact list without a major hassle to do so. It’s your legal obligation to include the unsubscribe button and make it clearly visible on all email communication. And if we are taking a break, the option to opt out or cancel a service or subscription should be easily accessible on your website — not hidden five pages deep in an obscure location. I’m talking to you, Beachbody and Netflix….😒

Pop-up banners and interstitials

Anything that interrupts the user experience is a true pet peeve and a very annoying marketing tactic, especially if I was just introduced to your website. Come on, people! I just got to your site five seconds ago. No, I’m not ready to sign up for your e-newsletter, and I’m certainly not willing to fill out a form just yet. There are some rules in place by Google and other search networks to ensure the content on the page loads first and users can easily exit the pop up to access the on-page content, or they may ding your site in the search results. Depending on the goal of the pop up, things like subscription pop ups for newsletters may do better by waiting longer until someone has had a chance to read the page before getting hit with the CTA.

Gated content with little to no value

If I have to provide my personal information, there had better be a valuable return on the brand’s part. One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is a shift in pricing transparency. Consumers are pushing for brands to provide pricing upfront online rather than behind closed doors. And who’s to blame them? At the initial stages of research, consumers are looking to gauge the level of investment — many times without speaking directly to a salesperson or brand representative. Be sure to ask your team prior to gating content: Is this worth sharing their personal data in exchange for the content you are serving them?

Digital content — emails, advertising and social media

Disregard for frequency caps on digital advertisements

Not much explanation is needed here — we have all experienced this. There is that one brand that serves you an ad over and over again in hopes of getting the most exposure possible. Frequency caps (or the total number of impressions a single person sees over a specified timeframe) are key elements of digital ad success because they keep you from being that annoying brand that follows someone everywhere. Laura said, “The ideal frequency campaign depends on the goal of the campaign. For brand awareness campaigns, a higher frequency per person is important to build brand recall. But for ads like site-wide retargeting, a lower frequency cap will perform better.”

Posting the same content across every owned social media channel

Some brands choose to use the same word-for-word social media post copy across every platform. Copywriter Rachel Wallace said this is a common mistake in social media content strategies. “It’s easy and fast, and hey — at least you’re getting posts up, so who cares? You know who cares? Your followers.” In fact, they’re bored to death of it, and to be honest, they deserve more.

Auto-played and un-captioned video content

Have you ever been in a quiet space, such as a library, scrolling on your phone and all of the sudden the video you’re seeing blasts at the top volume? I have…and it prompts and frantic apology and fumbling to find the mute button. This could have easily been solved in two ways: turning off the auto-play function on the video and adding closed captioning. Beyond embarrassment for myself, it is important to keep in mind that 85% of videos online are viewed without sound. Captions also make the content more accessible to individuals who are hearing impaired, in addition to international audiences when translated.

Too much copy on digital ads or social media images

It may seem pertinent to have every detail of the product that is being promoted, however, less is more. This is particularly true for very small mobile ad sizes. Because let’s be honest, users cannot read it or see every detail. Nor will they retain all of the information shoved into the little real estate you have to work with. Graphic Designer Tiffany Rasmussen offered this piece of advice: “One trick I’ve learned in digital design is that it’s important to review the ad as it will be displayed — not blown up on a big screen. This gives you a more real sense of how the viewer will see it.” I like the way you think, Tiffany.

Person-to-person and customer services

Not acknowledging the customer

Have you been completely ignored when you walk into a restaurant? No matter how business oriented the staff is, there should always be someone dedicated or able to welcome anyone who walks in the door with a simple, “Hi, I’ll be right with you.” Similarly online, it should be super easy for customers to interact with you — whether through a live chatbot, click-to-call phone number, email or form fill. This should be the standard no matter the industry, audience or location.

Automated phone menus and elevator music while on hold

I’m going to start hanging up the phone when prompted to listen to yet another on-hold voice that reminds me to “pay close attention to the menu of options because they have recently changed.” As if I had the countless old prompts memorized. Definitely not. Drop the language and get to the point so I can talk to a human sooner rather than later.

Adhering to a process rather than helping the customer with their unique needs

Sometimes there are requests from customers that just don’t have a step-by-step protocol to follow. It’s in these situations that the flexibility to accommodate for unique situations can go a long way. Shoe giant Zappos is a leader when it comes to this customer service philosophy. Culture Advisor and Director of Zappos Insights Christa Foley said, “There’s no way to predict every customer scenario your employees may deal with, and even if you could, writing them painstakingly out as a 500-page policies and procedures playbook is kind of crazy. That only forces your employees into situations where they may come off as scripted or disingenuous.” At the end of the day, forgoing the written path can make all the difference.

Shifting from annoying marketing tactics to curate the best customer experience

It’s time for our marketing and advertising perspective to shift. We need to be innovators and brainstorm new ways to capture customer information without being bothersome or intrusive to their user experience. It’s time to put the customer experience first and do whatever possible to keep them from becoming frustrated with our practices. If we can continue to improve the ways that we collect leads, gain exposure and engage customers, the increase in goals and growth in sales should (and will) follow. Rather than taking the easy way out, this is a challenge that marketers will continue to face.

Is your brand guilty of one of these annoying marketing practices?

If so, that’s okay! Many of these issues are easy fixes! Some, not so much. If you want to shift your marketing practices but aren’t sure where to start, I know a fantastic group of talented, curious, ambitious marketers in the heart of Des Moines. Reach out and let’s chat!

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