The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing and Retention

This isn’t a Sunday School class, nor a review of David Fincher’s (excellent) 1995 film. Rather, this article lists the 7 biggest mistakes companies — of almost all kinds, in almost every industry — make in the field of client onboarding and retention. And since “companies” are essentially a different word for “people” (who run them), we can safely assume that human weaknesses which prevail in our personal lives prevail in our businesses as well. Here are the 7 “deadly sins”, one by one:

#1 Lust: Launching Before you’re Ready

You have a great new product you’re super psyched about and feel confident it will conquer the market. That’s great, but take a minute and think about the next step. The bigger the product, the more it links to your core business, and the more your business relies on this product, the more you’ll have to make sure the brand is ready for launch.

Harvard business Review takes a fascinating look at some of the more famous product launches that failed miserably. As many companies attribute failure to various variables, all possess a common theme: lack of proper preparation. “Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.”

In fact, a staggering 75% of all consumer packaged goods and retail products fail to pass the $7.5 M mark in their first year. If the data reflects poor results from giant, well established firms — how will the smaller ones perform?

When working on your new product (it can even be a new version of an existing product) you must never forget the goal: making clients want the product, need it, and subsequently, pay for it. If a brand lacks a comprehensive marketing plan in the early stages, you might find yourself neglecting usability and thus launch and crash.

#2 Gluttony: Scaling Beyond your Capabilities

Every company, big and small, has a client limit. Many companies don’t realize that when it comes to customers, it’s not just a quantity game but a quality game. Handling your clients means attending to their needs before, during and after purchasing your product. As with gluttony, you can physically consume an entire pizza — but may have trouble keeping it down.

Let’s take a closer look at smaller companies or agencies that embark on the process of building themselves up.

SEO and site building are two methods for creating a bigger brand. Many such companies start off as one or two individuals, each handling around 6 clients personally. But as they grow, many companies take on more clients, oftentimes juggling as many as 15 clients simultaneously! According to the survey, this is way too much for one person.

When trying to grow your client base, cautiously weigh the pros and cons. Start by thinking about how you want to position yourself (and adjust the business model accordingly) — are you serving clients as a boutique or rather as a conglomerate? Some clients are deterred by the former, some — by the latter. Choose your positioning wisely, and act accordingly all the way through the funnel and post funnel.

Additionally, make sure that when handling many clients at once, you are not taking them on at the expense of R&D and innovation. Don’t get addicted to the daily grind of operation and neglect keeping your head above the surface of competition.

So yes, expanding the number of clients probably has more advantages than disadvantages — it provides financial security, increases the variety of your work and will spread your name around the market — but only eat as much as you can properly swallow!

#3 Greed: Spamming your Clients

Yes, we know — you have many products and want as many purchases as possible. Everybody gets that. But bombarding your clients with offers and promotions like there’s no tomorrow will end up hurting the brand.

We have extensively covered the subject of segmentation and spam here in post funnel (see prominent examples here, here and here). Segmentation is the necessary first step in ensuring you are smartly — rather than greedily — targeting your clients.

Technology is the main enabler of both segmentation and smart marketing. Invest time, money and effort in getting to know your clients, make sure you know the differences between individuals and prepare offers and promotions that will most likely capture attention and open wallets.

In a recent survey, 45.8% of responders replied that the reason people unsubscribe from relevant mailing lists is because they get too many emails. Always strive for quality over quantity.

Just as everybody wishes to be treated as an individual in real life, clients also value special attention. Greedily putting all of them in one basket might increase client onboarding in the short run, but will decrease retention rates significantly in the long run.

#4 Sloth: Assuming Customer Loyalty

It’s not enough to believe users will reuse your product just because it’s so good. It’s likely, but definitely not guaranteed. You mustn’t be lazy. Invest time and effort into incentivizing users to come back to you. A proven method of doing so is creating some version of a loyalty/rewards program that binds them into your brand.

The catch is that the work doesn’t end with simply creating the loyalty program. It only starts there: the real work is in maintaining it and keeping it fresh and attractive. Given that 90% of Americans participate in some awards/loyalty programs and that the average American household belongs to 22 loyalty programs from different brands, the competition is fierce, and those who get lazy — stay behind (see the full survey here).

A successful loyalty program must be easy to understand and operate, visibly attractive and continuous. Make sure you always come up with new and attractive ways of incentivizing your clients to continue shopping with you.

So yes, don’t ever allow yourself to just “assume” clients will remain loyal — work hard to give them plenty of reasons to do so. Remember this rule of thumb: Loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

#5 Wrath: Providing Poor Customer Care

Companies lose clients. That’s an absolute truth, and it’s a natural and necessary occurrence. As for the explanations — that’s where views differ. It costs a company $234 every time it loses a client, and there is always a reason to their leaving.

If you’re lucky, your clients will either explain why they left you or will announce their imminent departure/dissatisfaction via a provided feedback channel, (a phone number, contact form on your site and an email address for feedback are the bare minimum). If you take into account the fact that unsatisfied clients are likely to tell at least 8 people about their dissatisfaction, a business can’t afford to take this statistic lightly.

The question is, how will you address these issues? Recently we reviewed the highly-efficient methods of chatbots that provide customer service and channel client feedback during stage one. Addressing indignant consumers’ complaints is a delicate business. Companies are required to perform maximal care and attention — and there’s no better way to lose your client than by losing your temper.

Moreover, if you want your staff to provide proper customer service, you must also keep them happy. A satisfied staff is much more likely to address client issues with the same positive approach.

Properly handling customer feedback is a topic for at least a dozen of separate articles, but for now it will suffice to say the most important things you need to provide your clients are:

  1. Multiple feedback channels, including automatic and human channels
  2. An individual strategy for each issue
  3. A patient and understanding approach, even when facing extremely difficult clients
  4. A post-feedback mechanism, checking up on clients sometime after their complaint has been rectified
  5. Keeping your staff satisfied

Lose your temper too often — and you’ll often lose many of your clients.

#6 Envy: Losing your Uniqueness

Everybody knows the comparison between Google and Facebook — Google envied Facebook for its social media platform and Facebook envied Google for its search capabilities. Both tech giants tried developing an equivalent to the competition and incorporating it into their products. Both failed miserably, even though these are two companies with virtually endless financial and human resources.

Why is that?

Because in many cases, your brand has one distinctive thing it does really well (given of course that the company is actually successful). That’s your company’s core, and growing outside your core demands thought, persistence and a large amount of luck.

One comprehensive survey, which was conducted a few years back and examined close to 2,000 companies who grew beyond their core, came up with two major conclusions:

  1. The most profitable growth occurs after a company pushes the boundaries of its core business into an adjacent space. The survey identified six types of adjacencies, ranging from related links in the value chain to like-minded customers to similar locations. But the basic idea is the same: Growth occurs when branching out into a related sect, not a random demographic.
  2. Companies profitably outgrow their rivals by developing a formula for expanding their boundaries in predictable and repeatable manners. An average company spends 25% of their time and resources launching new initiatives. Companies that have hit upon a repeatable formula have success rates of twice that, and some drive their rates up to 80% or higher.

Remember: it’s easy to envy other companies for their success in certain fields and envy itself is a good quality to have in business — it’s what drives businesses forward and fuels motivation. But you must constantly examine whether you can translate that envy into a viable business model that contributes towards your brand and pushes your company as a whole.

#7 Pride: Becoming Arrogant Towards Clients

An unimaginable amount of paper and screen pixels have illustrated the arrogance of Wall Street’s financial sector, pinpointed as a prominent cause for the 2008 global financial crash.

Add to that cocktail the thousands of tech blogs raging about Apple’s design/usability/product decisions and “arrogance culture,” or critics who bash Facebook for invading their users’ privacy and you begin to understand that pride is good, but arrogance leaves room for disaster. We must also not forget companies like Kodak or Blockbuster that were so certain of their position in the market, that they were simply too blind — or simply not humble enough — to recognize true competition when they saw one.

Humility is a great driver of business, because it always forces brands to stop and listen, keep their guards up and never forget that failure is not only a fear, but a plausible reality.

So yes, many companies that are extremely successful are also extremely hated (see here for example), but that doesn’t mean they will stay that way forever. Take your success with a grain of salt, and always — always — try to be a better person, a better team member, a better company.

Originally published at

PostFunnel, by Optimove, covers the intersection of data, technology, design and innovation in retention marketing, helping practitioners to excel at their work