Five Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Own Marketing

In 1855 Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

Over the years this has been boiled down to this pithy statement: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” 

This seems like a simple formula (better product = sales success), but you can probably identify what is missing: how is the world going to find out about the better mousetrap? We could revise that formula this way: better product + good marketing = sales success.

Your mousetrap needs to be marketed, and that responsibility falls to you. If you’ve been a regular reader of this column, you’ve learned a lot about how to market your product service effectively and ethically. 

Whether beginning marketers or experienced ones, we at times inadvertently get in the way of our own success. Here are five ways you may be sabotaging your own success– shooting yourself in your marketing foot.

Sabotage #1. Lack of a marketing plan. 

The phone rings. On the line is the rep from a magazine that you advertise in. “Your deadline is today and we noticed that you have not submitted an ad for the next issue,” the rep says. “Shall we rerun your ad from the past issue?”

You remember in despair that it’s the time of year to advertise your annual sales event, but you forgot to plan advertising for it.  Now you don’t have time to get the details together and submit the ad.

Being haphazard and flying by the seat of your pants is marketing sabotage. One of the many benefits of a marketing plan is that it helps you avoid situations like this. At the beginning of the year, create a document listing the due dates of all advertising and other marketing-related things. 

Being haphazard and flying by the seat of your pants is marketing sabotage.”

You can add more detail to your marketing plan as you develop it year after year, but in its simplest form, a marketing plan answers the question: Who does what by when?  

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The discipline of planning brings consistency, structure, and efficiency to your marketing efforts.

Begin assembling a simple marketing plan today by corralling the details for the advertising/marketing that you would like to do between now and the end of the year. The last step in your new plan should be to plan your marketing for the following year. Schedule time for that in your calendar right now. 

Sabotage #2. Failure to schedule enough time. 

Have you ever said this? “I’m sorry. I don’t have time for that this week. I’m just maxed out.” Have you noticed that the next week is rarely any different?

Nothing gets done without time. Marketing takes time. Back to the previous point, planning your marketing for the rest of the year takes an initial investment of time, though it will save you time later. But even after you have a marketing plan in place, you need time to implement the steps in the plan. Otherwise, it will get pushed aside by more urgent items. 

Remember that what is urgent is not always important. Marketing is rarely urgent but is always important. Set aside a day or half a day each month to execute items in your marketing plan. Here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Review progress on current marketing projects.
  • Identify next steps. Schedule time to do those steps or delegate them to someone else.
  • Create and/or review testing and measuring reports so you know how well your marketing investment is paying off.
  • Think of ways to improve your marketing. Read books and articles to glean ideas.

Evaluate yourself to see if you are reserving for yourself tasks or responsibilities that should be delegated to someone else. In the Bible, Moses was spending too much time helping solve people’s problems. It wasn’t until his father-in-law Jethro advised him to delegate that responsibility that he finally decided to get others involved to help (see Exodus 18:13-26). 

You might say, “I don’t have employees who know how to do what needs to be done.” Hiring outside help—a marketing agency or freelance designer or copywriter—is a form of delegation. It not only buys the results you need, but it buys you time.  

Sabotage #3. Indulging in procrastination.

We tend to see procrastination as a solution to problems (albeit a temporary solution). However, procrastination often makes the problem even more difficult once we are forced to confront it. 

When you are tempted to procrastinate on a marketing project, try to identify the reason you are avoiding the project. It may be a lack of time (addressed above) or it may be a feeling of uncertainty or burden. 

Marketing can feel complex, and you may feel buried under a barrage of advice and options. Or perhaps you know where you want to go, but you aren’t sure how to get there. 

“Procrastination often makes the problem even more difficult once we are forced to confront it.”

When you realize you are procrastinating because you don’t know how to proceed, try reaching out for some help. This could be an “expert” or a peer-like fellow business owner or an employee who has experience you can tap into.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help. 

Sometimes we procrastinate because the job feels too big. We don’t know where to start, so we don’t start at all. Try breaking the job into small, specific tasks. For example, you can break down the big job of creating a marketing plan into a few easy starter steps:

  1. List all of your advertising avenues. 
  2. Contact each one for deadlines/prices for the coming year. 
  3. Consider whether you will add or remove any avenues based on your goals, events, new products, budget, etc.

Once you get started, your momentum will help carry you the entire way through the project. 

Sabotage #4. Failure to connect with the right audience.

You’d laugh if a cat food producer was trying to market to cats. It’s not the cats who make purchasing decisions about their food, but their owners. So cat food producers need to connect with cat owners, not the cats themselves (though, of course, it helps if the cats like the food). 

In spite of the humor, not connecting with the right audience is a common way marketers sabotage their own marketing. Like a pro fisherman tailors his tactics and bait to the species he is trying to catch, a marketer should tailor his message and tactics to the audience he is trying to attract. 

Instead of trying to sell to everyone, identify your ideal customer. Who is my product designed to serve? What factors are most important to them in relation to this product? What is their mindset or worldview? How old are they? Where do they spend time? What do they read? Whom do they trust? What are their income and education? How do they make purchasing decisions? 

Targeting the right audience means that your prospects are warmer instead of cooler. Your marketing is more efficient because you aren’t wasting your time and dollars on people who will never buy from you anyway (or would be a poor fit if they did buy). 

Sabotage #5: Distracted by shiny new objects.

With today’s economy and technology, there are endless places to spend marketing money. You probably receive an endless stream of offers: “Advertise here!” “Try this offer!” “We’ll 10x Your Investment!” And don’t forget about online marketing: social media, email marketing, YouTube videos, blogging, and the list goes on.

If you are constantly chasing new projects, new strategies, and new opportunities without any overarching structure or goals, you may have what is sometimes called “Shiny Object Syndrome.” calls shiny object syndrome a disease of distraction: “It’s called shiny object syndrome because it’s the entrepreneurial equivalent of a small child chasing after shiny objects. Once they get there and see what the object is, they immediately lose interest and start chasing the next thing . . . business objectives, marketing strategies, clients or even other business ventures.”

“Marketing success happens when you develop a plan and a process and consistently implement it over time.”

I’m not arguing against trying new things, but we need to consider new opportunities thoughtfully. Where does this fit in with what we are already doing? Does this help us or hurt us in relation to our long-term goals? 

If you believe that a new opportunity has potential, try a pilot project first. Invest a small amount of money and gauge the results. If it seems to be working, adopt it into your marketing plan and increase your investment. 

This evidence-based approach is much wiser than trying a lot of different things willy-nilly because “everyone else is doing it.” Utilize methods that are relevant to your unique company and situation. 


The first step to fixing a problem is to identify it. Hopefully, this article has helped you identify a way in which you might be sabotaging your own marketing efforts. If you know what’s wrong, now you can work on improving it. 

Marketing success is not like suddenly winning the lottery. It happens when you develop a plan and a process and consistently implement it over time. That’s how to sell the better mousetrap that you built. 

About the Author: Marvin Martin is head of sales and marketing at Rosewood. He provided the inspiration for this article and collaborated with the Rosewood Messaging Team to produce it. Contact Marvin at