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5 marketing tools you're using too much

5 marketing tools you're using too much Greg Kihlström

As marketers, we're constantly inundated with stories of the latest and greatest ways to reach our audiences across all of the mediums we market and advertise on. With the plethora of channels, tactics, and new methods of reaching audiences that are continually popping up, it is sometimes hard to find the time to invest in new methods and tactics. This means that we become a little too reliant on some tried-and-true methods that may not always serve us as well as they should. In some cases, these methods may save us time or be easier to implement. In others, they may have worked well in the past. Still in others, we may find ourselves victims of a gimmick or fad that promised a lot but ultimately failed to deliver.

5 marketing tools you're using too much

It's time to rethink some of our old habits and do a little cleanup. Let's take a look through some tools that you might be relying too heavily on and what you can do to either improve them or find an alternative.

Standard analytics reports

We are all inundated by data on a daily basis. Whether that is website analytics, social media stats, advertising performance, or any number of other things, there is certainly a lot of data to comb through.

We all have been hearing about the power of big data and even small data for a while now. It's about time we start talking about meaningful data. While it is very easy to get a lot of information and statistics about our websites, social media, and other marketing tactics these days, it sometimes takes a little more work to get to the meaningful numbers and trends. If you simply rely on high-level numbers like website visits or social media follows, you're not truly understanding the value of your efforts or getting to know your customers.

Custom reports are the way to go here, and that starts with you asking the right questions. Figure out the problem that you are trying to solve and then build reports around those questions and challenges instead of taking "out of the box" reports and trying to make them solve the problems at hand. While it often takes a while longer to put these custom reports together, you'll quickly find that spending the time to get direct answers to your questions makes it more than worth your while.

QR codes

For those of you asking, "Wait, people are still using QR codes?" you can skip ahead to the next point. For the rest of you, please keep in mind that it takes about 45 seconds for a user to scan a QR code versus a potentially shorter amount of time to type in a short URL into their smartphone browser. These codes seemed like an incredibly helpful solution to a problem several years ago, but since then their promise of getting people where they need to go quickly and easily has simply not delivered.

While there are data suggesting that QR Code usage is on the rise, it is difficult to say what the missed opportunities are were an alternative method supplied. A common complaint from the pro-QR code crowd is that alternative technologies like NFC and others are not commonly available on popular devices, and so this is the best solution for the time being. To which the anti-QR code crowd often replies that both iOS and Android (making up 80 percent+ of the smartphone market) have yet to implement a native QR code reader on their phones.

While QR code usage may be increasing, it's time to continue to think more about a natural way to reach your customers on mobile devices without making them stop to scan your code.

Influencer scores

Far be it from this author to say he's never checked his Klout score, but relying too heavily on tools that measure influence with a single number or metric can be distracting at best and potentially misleading at worst.

Remember that if you use one primary measurement to judge your performance, chances are you will most likely find a way to "win" or game that system, but at the expense of taking a more holistic approach that generates truly tangible results. Your Klout score may go up and down depending on the day or week, but if you are taking the right actions and following a consistent strategy, you will get much better results over time. Consequently, you'll probably also notice that number also rises slowly but steadily as well and is overall less volatile.

Custom hashtags

Let's get one thing straight: There are some definite benefits to using custom hashtags. Purely from a tracking and measurement perspective alone, this device makes many a marketer happy.

Let's think for a minute, though, about what we're using these hashtags for and how they're being used. If you have enough advertising dollars behind your campaign, you can often get a hashtag to "stick." If, however, your campaign is smaller and you are hoping for your effort to go viral, you might want to try some different approaches. A lot of this goes back to asking the fundamental question: What is the problem you are trying to solve? If you are trying to do some branding and want a tag or phrase to stick in the public's mind, then using this approach will work. If your primary goal is to sell widgets, you want to take a much more direct approach and consider adopting the hashtags your audience is already using.

Even worse is "extreme hashtagging" or using more than three hashtags in a post. Be careful not to cause hashtag burnout by adding too many to your posts. Focus your content on one idea and create a content strategy that doesn't spread your efforts too thin. You can always target other words with other posts if you have concerns about losing out on an audience.

Gamification and badges

It's true that gamification can work. We see it being used in many ways across industries and applications. However, gamification is not always the answer to getting your audiences engaged or interested. Sometimes, the "ask" involved in your campaign or effort is simply not compelling or emotionally challenging enough to encourage someone to invest in winning.

The only thing worse than a game that no one likes is a game that no one plays. Be careful that:

  • Your game is not too complex to play. Remember that people are busy and only have a few minutes at most to invest.

  • The theme is directly tied to your strategy and your audience will relate to it. It's sometimes easy to get carried away with a good idea and forget to ask if the effort is related to the problem you're trying to solve.

  • The payoff is worth it. This is relative of course. If it's free to play and only takes a few seconds, the "prize" does not need to be huge, but you do need to reward people for playing.

Similarly, with badges and other incentives and public displays of winning or being part of a competition, you need to make sure your audience is going to find that appealing and be proud to share it. With the proliferation of things to share, the ability for just about anyone, anywhere to create graphics through some online tool, and the sheer amount of "noise" there is out there, you need to make sure you have something unique and compelling to offer people.


As you can see from these items above, nothing here should necessarily be avoided at all costs or thought of as a bad tactic, but they need to be used appropriately and alternatives should always be considered. If you find yourself relying on a specific tool or tactic too often, make sure you take time to question how you are using it and if the tool or tactic is getting more sophisticated as your efforts continue to do so. When you do this on a regular basis, you'll begin to find a lot of tools that you may rely too heavily on and start to consider some newer, better ones that can solve your current challenges even better.

Greg Kihlström is the founder and CEO of Carousel30.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Set of tools in tool box on a wooden background" image via Shutterstock.

Greg is SVP of Digital at Yes&, a performance-driven marketing agency in the Washington, DC region. He was founder and CEO of Carousel30, a digital agency he started in 2003 which was acquired in late 2017 by PCI Communications which, together...

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