Ineffective Marketing Strategies That You Need to Stop in 2021

bad marketing techniques

Having worked in the marketing team for the 3rd largest real estate portal in Australia, as well as various digital marketing agencies that also needed to grow their customer base, I’ve seen a lot of marketing dollars go down the toilet. I’m also a big fan of discussing marketing various marketing campaigns and writing about them on this site.

In an ever-evolving digital world, there are now so many older and expensive methods of marketing that are not worth the time or effort. Whilst the ineffective marketing techniques listed here probably won’t surprise you, many businesses still spend in these areas because they always have.

Yellow Pages

old lady using yellow pages

I’ve explained at length why the Yellow Pages has long since been a necessary part of your marketing budget unless you’re targeting very specific audiences who actively opt-in to this dying medium. The free online version is good for helping your Google My Business listing appear in Google Maps and in the Map Pack of the Google Search Results, and that’s about it. You can read my full article about that for more details.

Print Advertising

old people with newspaper

I love magazines, I have never thrown out a magazine in my life and reread them regularly. I particularly love those from the early 90s and early 2000s. Today though, the circulation of magazines and newspapers have dwindled and most people do not buy print media very often and certainly don’t hoard it for decades.

The cost of print advertising has generally gone up as newspaper sizes shrink and the total number of different publications dwindles. The cost of a full-page ad is rarely going to be worthwhile. The cost of smaller, cheaper print ads will be lower, but people probably won’t even notice it. Whilst most people are reading their news and other information or gossip online now and this is increasing every year, resulting in more and more magazines and newspapers either moving to digital-only or dying out.

Those who sell ad-space in print publications will likely use figures like how many issues are printed and call that the total readership. Not all magazines or papers get sold. Not everyone who buys these reads every page. Some people will only read the sports section of a newspaper for example. With display advertising online, you can get metrics for how many times the ad was viewed, how many clicks it sent to your website and if it resulted in any sales.

Where Print Advertising Still Works

Highly targeted publications, such as those dedicated to certain topics or industries are still effective at getting to niche audiences. This is true for both B2C and B2B advertising, and these smaller publications will provide you with data on their readership numbers and the demographic breakdown.

Direct Mail & Letterbox Drops

junk mail direct letterbox spam

I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything that’s arrived unsolicited in my letterbox unless it was a coupon for a pizza. Printing, posting or delivering can be expensive. If you’re not doing an exclusive promotion and discount, it is very difficult to measure its effectiveness.

Many people have “no junk mail” stickers because they don’t want your promotional materials. There are also companies that will get your name and address by one means or another, such as by purchasing a list of phone numbers, names and addresses that are not on the do-not-call register in order to personally address their junk mail. Whilst this is a good way to trick people into opening mail form you, it’s an expensive way to annoy people.

There are very few industries where unsolicited mail is welcomed or effective. Pizza coupons or coupons for other places are probably the most well-received type of letterbox drop. Hyper-local services like cleaners, or perhaps landscaping or fencing, if it’s in a new estate, might be welcomed. More broad direct mail specifically targeting new residents or homeowners are also effective (such as those bundled together by ValPak), although these also bundle in coupons.  If it’s something less localised or not highly targeted, it’ll just go straight in the bin.

Cold Calling or Telemarketing

unhappy telemarketer


Calling up a potential customer and trying to sell to them uninvited is a more modern version of the door-to-door salesman. One will typically obtain a list of potential customers and call each one reciting a script as to convince them to buy from you.

This is an expensive way to try and gain customers. It’s also very annoying to most people who are getting interrupted during their day or evening. it’s a lot more effective to spend time investing in areas where your potential customers are looking, not calling up people who are probably not in the market for your product or services right now.

Managing your own Google and Facebook Ads

man who is bad at google and facebook ads

Whilst I think it’s great to manage your own Google Ads and Facebook ads if you can do so effectively, I see a lot of companies who are clearly wasting money. I’ve had quite a few of my SEO clients come to us with their Google Analytics goals set up in some weird way that gives false-positive results. Eg. They often include particular page views as goal completions, whilst I’d typically set a sale or enquiry as a goal completion. By being overly liberal with what you count as a goal completion, you might be optimising your ads for the wrong outcomes.

In a lot of cases, Google Ads is something that is costing you money 24 hours, or during specific hours that you set depending on your industry or budget. It’s quite difficult to pay proper attention to running your business and having your ads run unsupervised. You might also be good at running your business, but you might not be an expert in the persuasive ad text within a short character limit, designing remarketing banners or setting up shopping feeds for e-commerce websites.

At some point, you might find that the savings in wasted ad spend would more than warrant the price of hiring a professional.


In 2020 many local businesses faced extreme hardships. Marketing is possibly more essential than ever before and the present and future is digital, so please stop using outdated methods that waste your budget.


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Written by Keith Nallawalla

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