10 common mistakes that reduce your communications ROI (and how to fix them!)

With two decades of experience working in communications we’ve set a fair few comms strategies back on the right path. To help you keep your comms strategy on track we thought we’d share the top ten most common mistakes we see that impact ROI, and our tips on how to overcome them.


1. Communications don’t match the business vision, values or objectives

We see this quite often because it’s so easily done. It can be the business changing direction and the communications strategy not keeping up, or the communications strategy getting updated, but the business overall doesn’t meet the aspiration. Either way the result is the same, the strategies don’t work together to match the business vision, values and objectives.

Top Tip: One of the first things we do as external advisors is to review the long-term business vision, values and current objectives in relation to the communications we see in action. We examine what observations can be made, for example is the tone of voice in line with the businesses values, or are communications successfully contributing to the long-term goals?


2. Campaigns and external comms are well executed, but don’t align to the overall sales activity

A common challenge is that marketing communications are focused on longer term aspirational business goals, whilst sales activity is focused on the immediate short-term business objectives. This can sometimes result in the sales and marketing teams working at odds with each other. Sales and marketing do play different roles in a business, but they should be aligned and the communications strategies should bridge both needs.

Top Tip: We’re firm believers in sales and marketing alignment and recommend regular proactive communication between the two functions to make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. It’s OK to have comms channels that meet both the immediate needs of the business (‘come and see us on stand 44 to find out about our latest product’) whilst also nurturing the future (‘we’re really excited to be developing the latest technology….’).


3. Communications are inconsistent across channels

Often organisational structures unintentionally lead to inconsistency across the business, with different individuals or departments leading different communications channels in silo.

Top Tip: A thorough channel audit can provide you with an independent view of your channel consistency and advise on how you can make improvements. From smaller things like language differences to more fundamental differences such as tone of voice, the overall strategy will work better if it’s aligned and there’s a clear strategy for each channel.


4. Communications are too inward

One of the easiest traps to fall into is talking about your own news too much, from award wins to new products and services. It can be great to promote these messages, but the challenge comes when all your channels are simply filled with your own news rather than bringing value to your customers.

Top Tip: Scheduling and planning can help you to spot times when you’re talking about your own business too often. If this is the case, a solid plan can also help you to include other value-add content to your communications which your audiences will find useful.


 5. Campaigns don’t utilise all the channels available

One of the best things about the current communications landscape is the plethora of channels open to marketers, meaning we often have different channels for different audiences – but this comes with its own challenges! Many marketers get overwhelmed with updating multiple channels, sometimes falling into the trap of sending the same post to several channels for ease, with none performing well because they’re not quite right for the channels they’re being used in.

Top Tip: Being clear about the audience each of your channels is aimed at helps to drive the purpose of those channels and enables you to post the right messages to the right places. We’re often heard proposing to ‘do less but do it well’ and this is particularly important with campaigns which often get promoted through expensive paid for advertising channels, while more economical channels like email and organic social don’t get activated well enough.


6. Communications are well executed but audience is not well defined

One thing we often see that reduces overall ROI is throwing out the net too wide, when your message is right but the audience group is just too large. Instead of trying to engage bulging data lists, the adage ‘less is more’ is vital again here as talking to people who have no need or interest in your product or service is literally burning your budget (while also giving you false readings on engagement).

Top Tip: Run regular data cleansing, segmenting out non-engagers and trialing different re-engagement activity with them. Look closely at who is buying your product or service, such as buyer types, geographical locations, business size or demographics then invest time in understanding who your audience is. If you can invest in research too that’s even better. The better you understand who needs you and when (including what triggers them to need or want you) the more you can target your communications to the right people – and stop wasting your time on uninterested bystanders!


7. Analytics shows that your community on social channels doesn’t correlate with your target customer profile

This is a sad fact of the digital world we’re living within. We commonly see marketers developing and executing well thought out social strategies, that appear on the outside to be successfully growing their online communities, however when you deep dive into the data the analytics tell a different story. If you’ve ever inherited an online community from a predecessor, or if the business has undergone changes, or perhaps has an end user community that use social channels to rectify customer service issues, you may find in reality your engaged community isn’t as large as it looks.

Top Tip: Check the logic of your data analytics. If you’re targeting young, females in the UK and your data shows your followers are 50+, male and overseas, all your hard work is not getting to the right audience. Be clear on your social bios, unfollow irrelevant accounts and be careful which hashtags you use. For example, using #competition will pull in people who want to win prizes and not necessarily want to engage with you. A great way to increase followers is not always a great way to engage with an audience that will have intent to buy your products.


8. The quality v quantity balance is wrong

We know it is hard to strike the right balance, and we regularly see equal amounts of both challenges, with either oversharing of poor-quality content or under sharing of great content.

Top Tip: When it comes to creating content, always try to aim for quality over quantity. In terms of quantity, think about what’s appropriate for the channel as different channels require different approaches to posting. For example, Instagram always requires very high quality, whereas Twitter often works with a higher posting frequency.


9. Brand language isn’t resonating

Industry jargon can be another misfire that prevents communications getting through as well as they could. Using internal language that doesn’t make any sense to your audience simply turns them off.

Top Tip: Try the reading out loud test, if you read your content out loud, do you sound like a human being or a robot? Regardless of how serious or complex your content is, it should still be easily readable, and if it’s not simplify it until it is.


10. Poor calls to action

Don’t fail at the last hurdle, where you simply overlook asking your audience to do anything. It’s critical to plan out your call to actions, whether that’s finding out more on another page, booking an appointment, signing up to something, booking straight away or buying a product now.

Top Tip: Be really clear for every piece of communications you publish what you want your audience to do as a result of consuming your content. Make sure your CTA is obvious, simple, visible and relevant, and is a natural next step.


Getting your communications right is complex, even the best marketers fall foul to some of these misdemeanors from time to time. If you’d like an external view on how your communications are performing talk to us about our communications audits.