37 Ways You Are Confusing Your Customers


When you do business online, communication is everything. If your marketing isn’t clear, potential customers get confused, and when customers get confused, they leave before they ever know what it is you offer.

Here is a comprehensive list of 37 different ways marketers and businesspeople confuse their customers, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Social Media: Twitter

Inactive Twitter Accounts: Fruit of the Loom’s Twitter account has three tweets posted in a three-minute timeframe from 2011. They aren’t exactly gaining social momentum with this account. If a service isn’t part of your strategy, don’t sign up.

Hashtag Overuse: If every other word in your social media message is a hashtag, maybe you don’t know how these work—that’s what customers think. If your hashtags aren’t deliberate or meaningful, you aren’t using them right.

Forcing A Hashtag: McDonalds tried their hand at forcing a popular hashtag this past January when they started encouraging people to share #McDStories. Their plan backfired, and gross stories of fast food nightmares began filling the hashtag. Forcing positive customer sentiment can backfire and do more harm than good.
Avoid The Egg: New Twitter users have a randomly generated “egg” user picture when they sign up. This should be obvious, but your user picture is a branding opportunity. If you interact with users without changing your user picture to something that represents you, you’ll be ignored in a heartbeat.

Hyperactive Brand Name Tracking: Businesses should actively track mentions of their name brand on social networking services, and interacting with users that mention you is a great strategy. That doesn’t mean you should act on every single mention, though: replying to any and every mention of your brand can come off as obsessive and creepy.

Automatic Social Sharing: Does your content translate across multiple mediums? Automatic share systems that distribute your new content across all of your social networking profiles can often botch the sharing action by including too much unnecessary text or parsing content in a way that doesn’t seem natural. Customers pick up on this as a sign of laziness, and will respond to it accordingly.

Unlock Twitter: Another pet peeve of mine: locked Twitter accounts. Twitter is about social sharing and interaction. If you aren’t willing to unlock your Twitter profile and make your content public, there’s no reason to use the service—unless you’re trying to look like a weird social media stalker business on purpose.

Understand The Service: Potential customers can tell if you don’t understand a social media service or you aren’t familiar with how the site “works.” If you join Twitter to promote yourself and never share anything or interact with others, people will avoid you on principal. Learn how to be a social media user before you start promoting.

Social Media: Facebook

Don’t Be A Ghost: Social media profiles provide space to share information about you and your business with other people. Again, this is another branding opportunity—fill these out! A blank About Me section makes you look untrustworthy and unworthy of new business.

Facebook Disengagement: Do you interact with your Facebook fans? They’re interacting with you, and if you aren’t willing to return the favor, you’re chasing potential customers away.

Being Annoying: There is actually a content strategy called “annoyance marketing,” and it can work sometimes—if you’re careful. Social media is not the best place to make this strategy work: consider that with each post you make, you’re interrupting your customers’ personal space with marketing efforts. Customers are generally not receptive to that, so make sure you provide some value with each post, instead of chasing them away with annoying disruptions.

No Show, All Tell: Images and visual content go a long way online. Written content for social media without a visual component is basically throwing away a good exposure opportunity. Even if you have to spend extra time finding some sort of relevant image, the potential reach you earn by calling out your content with a visual cue is worth the effort.

Keywords Galore: Consumers spend maybe two seconds deciding if a promotional post is worth reading. Stuffing your social content with keywords like you would write longer-form content is a great way to make your posts look like a fishy sales pitch to potential customers.

Open Your Privacy Settings: Don’t send customers to your social profiles if they can’t see any of your information. If your Facebook profile is completely locked down, people will leave without ever looking further into contacting you.

Web Content

Writing Over Your Customers’ Heads: I’ve written about this extensively before: there’s nothing I hate more as a consumer than content that isn’t accessible.

There’s no reason to write over customers’ heads unless you’re qualifying your customers by scaring away anyone that doesn’t understand what you’re writing about. Writers often don’t realize they’re doing this until someone else points it out, so be careful.

Vague Headlines: Just like your menu should express clear, immediately recognizable intent, your title lines should be clear as well. Is your product the best in the market? Then say so, don’t hint at it. Vague headlines are a major point of frustration for potential customers because they can be misleading.

Making Assumptions: Don’t write content based on assumptions about your target market. Customers start to scratch their heads when they read content that is obviously directed at them, but doesn’t actually apply to them.

The Rhetorical Question: Marketers like to use “do you need this?” taglines and have worn them out for years. It’s supposed to make the customer tell themselves “oh, I guess I do!” We’re smarter than this now. Once in a while these are okay, but don’t hinge your entire conversion on a tired marketing gag.

Print And Online Are Different: Businesses will often repurpose their printed marketing materials for online use by simply throwing the image or raw content online, without changing it or optimizing it for the web. This is a big no-no: large images (like print ads) are difficult to navigate online, and consumers are very frustrated when there aren’t interactive elements where they should be anticipated. Repurposing print content for the web is fine, but be smart about it.

QR Codes Can Backfire: Marketers often throw QR codes into their promotional material because it’s cheap and easy. QR codes have a bad reputation for requiring lots of effort to produce minimal value. Don’t use a QR code without making the value of a scan immediately apparent and worthwhile.

Mystery Links: Hyperlinks are a major distraction. If you fill your page design and content up with them, it’s tough to focus on the actual content. Make every link count, don’t load up content with links to every little relevant thing you can think of.

Over-Anchoring: I was reading an article today about a service that checked if your password had been stolen after a recent hack, and I counted 14 anchor text links in the content of the article. The actual service was one of the last links on the page. The rest were links pointing directly to other articles written by the same news site. Ugh! If your link content is important, make sure customers can find it easily.

Link-Baiting Is Old News: posting anchor text or a link promising something incredible or valuable, then having it link directly to one of your conversion pages is deceptive. Customers don’t appreciate this, and although it used to be a popular content strategy, now it just makes customers lose trust in your brand.

Appreciate Customer Needs: Your web content shouldn’t be designed solely to sell your products or services. You’ll earn more conversions from content that empathizes with customers’ problems and needs. Emphasize that you are providing a valuable service instead of just courting a sale.

Website Design

Overloading Your Site Navigation: Small businesses often design their websites so that everything they possibly offer is crammed into an overly busy homepage menu. Don’t throw your entire business at customers when they first arrive. Use your head and guide users through your services with call to action cues and deliberately designed paths through your content.

Vague Navigation: Another mistake small businesses often make is putting titles on their navigation page that aren’t specific. Making a menu item that simply reads “Lovelies” instead of a button that says “My Products” is a great way to lose potential sales. Your navigation needs to make it absolutely clear what customers can click on and what they can expect on the other side.

Aiming Big: Many small businesses make the mistake of trying to align themselves with massive, multimillion-dollar corporations right from the start. Most of your potential customers aren’t members of Fortune 500 companies, especially in the B2B market. If your services rival large corporations’ abilities, that’s a great sales point. Make sure that your bold claims aren’t making your services seem inaccessible to everyone else, though.

Hiding Your Contact Info: If you aren’t providing an anchor link to your info every single time you say “Contact Us,” you’d better make your contact page absolutely visible somewhere nearby. Users that want to contact you will get confused and leave if they can’t find your contact information, and it is typically an afterthought in site design.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: If you have multiple customer targets you’re trying to market to, you should offer different pages that offer content specifically tailored to them. “Universal” content marketing doesn’t exist, and is usually just a way to make “vague content” sound better.

Tighten Your Focus: It’s okay to cater to multiple target markets, but you can’t provide everything for everyone. Content and navigation design that appeals to the broadest demographic truly targets no one, and your conversions will reflect your confusing targeting tactics.

Be Considerate In Your Follow-Up: Not all customers will convert as soon as they land on your page. Having an automatic follow-up built in to your page, like a newsletter opt-in or a “Get More Information” link, is a great tool, but only if you don’t slam your conversions with too much follow-up, too fast.

Offers and Discounts

Provide Adequate Information: It’s all too common for products to be listed on business websites with absolutely zero descriptive content provided. Give customers more than a name and a price, or they’ll start to wonder why exactly they should buy it.

Don’t Offer False Value: I recently saw an awful discount for a digital entertainment product online: pre-purchase four unreleased pieces of software and get them the day they come out. The “premium” price was $50, and each piece of software was $15 each. Great, so I’m saving $10 on one piece of software, and that’s only if I even want to purchase all four, which I don’t. If you’re going to offer a deal, offer a good one.

Nobody Likes To Jump Through Hoops: Scan this QR code and check in on Foursquare and leave a review on Yelp and print this Groupon offer and THEN you can have your 15% off? No thank you. You can provide conditional discounts, but don’t lock customers out by making it unnecessarily difficult.

Tiered Rewards Can Discourage Customers: If you have a tiered customer rewards system, don’t set the bar for joining a higher level too high, and make sure the increased value is worth the price of reaching that point. If your tiered reward system doesn’t provide value that is immediately apparent, it’s probably underwhelming or confusing.

Offers Must Be Timely: I can’t even count how many times I’ve received email offers that expire by the time I see them. Don’t send out email offers that expire 24 hours after the email goes out—give your customers some lead time to act on your deals.

Offer Repeat Business Incentives: There are a few online shops I am happy to be a repeat customer on. I just wish that every now and then, I could get a 10% or 15% discount for my next visit after I check out. Don’t let customers think that you don’t want their business again in the future.

Helpful? Have anything else to add? Leave a comment below.

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Andrew Glasscock is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated with a BA in English, specialized in Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing this past May. Along with copywriting, he loves being an improv comedian, playing frisbee, and dogs.

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