How Much Marketing is Too Much for Your Small Business or Nonprofit?

by Ken Mueller on December 11, 2012 · 8 comments

How Much Marketing is Too Much For Your Small Business or Nonprofit?

I was talking to a nonprofit client the other day about the end of the year rush for fundraising. Like most nonprofits, this organization has several specifically targeted year end campaigns, which in this case are closely tied to the holidays because of the nature of the organization. On top of that, they participated in a 24-hour online county wide fundraising competition called the Extraordinary Give. And then of course they had the chance to participate in the post-Black Friday, post-Small Business Saturday, post-Cyber Monday event called Giving Tuesday.

All of this in the final month and a half of the year. My client’s question was,

“How much is too much?”

They didn’t participate in Giving Tuesday this year, and I think that was a wise idea. Donors are already overloaded with requests to give at this time of year, and too much from one source might be both confusing and counterproductive. Consumers are being sold to at an alarming rate. Buy, buy, buy; give, give, give, seems to be the mantra of many businesses and organizations these days.

It is possible to market too much. It is possible to ask for money too often. And it is possible for businesses to be a little (or a lot) “too present.” By various accounts, the average American is confronted with upwards of 3,000 ad impressions a day. That includes those coming from small businesses and nonprofits as well.

If you’re using social media as part of your marketing plan, particularly Facebook or Twitter, you need to watch very carefully. The only way to know how much is too much is to pay attention. Paying attention is a matter of listening to what people are saying about you. And while some of what they are saying is “loud and clear,” some of it might not be so obvious. You sometimes have to dig a little as you monitor your brand and find out what they are thinking about you, without actually telling you to your face.

Yes, some folks will call you out and tell you to your face. But they are the minority.

When it comes to how much is too much, there is really only one way to know: listen. Open your ears and eyes. (which I guess is two things: listening and watching, but on the Internet, they are the same thing.

You need to regularly take the pulse of what you’re doing and measure your efforts. When people feel they are getting too much, or are being sold to too much, they will let you know in any number of ways. Here are a few things you should be checking out, just to see if perhaps you’re doing a bit too much, but remember, these things, in and of themselves could be signs of other serious problems, not just over-marketing:

1) Decrease in traffic – This can be across the board, from your website to Facebook. If you see the amount of traffic decreasing, particularly visiting your website from your social properties, that’s a red flag. If you see fewer people visiting your brick and mortar business, you know something is wrong. Same applies to the online world.

2) Decrease in activity – Similar to a decrease in traffic is a decrease in activity or engagement. Has the number of people commenting, liking, sharing, retweeting, and pinning decreased over time? Has it decreased drastically over a short period of time?

3) Decrease in fans/followers/subscribers – If you’re noticing an attrition of fans on Facebook, that’s a problem. You should always be seeming some sort of net growth. Expect some losses, but look for larger than normal spikes in people unliking your page and try to figure out what you did that day to elicit that kind of reaction. If the losses are greater than the gains, something needs to be fixed.

4) Negative Feedback – This isn’t always vocal and readily apparent. My friend Liz Jostes wrote a great post on this in regard to Facebook and negative feedback the other day. When people see your posts in their newsfeed, they have the option of hiding your posts. Or, they can go further and actually report them as spam. These now get reported back to you in your Facebook insights. This is useful information, and most likely happens more often if you are paying to promote posts. So while you’ll get greater reach and exposure, you may actually get penalized.

By looking at your analytics and insights, and noticing patterns of negative behavior, you might be discovering that you’re doing something wrong. It’s not just a matter of bad content, but might also be that you’re selling too much or flooding your audience with too much information over too short a period of time.

Whether you’re a non-profit or small business, there are numerous programs, special days, and opportunities that you have available to you to reach your audience. Don’t feel that you have to take advantage of all of them. Pick and choose the ones that are right for you. Try to roll your regular programs and appeals into these special programs and appeals, rather than  duplicating or doubling up. Integrate your efforts across platforms, online and offline. Mix it up across channels, but in a coordinated way. Use online to reinforce offline, and vice versa.

Keep your eyes and ears open to discover what your audience is saying about you, even when they aren’t actually saying anything.

Have you ever discovered that you are marketing too much? How did you find out, and were their negative results?





I've been the "victim" of being marketed to, too much... Which is worse? Being the victim, or being the perp?  :-)   Those are some great thoughts on how to use data to get useful feedback. Always good to put yourself in the customer's shoes.


Great post Ken... really great for those new to Social Marketing - some businesses tend to go crazy on the 'free' ability to promote themselves.


Although not common, there are a couple small businesses I've LIKEd on FB that were on a kick of regularly promoting posts. Like, any ol' post. Not for a specific event or promotion. Just paying the $ for the lowest reach of a promoted post and using that as their strategy. 

KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie Oh I think we've all been on the receiving end of that. Which...if we learn...helps us on the other side!

KenMueller moderator

@AmyMccTobin Thanks, Amy. And yes, we can do too much both on the free and the paid promotion of ourselves. It's a tricky balance we need to learn.

KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes Agreed, I think maybe one or two for me. But I also hide some, especially if they always seem to be in my face.


  1. […] How Much Marketing is Too Much for Your Small Business or Nonprofit? ( […]

  2. […] be told, the social eco-system does a pretty good job of policing itself. Those who sell too much or too hard will hear about it from their customers, either directly with real feedback, or indirectly with a […]

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