Why Digital Marketing Strategies Fail…

Posted by Shirin

Have you ever thought about why digital strategies, or marketing strategies, or any type of strategies fail? No! Emmm - just me then? Well you should – so you can make sure that you get it right! The reasons are quite obvious and easy to fix – if you are in a position to fix them (and people around you actually listen to you!).

Supporting image
By Sean MacEntee via Flickr via Flickr

Although we like to put “digital” in front of everything nowadays – the very first thing that people need to accept is that we still have to understand “the principles of marketing”. All Digital Consultants, be it SEO, PPC or Social, must be marketers at heart. If they are not, how could they possibly ever create a digital “marketing” strategy that will actually work?

So are you ready to re-discover marketing with me – and dust off those principles that have been shelved as “conventional”? (almost an insult for anyone with a marketing degree!)

Understanding “Strategy”

Do I consider myself a marketer? Yep (and not just because I have a marketing degree)! Do I believe people need to grasp “conventional” marketing to succeed in digital? Yep! Do I think people understand what a strategy is? Nope!

Supporting image
By Lord Jim via Flickr

I have a strong belief that most strategies fail because they are planned far too long ahead. Just read the news people – things change nowadays too fast, so don’t get stuck in a rigid path. It is totally fine to have an overarching goal, something you are working towards, which might be 5 years away from now. However, please do not have a 5 year strategy!

To be successful online, you will have to stay fresh and rework your strategy, let’s just say a few times (or more), to reach your 5 year goal (which most probably will have changed by the time you get there). Plus, I have proof for my theory. Good old Wikipedia backs me up all the way! Because it states that:

“Strategy is about attaining and maintaining a position of advantage over adversaries through the successive exploitation of known or emergent possibilities rather than committing to any specific fixed plan designed at the outset.”

Now who dares to argue with Wikipedia?

Audience Who?

Once you have understood what strategy really means you will know that understanding your target audience is the heart of any strategy. If you do not know your audience how can you promote your product or service. Well you can – but nobody would end up buying anything from you – because you are not reaching the right people.

Supporting image
By Ivan Ezhykoff via Flickr

So step one is to really get your audience(s) right. Undertake thorough research and identify groups of people who are or could be interested in what you offer. You got your list? Great, now you’ve got to profile them. Get to know them on a personal level. Find out what their interests are, where they hang out online and what they are searching for online. You are thinking “how the heck would I find all of that info!?” Do not forget we live in a “digital world” (did tell ya digital just works with anything). We leave little breadcrumbs everywhere. Plus social media helps online voyeurism (I mean “Research”) as well. People love to share their personal interests and dislikes online, especially via social media. So no worries on finding out stuff about your audience – people readily give you this information.

Example: Let’s say you are a company selling baby products – sorry but I had a baby not too long ago – so might be a little biased. Ok, so clearly your audiences will include people who have babies right? Good Job! Now where do you find people who have babies online? Well, a human trait that has followed us into the online world is – that we love forming communities. So go on and find those communities, mummy bloggers, daddy bloggers (yes emancipation happened), online baby forums, online parenting forums, parenting websites, and oh so many more.

Map all your audiences out, pin down where to find them, what they are talking about, and then you can start thinking about how to target them, and what will ultimately draw them to your website.

Why Do I Care What Competitors Are Doing?

If that sounds familiar then you are already on a steady path to failure. Your competitors are a great source on how to either do it right, or on how to do it really wrong! It is important to fully understand who your online competitors are, what they are doing, why they are outranking you on key search terms, and ultimately why and how they are reaching the right people.

Supporting image
By Kris Olin via Flickr

So competitor research is definitely another key part of your strategy. Find all the little gold nuggets that your established competitors have been doing and succeeding in. Then re-produce – just in an improved way. Look how far Japanese companies got with that strategy.

But do not let all those new competitors who are entering the digital market slip through the net. Keep an eye out for them because they will be doing exactly what you did – try and copy what is working well for you!

This fact strengthens the point I made earlier – never rest on your strategy or achievements it will give your competitors the chance to catch-up and overtake you in a blink of an eye. Keep it fresh and stay ahead of the pack!

SWOT – A New Boy Band?

SWOT sounds alien to you? I am worried! It is a handy little methodology that is firmly embedded in conventional marketing. It is part of every good marketing strategy. If you want to succeed you have to understand your strengths, weaknesses, how to turn those into opportunities and identify any threats that could lead to failure.

Sounds complicated and like a lot of work? It is not complicated and a good digital marketer has done SWOTs a million times before, although you might not even realise.

Example: Ever done a technical audit and put recommendations in place to mend “weak points” on a site. Ever identified content gaps on a client’s website and then recommended some “content opportunities”. Yeah we all have been there and done it – just make sure you do it coherently! You can run the same principle during your competitor research and capitalise on their weaknesses – making them your strengths.

You Can’t Measure Digital Marketing… REALLY?!

Believe me if you ever worked in “conventional” marketing you will understand how frustrating it is to measure success. It is hard to quantify success in good old fashioned marketing land. HOWEVER, in Digital Marketing, all the stats are at your fingertips. Put a little code here and an even smaller one there and enter the world of analytics. Dive into traffic, conversions, experimenting and “audience” data (wink!).

Supporting image
By Aussiegall via Flickr

So why do people like to say things cannot be measured? Easy peasy – because their strategy failed before even being implemented, they forgot to include KPIs. It is easy to put a big document with a lot of fancy ideas together and dazzle yourself or your client – it is harder to commit to measures. Try to have 3 – 4 objectives in place that carry the strategy. They have to be the points that you must successfully complete to be able to say “Our strategy has worked”. So make sure they are measureable! Find out what is really important for the client or yourself (if running it in-house). Is it an informative site and they just want more exposure – so an increase in traffic? Or is it an eCommerce site and cash will make the difference, so revenue. So pick wisely, do not over report on unnecessary stuff – less is more if you really are reporting on the things that are important to the business. The most important point – BE REALISTIC!

Main Takeaways

My little diagram that I have (proudly) produced myself says the story in short:

Supporting graphic
  1. Make sure you do all your research, covering everything from audience to competitors (and your company)
  2. Put your digital marketing strategy together on how you will reach your audiences, and deal with your competition (elimination springs to mind mwahahahaha *evil laugh*)
  3. Break your strategy down into tactics and make the magic happen!
  4. Measure – yes “m-e-a-s-u-r-e” the success of what you have been doing (regularly!) – so you can…
  5. Make adjustments to your plans before failure strikes!
  6. Evaluate what has worked well or not so well… and
  7. Start again!

Relatively simple… try it! I shall leave you with the wise words of Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” or try my recommendations “and do not fail at all”…

Follow my contributions to the blog to find out more about Digital Marketing, or sign up to the ThoughtShift Guest List, our monthly email, to keep up-to-date on all our blogposts, guides and events.