"Digital marketing isn’t working for us."
If you’ve worked in the digital marketing field in any capacity, you’ve likely heard this sentiment expressed a time or two. Or perhaps you’re a business owner, and we just read your mind. We’re certainly not here to tell you that you’re wrong, but we have seen digital marketing produce extremely effective results over the years. It might be time to reevaluate some or all of your tactics.
Here are 10 reasons your digital marketing isn’t living up to your expectations, and what to change so you start seeing the ROI you’re seeking.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
John Wanamaker, U.S. Department Store Merchant, 1938
1. You consider marketing an expense, not an investment
For years, marketing has been hard to track. I’ve spoken with several business owners who simply budget a monthly stipend, throw it at the same marketing vehicles and call it a day. This sounds more like a utility bill than marketing, but if you see it as a necessary expense, instead of an investment for growth, you can easily fall into this trap.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The best marketing campaigns put your money to work for you, and in the digital world it’s much easier to determine if you’re getting a return on your investment.
But like all investments, you have to be willing to put in the leg work. Take the time to learn about where your marketing dollars are being spent, and budget more time to look over the results (good and bad) often so you can learn what works and what doesn’t. You need to get into the habit of auditing your marketing investment, instead of passively spending money without any regard for the results.
2. You haven’t defined your target market
Even if your product has mass appeal, you still need to segment your audience into groups, or “personas,” and cater to each independently. Creating a single “vernacular” to encapsulate every piece of marketing collateral is likely to miss the mark. It is much better to create several messages, each following the brand standards, but using the language, media, and medium that will most likely connect and resonate with that particular group.
But if you’re like most small businesses, you don’t have the time for this type of sophisticated segmentation, and you don’t have the money to create dozens of campaigns to reach each group independently. In this case, identifying your best customer type is likely a better use of your time.
If you have a decent pulse on your business, you can likely picture your best customers. You might even know them by name. Take the time to consider what makes them so great, and jot down those characteristics. Think about gender, age, attitude, education and style. Consider where this person hangs out online. Is it more likely Facebook or LinkedIn; Instagram or Pinterest? Consider where they hang out offline. Is it more likely Starbucks or a coworking space? Do they read The New York Times or the New York Post? The more you understand your best customer, the more confidently you can commit to where you will spend your marketing dollars.
3. You don’t have clearly defined goals
Every business has the same end goal with their marketing: make more money. We also tend to misappropriate marketing’s role in the customer lifecycle. The truth is that marketing is only meant to drive your target audience into a sales funnel, and depending on what you’re trying to sell, you might need several touch points before that lead becomes a customer.
Break your marketing up into several stages, and give specific and measurable goals to each step. For example, target your “perfect customer” as defined above with Facebook ads. If you consider the possibility that these are new eyeballs, your goal should be more about brand awareness than conversion. Since Facebook will provide you with a breakdown of the demographic that interacts with your ad campaign, your goal might be to determine which demographic (age group, gender, location) responded best to your ad.
4. You have no way to track results
If you’re running digital marketing campaigns without a clear way to track results, you’re navigating blind. There are dozens of tools that can help you track your visitors, but at the very minimum you need to install Google Analytics and create the habit of monitoring your traffic.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to keep things simple, but I would suggest that you also learn how to best utilize campaign URLs. A campaign URL is a piece of code (called a query) added to the end of your links, which helps you better understand where site traffic comes from. “Where it comes from” doesn’t just mean website. It can mean which location on a page (i.e. a text link within a blog post versus a 100×100 banner in the sidebar). It can also help you differentiate between the message or content (i.e. did all caps perform better than camel case; did blue perform better than red).
In the future I’ll dedicate a full post to campaign URLs, but if you’re chomping at the bit to learn more, Google has some good information on how to get started.
5. You rely on vanity metrics
Vanity metrics refers to data, such as page views, impressions or time on site, which do not help you analyze the overall success of your business. Focusing on these types of metrics is typically just a sign of inexperience because mining data for actionable information is hard, and Google Analytics provides a nice dissection of these metrics by default.
You don’t need to become an expert, you just need to find a few key performance indicators and spend your time monitoring those. Match the goals you defined earlier with the proper reports in Google Analytics and save them as a custom dashboard. If you prefer, schedule to have this information emailed to you at your convenience.
6. You are not collecting lead and customer data
Email marketing is still considered one of the most effective tools to communicate with leads and customers, especially when pushing new products and services. It’s also incredibly easy to integrate with your website. If you don’t have a way to capture emails on your site, make it a priority. WordPress has over 700 email marketing plugins to help you get started.
Also, collect business cards at trade events and manually add to your newsletter. This is an oldy but goody, just make sure you ask permission to add them to your list.
Even if you don’t know what you’ll be sending this list, start growing it today, because by the time you actually have something to promote, you’ll be ready to go.
7. You are not effectively marketing to your lead and customer data
Of course, once you have this data you need to create a plan to stay connected, but if you’re thinking a weekly sales pitch, think again. Use your email list as a way to show your expertise and promote your work. Keep your emails short, and focused; don’t presume your audience has the time to read every word in depth. Instead of creating a long email with four different calls to action, space out four emails over the course of the month.
This is worth repeating, because I’ve seen your marketing emails: Instead of creating a long email with four different calls to action, space out four separate emails over the course of the month.
Consider what this does. Not only does it create MORE opportunity for your audience to notice it amongst the 100+ emails we see on average every day, it also relieves the stress of creating a single EPIC email at the last minute.
8. You are not consistent
It’s not uncommon for a small business to focus on marketing in waves. For some, it’s seasonal; for others, it’s when business is slow. In either case, there is no consistency and as a result, the outcomes aren’t consistent, either.
When you’re marketing the entire lifecycle of your customer, there’s always a reason to promote your brand, and spending a consistent amount of time each month will give you a regular flow of leads. Furthermore, when you consider how long marketing takes to set up, you end up reinventing the wheel with every random decision to “do what we did last year.” Consistency in your marketing allows you to create processes, document what works best for your staff, and clearly see statistical significance.
Some people believe you should spend up to 20 percent of your gross revenue on marketing. I can’t say with any confidence that this number makes sense, but you really should have some number you’re willing to spend, and allocate the money strategically throughout the year.
9. You don’t have a budget for experimentation
Not every campaign will be a winner. In fact, your goal with experimentation is to quickly (and cost effectively) fail until you find a marketing channel that works. This can be a tough pill to swallow for a business on a tight budget, but it’s incredibly important because the more you experiment, the more likely you are to get a leg up on your competition.
The beauty is that with digital marketing, you don’t need a “big boy” budget. Facebook allows you to limit your ads to as little as $1/day. Granted, it will take you much longer to reach enough people to get real value out of your data, but if you know of an offline opportunity that can compete with that, I’ll buy you lunch.
10. You insist on doing everything yourself
Most small businesses are grown from the founder’s passion, so it’s no surprise that relinquishing control of marketing is one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do. But the fact is, you don’t have time to do it. And despite your best intentions, you cannot manage everything on your own.
Take a deep breath, because you might need to hire someone. But before you do that, ask your current staff for some help. You’ll be surprised how often your team wants to get involved in the creative growth of the business, and you might just discover that their youth is more inline with how digital marketing works than you are. It’s a win-win.
There ya’ have it
I hope you’ve found at least one or two ideas in this post on how to take your digital marketing to the next (successful) level. Remember, define your goals and target audience, set up a way to track your results, collect your lead and customer data (and communicate with them!), don’t be afraid to experiment, and, finally, consider outsourcing some or all of your digital marketing to someone else who is qualified and willing.