Why proven digital marketing strategies fail

The other day I was working on our site, goldhat.ca and being a developer first and foremost, I was coding and adding/configuring plugins and thinking heavily about the next features of the site. Then the marketer in my head sat up and said hey you idiot (he’s a bit of a jerk!) what’s the point of continually adding features if you’re not driving traffic or converting visitors to leads? He had a point, and I started thinking well maybe instead of rushing to build more site features, I needed to step back and regain some balance between the resources put into dev, and the resources put into marketing the site. But I couldn’t just leave all these potentially helpful features half-built, or “lose my place” in development. That’s when I realized I needed to address something I’d skipped over. The blessing/slash/curse of being a developer on your own site is that while you can save time in planning and design, and build directly based on your vision, is that you do that and fail to prioritize and focus. This led me to revisit website planning and how to write a website plan. What came out of that research/planning session was a blog post that is now ranking for keywords like “website plan writing” and “how to plan a website”. Heavily competitive keywords where that blog post is now on page 2 or page 3, and with just one post we reached hundreds, and possibly thousands of prospective clients who are within our target market – site owners, project managers and digital marketing consultants.

Now that you’ve read the story, what’s the point of it? Well aside from the bit about balancing dev/marketing for a site, and the importance of planning… there is a couple of key realizations that I want to share with you centered around why proven digital marketing strategies fail. Almost anybody with even the most casual appreciation of digital marketing or inbound marketing strategies, knows that blogging is a proven effective strategy for driving traffic to a website. Yet thousands of sites never effective utilize this strategy. They fail at something that is proven to work, and resort to tactics that have higher costs, lower rewards, and are less commonly effective, or less proven. And I/we at GoldHat Group have been guilty of this at times also, overlooking the obvious and simple, and trying more complex and innovative methods. The key to utilizing proven digital marketing methods is understanding why they work and following the principles that drive their success.

We’ll stick with blogging as the proven digital marketing strategy example, but this principle can be applied to dozens of other marketing methods like building an email list, offering ebook or whitepaper downloads, free trial offers.

Reason #1 why proven digital marketing strategies fail

Lack of frequency and consistency

Proven digital marketing strategies fail when you don’t use them frequently enough or consistently enough. Their is a threshold of frequency to many digital marketing strategies. One blog post per month probably isn’t enough. At that pace starting with a new site, it takes 3-years to build up 36 posts. A whole year goes by and you’ve got a mere dozen. That lack of volume probably won’t help convince GoogleBot to make regular visits, why visit daily when you’re only posting monthly? Readers will forget about your brand before the next post comes out. Your social audience sees a new post so infrequently they don’t build up the association between you and the content matter, or developer respect for your brand as an authority on the topics you cover. And then simply put, you don’t generate enough traffic/leads and customers to make a measurable return, and blogging begins to look like time/money wasted. Which it is, because you could continue blogging for 10-years, never building up momentum, and your costs would most likely be greater than your returns. In this case, blogging that infrequently is more harmful to your business than not blogging at all, at least from a strictly ROI standpoint.

The point about consistency is that studies have shown that an audience develops habits around the delivery of your content. There is a measurable benefit to having clockwork delivery of at least some of your content. And the flip side of the coin is that if you have large gaps in publishing, following catching up by publishing a larger volume later gives you less effective reach. To help plan your publishing schedule and quantity the effect of consistency think about how many days in a year your blog publishing meets one of these criteria:

  1. You published a post today (blog updated day). This is obviously the numbers of days you publish new content in the year, so if you publish twice weekly and never more than 1 post per day, then the total is 104.
  2. You have a very recent post (3-days old or less). If you publish 2 posts per week and spread them out consistently you might have only 1-2 days per week without a recent post, meaning you hit this criteria around 275-days per year.

Consistency isn’t just about publishing schedule, it’s also applicable to the topics, the style of writing, even the length of your posts. The way you approach topics and how you develop your content. You can vary these things, but do so in a way that reflects a strategic choice. Randomness is not your friend, and will showcase a lack of consistency that leads to failure.

Reason #2 why proven digital marketing strategies fail

Your digital marketing strategies are not supported

Individual digital marketing strategies have to be supported by a conversion strategy. If the goal of blogging is to attract visitors, what’s next? Conversion to leads via CTA’s (Calls to Action), newsletter subscriptions etc. And what actually comes before blogging? Well you can’t really focus on blogging until you have a blog, and it meets some basic quality guidelines. If you’re publishing good blog posts on a site that isn’t responsive, and readers land on the post from a Twitter link while eating lunch, they can’t read it easily on their mobile phone. You’ve got an unsupported strategy. Another way to put this is get your ducks in a row, put the horse before the cart… the reason so many old adages apply to this is because it’s a pretty common habit people have of wanting to skip steps.

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Your overall plan and strategy for digital marketing should be comprised of strategies that work together and support each other. And consider this from the view of your audience/prospect, who goes from being a stranger to discovering your brand for the first time. What is their experience from that first interaction? Are they being guided through a series of steps that make up your conversion cycle? Are their needs being met at every stage in the this process, is one strategy that you’re implementing flowing into another?

Reason #3 why proven digital marketing strategies fail

You haven’t identified audience pain

We could make the larger point about not knowing the demographics, not having clear persona’s for your target audience. Yet as much as other factors are important in this area, let’s get really clear about an important bottom-line. If you know what causes your prospect pain, and you have a solution, then you can keep things very simple and focused. How you get there, well it’s a topic that takes a number of directions because there are different methods. There is the older/traditional ideas about market segmenting. There is the more modern and trendy idea of persona’s. Learning about different techniques and how to apply them is often time well spent. But you could also just sit down with pad/paper, or fire up a brainstorming app, and start thinking about what other customers have said. Think about what customers have self-identified. In our main area of service (website development) we’ve had conversations with prospects and customers that often included the following pain points:

  1. Time pressure. A scheduled launch for a site, marketing campaigns starting on a given date, a project that failed with other developers and is now behind schedule, investors nervous because of delays. Other time pains include a hacked site, or buggy site from a recent update. This prospects wants to know do you have the resources to start quickly, and can you deliver results quickly?
  2. Overwhelmed by options, can’t decide on a direction. A common pain that prospects might not identify themselves but is expressed in what they say. They talk about options rather than decisions. They talk about lacking confidence in a direction. They want to know what we think is the best option. These prospects want advice, consulting, direction, leadership. 
  3. Communication problems with developers. Many of our prospects either mention this directly or speak about it indirectly having had previous developers that didn’t meet their communication requirements. This pain is a bit vague, communication is a broad topic, but it can be things such as not notifying the project manager about options. Not being able to communicate important information about the project. Sometimes it’s a language issue, inability to understand direction in English. These prospects want to know we’ll understand them, communicate effectively.

Footnotes on why proven digital marketing strategies fail

The points in this post should give you fresh insight into why many of the most effective digital marketing strategies can still fail. Remember execution is key, hope these tips help you avoid the most common reasons for failure. Share your stories or ideas on this topic in the comments below.