Inbound Marketing & Sales Development Inspiration

The Four Leading Causes of Digital Marketing Failure

Posted July 28, 2015
4 minute read

Digital marketing failBy now, most established businesses have experienced some digital marketing success and failure. Given all the hype around digital marketing, it comes as a surprise when most campaigns fail to live up to expectations.

When speaking with clients about their past digital marketing experiences, we’ll hear things like:

  • “If digital marketing is so measurable, why can’t I see the results I’m getting?”
  • “I don’t know what they did, and I can’t see what I got for it.”
  • “They got me on page 1, but I don’t know if it did anything.”

Digital marketing campaigns fail for any number of reasons. Sometimes the strategy was flawed, sometimes agencies over-sell their capabilities. In other cases, it was a failure of the two organizations working effectively together.

More often than not (and this may come as a surprise), it’s an organizational failure above all else.

Below are four causes of digital marketing failure, and how you can avoid them.

[Interested in the leading causes of INBOUND marketing failure? Click here.]

Confusing Tactics With Strategy

Let’s start by defining tactics and strategy.

The digital strategy is your plan for achieving a pre-determined goal.

For example, you have a goal of generating 40% of incremental business from brand new customers. Your digital strategy for achieving this is to increase online visibility in three key markets where you lack strong market share.

Once the strategy is determined, you need to implement the appropriate tactics. This may include the following:

  • SEO (getting ranked for relevant search terms in the local markets)
  • PPC (to acquire immediate search traffic in the local markets)
  • Facebook advertising (to drive people from social platforms who live within the target markets)
  • Display remarketing (to drive non-converting visitors back to the site after they’ve left)

Businesses sometimes confuse their tactics for their strategy. This leads to well-executed tactics, such as great rankings or creative banner ads, which have zero impact on the business goal.

Investing In Strategy, But Not Tactics

This is less common, but not at all rare. Companies who invest in strategy and not tactics will fall short of their digital goals. This is problematic when the strategy gets blamed.

Using the above example, a company’s strategy for acquiring new customers is to increase visibility in three key markets. Instead of hiring the most qualified agency to execute the plan, they hire the least expensive. The company then receives a canned solution which falls short of the business goals.

In the end, the company concludes the idea (i.e. the strategy) isn’t feasible for their business. In reality, the strategy had rock star potential. It simply wasn’t properly executed.

The Wrong People are Focused on The Wrong Things

In an organization, nothing is more counterproductive than when the wrong people are focused on the wrong things.

Wrong People Wrong Things

When managing a digital campaign in small to medium sized businesses, there are typically three parties involved. The successful execution of a digital campaign hinges on each party’s ability to stay focused on their area of responsibility.

At the top are the campaign and organizational leaders. This might be the CMO, Director of Marketing, or even the CEO. Their responsibility is to make sure the campaigns are achieving their goals.

In the middle are the marketing managers responsible for overseeing the execution of the campaign. Their responsibility is to lead and direct the team of fulfillment resources, and to ensure the tactics stay aligned with the strategy.

The fulfillment resources are responsible for executing the various tactics. This could involve an outside agency or internal marketing specialists.

The system breaks down when people become over-involved in areas outside their scope of responsibility. If you are not an SEO expert, do not drive SEO implementation. Instead, define what is expected of the SEO strategy, then leave the work to those most qualified.

You Think Perfect is Better Than Done

Steve Jobs once said “real artists ship.” By this, he meant it doesn’t matter how good the product is if it never reaches the customer. Although he was considered a perfectionist by many, this quote demonstrates Jobs’ ability to see the bigger picture. A perfect product is useless if it’s never shipped.

Similarly, painted on a wall within Facebook’s headquarters, is the phrase “done is better than perfect.” Like Jobs, Facebook recognizes the importance of getting a product or feature released, even if they could make it better.

A website can not deliver leads or sales if it sits in development while you tweak every last pixel. A blog cannot drive traffic if posts are never approved and published.

While trying to achieve perfection is respectable (to a point), it shouldn’t hinder action. At the end of the day, real artists ship.


Liked this? Then you'll like these:

How To Track Your Online Competitors

How To Develop Customer Personas

How To Learn More About Your Site Visitors


Topics Leadership & Management, Pay Per Click, SEO, Digital Marketing

Agree, disagree, or just have something to add?

Leave a comment below.