Digital Marketing is Failing Your Business – Here’s Why

Let me take you back to the mid-1990’s when the internet was starting to leave university labs and becoming a communication tool, early adopters saw it as a potential channel to reach people with their commercial messages. The commercialisation of the internet continued to grow a pace in the noughties and with it a new approach to marketing appeared, what became known as digital marketing was born.

In the very early days digital marketing grew on the back of technologies being developed which increased the reach of the internet to the wider public. Email was the first such technology, enabling messages to be sent easily to anyone with an email address.

Companies who adopted email became known as an eCompany. So you had eCompanies and Companies (those who had not yet adopted email) and so the distinction between those who adopted internet technology and those who didn’t became a demarcation.

That demarcation still largely exists today in the marketing departments of businesses all around the world. Even though the department may have a single title “marketing”, within the department you will find “marketing specialists” and “digital marketing specialists” who often report into different line managers.

How Digital Marketing Developed

Digital marketing quickly became adopted in the USA by direct marketers as a way of reaching more people with their sales messages. In fact, direct marketers shaped digital marketing into nothing more than an online delivery of their previously offline marketing tactics which consisted of:-

  1. An advertisement placed in a magazine or newspaper;
  2. A sales letter designed to persuade the reader to buy something, often these sales letters covered several pages on the basis that the longer the sales letter the more likely someone is to buy (presumably the prospect is worn down enough to send off their money!);
  3. Follow-up letters sent to people who responded to the sales letter to sell them additional products

Do you recognise this series of tactics? Let me put this into a digital marketing framework:-

  1. An advertisement placed on a search engine listing (Google Adwords);
  2. A landing page containing a sales letter designed to persuade the visitor to buy something, often these letters cover several website pages, or they consist of a video where the sales letter is read out;
  3. A series of follow-up- emails, sent via an autoresponder, sent to those who responded to the sales letter to sell them additional products.

Hopefully you can now see more clearly that for the last 15 years or so digital marketing has been nothing more than an online implementation of direct marketing.

Why Digital Marketing is Failing You

Whilst I am not criticising the origins of digital marketing, it had to start somewhere and at least direct marketing was very profitable in its day, this process has not fundamentally changed since digital marketing was born. Yes technologies have been developed on the back of this, such as autoresponder software, landing page creators, pay-per-click advertising platforms creating a large industry, however today that industry is no longer doing its job effectively.

You could say that digital marketing is dead, however that would be a crass statement, which has been made several times in the last 5 years (just do a Google search). Rather digital marketing in its current form is not fit for purpose any more and as a result is failing many businesses.

Why is this?

If you look at digital marketing teams in the corporate world, and in many digital agencies, you will find a bunch of techies who have grown up with technology and become good at using it. These techies have no knowledge of  traditional marketing principles that more established marketers will have been trained in, no focus on customer needs, no understanding of the typical buying cycle.

These “old principles” are not practiced purely out of ignorance of them but also because the techies have allowed the technologies they use, and how they work, to dictate how they “market” products and services. Digital marketing is largely technology driven.

In my experience of having worked with several digital marketing agencies, I have seen so-called marketing campaigns created for clients purely around technology, no consideration of market positioning, understanding customer needs, or even any knowledge of the clients marketing plan!

Digital marketing is often conducted in isolation. Ignorant isolation. Also it is often reinvented for each marketing campaign, with little to no lessons learnt from previous campaigns.

wagon wheel I often compare digital marketing as delivered in many businesses to a wheel. A wheel is perfectly designed for its purpose, based on sound principles proven to work and also based on an understanding of the requirements for the wheel and how it needs to operate. In marketing terms this represents a campaign based on tried and tested marketing principles proven to work over the years.

Often digital marketing campaigns are created with no recognition of marketing principles and suddenly the wheel takes on a new dimension. The technology is probably great, but is the campaign really fit for purpose? square wheels

Often, not only are basic marketing principles missing, how digital marketing is applied is often based on less than solid foundations. Techie marketers keep their “knowledge” updated by using the internet (of course) and what they read as gospel from experts is often “facts” based on hearsay, not real data. The hype that continues to surround digital marketing misinforms those who buy into the hype, thereby delivering less than stellar results.

How You Can Make Digital Marketing Work For You

So how can you avoid these mistakes in your business and actually make digital marketing work? Here are some principles to follow:-

  • Stop calling it digital marketing! Digital is no longer distinct from marketing as the internet and internet technologies pervade all businesses. Instead focus on traditional marketing principles executed in a digital world;
  • Marketing first, digital second. After all digital is only a mechanism by which your marketing gets delivered;
  • Sack your techies and retrain your traditional marketers in digital skills;
  • Create a marketing plan focused on your customers, not your business;
  • Don’t sell with your marketing, educate instead;
  • Build an audience first, then market to them;
  • Don’t try to be everywhere, focus on where your audience are;
  • Only work on what is essential, make everything you do focused on your customer;
  • Achieve speed of execution, the internet world waits for no-one, you must be able to execute nimbly;
  • Measure and test, understand how well or badly your marketing is performing and course correct quickly;
  • Personalise everything you do for every visitor to your website and every customer, you will shoot your conversion rates through the roof if you do for far less effort.

At Yoke Digital we base our digital marketing on sound marketing principles, actual data accumulated from many industries and clients, and our own fact based research which gets results.

If you want digital marketing to work for you contact us today to see how we can help.

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