14 digital marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

Marketing experts discuss the most common online marketing mistakes and what you can do to avoid making them.

Even the most experienced digital marketers occasionally have campaigns that don’t yield the desired results. But you can help ensure your next campaign doesn’t meet with failure by avoiding these 14 potentially costly digital marketing mistakes.

1. Not having clear campaign goals. One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make is “not establishing analytics goals prior to the start of a campaign,” says Geoff Hoesch, principal, Dragonfly Digital Marketing. “In order to track the success of a digital marketing campaign, it's necessary to define goals (sales, form completions, calls, sign ups, etc.) and ensure that analytics tracking is properly set up for these goals.”

“Without measurable objectives, it [is] challenging to measure ROI or net benefit of a campaign on product/service sales, sentiment or engagement,” says Justin Honaman, senior vice president, digital marketing solutions, Moxie, a global digital agency. That’s why “it is important to define and communicate objectives and to build insights from past campaigns into the planning process for future campaigns.”

2. Not targeting the right audience. “Even if a brand is creating fantastic content, they will miss a great deal of the opportunity if they don't take the extra step to promote it to the right audience at the right time,” says Michelle Stinson Ross, content & outreach goddess, Authority Labs, a provider of SEO software. “Every digital communication channel is getting noisier, [and] it takes effort and investment to cut through the noise to get your content noticed.

“Define targeted audiences not just on personal descriptions but on behaviors,” she advises. “Make use of tracking pixels and cookies to reach out to people [who] have visited your site and/or joined your email list. Take your social targeting beyond age, gender, education and topic interest by layering on purchase intent and relevant life events.”

3. Not employing a customer-centric mindset. “Marketing plays a critical role in enticing, converting, engaging and retaining customers, and organizations slow to embrace a customer-centric mindset will be left behind,” says Penny Wilson, CMO, Hootsuite. “Through personalization, targeting, journey mapping and data analysis, brands are now able to deliver a customized brand experience that provides value to customers and keeps them coming back for more.”

4. Impersonal (or incorrect) personalization. “Be [it the wrong] name, gender, likes, etc., the list goes on,” says Jess Stephens, CMO, SmartFocus. “I see this every single day – my team compiles a ‘bad marketing folder’ where we store examples [of incorrectly personalized offers] we regularly receive. A particular bugbear of mine is when I shop for a present for a male member of my family [and] then get bombarded with male persona marketing. This can easily be avoided by using insights technology, which makes it easy for marketers to correctly identify the right products and offers to engage customers for their next purchase.”

5. Overlooking mobile. “Mobile is becoming the dominant digital platform consumers use, now accounting for 62 percent of all digital media time, [according to] comScore, [with] apps account for over 50 percent of that total,” says Martin Doettling, CMO, Swrve, which provides a platform for managing customer relationships with mobile apps. “With this in mind, it is important to get your mobile strategy in place.

“Start by considering how your users are already interacting with you on mobile and how you can better shape that experience,” he says. “If you have not yet developed your mobile strategy, consider whether an app would be a [good] platform for you to speak to your customers and then deliver timely, relevant and meaningful content that grows your customer relationships.”

Also, “make sure your website is compatible with all mobile devices,” says Jonathan Ceballos, marketing director, USB Memory Direct. “Then make sure sales and special offers are [tailored to] mobile sites.”

6. Writing off email marketing. “There is a lot of buzz surrounding marketing channels like mobile and social. However, neglecting email marketing is a costly mistake,” says Eric Stahl, senior vice president, product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “As the lines between sales, service and marketing blur, email remains the customer journey’s connective tissue. A recent survey from MarketingSherpa, found that 91 percent of U.S. adults say they like getting promotional emails from companies they do business with. Of those, 86 percent would like monthly emails and 61 percent would like them at least weekly. In addition, marketers can combine email with insights gained from customer data across channels and devices -- for example, social media -- to achieve the heightened level of personalization that today’s customer demands.”

7. Not doing A/B or split testing. “Use A/B testing to maximize effectiveness of your email,” says Adam Jwaskiewicz, director of interactive services at PHG, an advertising agency. “For example, distribute the same email to a test group, but use two different subject lines. When sending the actual email, use the subject line that performed best. Make decisions based on actual data, not your gut feeling.”

Related: 5 lessons in test-and-learn from Expedia

8. Being anti-social on social media. “Many marketers forget that social media is meant to be a space for dialogue and engagement, rather than simply broadcast,” says Jessica Riches, social media strategist, LMW Labs, which helps startups with social media. “Responding to your community, [answering] questions and sharing thoughts will help you build a deeper relationship that will positively impact business in the long run.”

9. Buying social media followers. “It often seems like the aim of the game is to have lots of followers and fans on your social media accounts,” says Ceballos. “It makes you look reputable, popular and well-established. People, however, are becoming more savvy [about social media]. They are now able to tell if you've bought fake followers. [And] if they do find out, you've immediately sent across the message that you are untrustworthy.” Instead, “look to build a network of real people who [are likely to become] potential clients.”

10. Hiring a third-party to represent your brand on social media. “The most common excuses for outsourcing social media management include a lack of internal resources and a lack of proficiency with social platforms,” says Kent Lewis, president and founder, Anvil, an integrated marketing agency. But, “nobody knows your brand better than your employees and advocates. Let them be in charge of spreading the good word, not a low-paid college graduate working from home [or a high-priced agency]. I wish this were less common than it is, but many brands still feel the need to outsource their voice on social rather than building the resources in-house.”

11. Sending automated direct messages (DMs) on Twitter. “Nothing makes me cringe more in the digital marketing world than auto direct messages on Twitter,” says marketing consultant Donna Talarico. “Auto DMs are impersonal, tacky, annoying and ensure an immediate ‘unfollow.’ Yet, it’s a more common practice than it should be.” Her advice to online marketers: Don’t do it.

12. Ignoring abandoned carts. “As consumers shop around for the best deals on the Web, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to place something in their cart, get distracted and abandon [it],” says Chris Birkholm, senior manager of marketing, Digital River, a provider of global ecommerce, payments & e-marketing solutions. “Marketers can avoid this by implementing a strong abandoned cart strategy to recover and re-engage those consumers at a later time either through reminders, incentives or other promotions and offers.

“For example, if consumers have already provided their email addresses, send them a reminder within 24 hours, perhaps providing a 10 percent off coupon code to complete their order,” he suggests. “Alternately, you can utilize intent-based, predictive ‘Wait, don’t leave’ messaging, which provides an incentive or offer to get shoppers to check out now rather than leave your site.”

13. Not communicating with the sales team. One of “the top mistake online marketers make is not communicating with their sales team -- not asking for input from sales,” says Jeremy Durant, business principal, Bop Design, a B2B digital marketing firm. To ensure they are getting qualified leads, “digital marketers need to [meet with] the sales team, scheduling [a] monthly meeting at the very least.”

14. Not measuring results. “Always make sure the money and effort you spend on your digital marketing campaigns are worth it [by using] Google Analytics [or another analytics tool] to measure your results,” says Ceballos. “Then, after analyzing the results, update your strategies and work on improving the results. You will never know whether or not your strategy is working or failing if you fail to track your marketing and advertising efforts.”

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