Digital Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

by | Nov 13, 2018


Recently, I was helping a new client to increase sales for their online store. Their main priorities were to get more organic traffic and improve conversions. Pretty typical, right? So I was curious to know why they left their previous agency.

It turns out the agency was pushing its client towards a strategy that simply wasn’t right. In this case, the agency was solely interested in paid search. But what the client really wanted was more organic traffic, especially as they were in the early stages and needing a sustainable but low-cost approach to getting traffic.

Month after month the client was paying the agency to run Google Ads, and while they certainly got traffic, it was expensive and converted poorly. In fact, the users acquired organically were converting 6x better than those from paid search!

As we dived into the data and the store’s website design, it became clear what was working, what wasn’t and why. But the experience highlighted some common digital marketing mistakes that occur when interests aren’t aligned or you lose sight of the end-to-end customer journey.

Here’s 6 tips to save you wasted time and effort on your digital marketing.


1. Have a marketing strategy


A marketing strategy answers the who, what and why. Who are you marketing to? What are you offering them? And why are you marketing to them, in other words, what are your objectives? These are the big picture issues.

The marketing plan answers the how, where and when. These are your message, channels and the stages in the customer journey you’re targeting. These are your tactics.

Marketing Framework

In the age of data, we all know the importance of measuring and optimising. But if you don’t truly understand your objectives, you’ll burn a lot of energy for little reward.
Image: Udacity


Both are vital of course, but the strategy is the part that’s often skipped. A strategy forces you to be clear about your goals and provides the direction to inform what marketing activities might be right for your business.

Without the strategy, you have no foundation for the tactics. The end result is usually a very costly and time-consuming game of experimentation.


2. Don’t spray and pray


Most businesses struggle to find one truly effective marketing channel.

Unfortunately many find themselves dabbling in several, but not succeeding in any of them. Consider social media platforms. Different content and messaging works well on each one. And the user demographics vary as well.  Say you spread yourself across four platforms, each taking 25% of your effort. That means it’s going to take 4x more total effort, than just focusing on one. How much ‘spare’ time do you have?

Think about what’s most likely to work. Find it. And get the most out of it.

“Not only is the way we produce things changing, but the way that messages spread has shifted forever. Facebook and YouTube are not effective ways to market average goods to average people. Garnering likes, counting Twitter followers, playing endless social media games is a distraction.” – Seth Godin


3. Respect the customer journey


The customer journey moves through several stages. And being ready to buy is one of the last. Our challenge is to gently nudge prospective customers forward through the journey, seeking to overcome the objections in doing so.

Getting people to take action when they have no prior interest in what you’re selling requires a completely different approach than when they’re actively looking to buy and in the final stages of comparing options.


Marketing Customer Journey

The customer journey is often not linear and the sequence varies between products and services.
Source: Udacity


Take You may rarely have the need to use a comparison site. But when the time comes that you’re looking for a new credit card, they hope that by showing you enough TV ads, you’ll start there with your search. They’re not necessarily trying to get you to take immediate action through their TV ads, but merely building brand awareness and possibly creating curiosity to check their site out.

Compare that to a Facebook ad for a 30-day trial of the latest search engine optimisation tool that promises to get first page results. But its only free if you signup today. This is designed to get you to take immediate action. It takes a problem that you’re aware of – and may or may not be actively desiring a solution for – but aims to take you all the way through to converting immediately.

In the second case, you’ll need a lot more convincing. Is the business legitimate? What results have others achieved from the product? What results can you achieve? Is the product going to be really easy to use?

“Understanding how aware your visitors are of their need for your solution can help you better understand not only what’s motivating them… but also how much you need to say to convince them to choose you.“ – Joanna Wiebe


4. Walk in the customer’s shoes


Let’s consider email marketing. Cold emails to be precise. I typically get them from people wanting to write guest posts, selling social media management tools or services to increase website traffic.

Cold emails can be a great way to sell. They can provide an opportunity to offer immediate, personalised value and create curiosity. Unfortunately, I find most are not written with the needs of the target customer in mind. I’m continually surprised by how:

  • Infrequently the sender has bothered to personalise it. If you haven’t bothered to find out my name, or even look at what my business does, then your chances of winning me over are zero.
  • It isn’t even clear what they’re offering. Here’s one: “We’re a native video production agency. Currently, we are expanding our client base”. Gee, well I’m honoured that you’d consider me worthy of being a future client for your ambiguously described services. Yikes!
  • They don’t provide any evidence they can deliver. Want to write a guest blog post? Well include a link to your previous work.

Rather than spray hundreds of copies of the same email, constantly running A/B tests to see if you can achieve a minor lift in the response rate, most would far better off to send 10 highly targeted, value-adding emails to their prospects.

“Here’s the only thing you’re selling, no matter what business you’re in and what you ship: you’re selling your prospects a better version of themselves.” – Joanna Wiebe

Prospective customers don’t want to know how great you are. They want to know that you can solve a problem for them. The most important thing is to put yourself in the shoes of the prospect. Consider: “What are their objections likely to be and how do I clearly and concisely address them?”


5. Know your unique value proposition


Why should customers choose you? It might be your experience, accolades, testimonials, your values or your story but you need to know why customers will spend their money with you rather than others.

Here are a couple of great examples.

iPhone Value Proposition

Apple makes it perfectly clear why the iPhone is different to anything else available in the market.
Source: Apple

 Stripe Value Proposition

Stripe isn’t marketing to everyone. They have a very clear target market and value proposition.
Source: Stripe


In both cases, it’s immediately clear how this business is different and why you might choose them.

Your value propositions can be described in many different ways. A good starting point is Geoffrey Moore value positioning statement:

Value Proposition Template

While you’ll end up with a statement that’s too long to be a catchy headline – like in the above examples – the result will lay the foundation for a more concise version using other value proposition templates.


6. Build trust, overcome objections


Recently, when building a landing page for a new startup, I checked their website and found they’d posted some testimonials. “Great!”, I thought, here’s some much-needed social proof that will help the landing page convert.

That was until I asked about the testimonials and was told they weren’t real. They were simply put up on the site to get initial clients to sign up.

Don’t do it. Just… don’t.

Social proof is important, but it’s not worth selling your soul.

For a brand new business, you might have to go out and recruit initial customers by hand. That’s completely fine.  The experience will give you invaluable feedback to optimise your product and inform the sales process. You might even decide to deliver those customers great value for free in exchange for a testimonial.

Once you’ve done the hard work to gather some real testimonials, you can really showcase them to build trust with customers.


Salesforce Customer Success

Salesforce even dedicates a whole section of their website to Customer Success. Dozens of stories about the benefits that customers have achieved using their product suite.
Source: Salesforce


The bottom line is that if people don’t trust you, then they won’t buy from you. And it might still be difficult to get them to accept free stuff, as they’ll assume there’s a catch. Reading and seeing the authentic experiences of others – positive, and even negative if responded to in the right way – goes a long way to building that trust.



Key takeaways

  1. Have a marketing strategy and make sure it drives your plan.
  2. Start by focusing on a minimal number of marketing channels.
  3. Have a clear view on what stage of the customer journey each tactic is targeting.
  4. Consider what the prospective customer needs to hear, rather than what you want to say.
  5. Define your unique value proposition. Communicate it clearly and simply.
  6. Remember that trust is the foundation of your customer relationships.


Starteer is an Australian business advisory practice that that helps emerging and mid-market companies accelerate and sustain growth. We support leadership teams to make the right People, Strategy, Execution and Cash decisions on the way to building valuable companies.

Our services span growth advisory, fractional growth roles and strategic coaching using the globally renowned Scaling Up methodology as a certified practice.

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