The top 5 digital marketing mistakes that business owners make

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Clients come to us because they are frustrated with their digital marketing vendors and the disappointing results of their efforts. What they want is a steady flow of qualified, ready-to-buy leads. They also want help with the “what happens after the customer reaches out to us” part of the exercise. These frustrations are usually a result of the business owner making one of the five most common digital marketing mistakes. I’m hoping, by describing these mistakes (and how to avoid them), you can start making the shift from frustration to fulfillment. 

Here are the five most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Not understanding and having access and control to your website and other digital assets. I’m not too surprised when the owners of very small companies come to us and have no idea where their website, domain, and email are hosted, and how to get access to the back end of these resources. But I am surprised when a medium-sized company has the same problem. 

Your website is your company, as far as the outside world is concerned. It’s the place where buyers go when they think you might have what they want. It’s one of your most important sources of revenue. 

If something goes wrong with your site, and you can’t get in touch with your developer, and you can’t get into the back end so someone else could fix it, you are in serious trouble. A common cause of sites being down is the automatic update of plugins, where one of the new versions of a plugin doesn’t play nicely with the rest of the site. 

Make sure you know where your site is hosted and how to get into the back end. Test it periodically to make sure you can access it; if you end up firing a developer, you will want to be able to go into the site as an admin and remove that person from the list of users. 

Also know where your domain name is hosted, and make sure you can get into that resource, as well. Know when your domain is scheduled to renew and make sure your credit card payments and other account information are up to date. Ditto for your email.

You also can’t manage what you don’t understand. Given the importance of your website to your company’s success, it pays to learn as much as you can about how sites work, what can go wrong, and how to find and fix problems. Make sure you read one of my most popular articles, which describes how websites are constructed

2. Trying to use only one channel or method. There’s a stat floating around the B2B marketing world that says that it takes seven touches before someone actually “sees” your message. People are much more inclined to pay attention to your company and offerings if they see you more than once, and the message is always helpful and consistent. 

You also need to experiment. What worked for another company (even a competitor!) may not work for you. The only way to find out is to 1) interview the customers who have already bought from you, so you can get a head start by “reverse engineering” a successful sale (see my book for very specific instructions on how to do this) and 2) to then experiment with that on-target message you created with real customer input, using different channels and methods, until your efforts start to get traction. 

Each digital channel has its own “best use” aspect. For example, one thing we have been doing for clients is to create “stories” about how they’ve helped clients buy or use their products and services, turning them into social stories that do a great job of sending a “we’re here to help” message out to the market. 

In most cases, and especially in B2B companies, prospective buyers won’t necessarily “follow” you, but they will definitely click on the social icons when they come to your website, to take a look at your social media feeds. 

When they look at your social feeds, they are asking themselves: Do you post regularly? Are the posts helpful and interesting? Do you care about what they care about? Are you using the social channel to make life easier on them, or to just fill the feed with self-congratulatory content? 

3. Not tracking results. It is possible to determine which campaign is bringing in the most leads, and which of those leads convert. You will have to work hard to get the last bit of conversion information out of your CRM (or your salespeople), but it is possible. And once you have that information, you can make better decisions about which channels, methods, and messages are doing you the most good. 

Pursue this until you’ve got the ability to track. Yes, buyers might come to your site several times before they reach out to a salesperson or make a purchase. Google Ads has a useful feature called “Pathways Analysis Reports” which show “Assisted Conversions” and “Top Conversion Paths,” revealing the number of interactions the customer had with your marketing efforts before they came to you with a purchase in mind. Google Ads can be very good sources of trackable leads, when they’re done right.

4. Not understanding how Search Engine Optimization works. Everyone wants to be on page one of Google results. You need two things to get there: in-depth research (showing you the keywords that your competitors are getting clicks for and the search terms that buyers are using to find companies like yours), and content that is truly helpful to your buyer, which makes it rank higher, which makes it more popular, and which ultimately lands it on page one. 

The people writing your content need to understand what they’re talking about—as well as your buyers do—or your buyers will simply roll their eyes and shake their heads when they start reading your content. Buyers absolutely and immediately know when the writer is knowledgeable about a subject—or not. They are turned off by content that talks down to them or reads “below their level.” Finding the best writers and managing them properly is essential. 

The most common trap that we see business owners fall into is hiring a vendor who is writing content that is basically “stuffed” (as in “keyword stuffing”) with one or two key phrases, and is not helpful to your buyer. This is an old trick that Google was wise to years ago, and it will not get you to rank higher (just the opposite, in fact). 

5. Hiring vendors who prefer to keep you in the dark. This unfortunate tendency is all too common with online advertising “experts,” who have a terrible attitude: “I’m doing very important work here in my cave, and it’s too complicated for you to understand, so just pay my monthly fee and leave me alone.” 

Developers, writers, and social media specialists often behave the same way. They don’t want you to learn more about what they do. They don’t want you to question what they’re doing. They just want the retainer. There is no joint decision-making, there are no strategy meetings, there is no research into your customers, and very little reporting. We even know of a business owner who didn’t realize that the vendor, whom they continued to pay month after month, had long since stopped working on their ads. 

It is possible for you to see how much time and energy your online ad vendor is putting into your Google ads. Ask them to generate a monthly Google Ads Change History Report. This will help keep them on their toes. 

Don’t hire a vendor until they have shown you the types of reports they generate for their clients, and have at least one strategy meeting with them to see how willing they are to share ideas—and how good those ideas are. 

In the course of building what is now a full-service, crackerjack team of specialists, I learned that finding good online advertising experts was our most serious recruiting challenge. So don’t be discouraged. Keep hunting until you find someone who clicks.

But be careful about the opposite of the “leave me alone in my cave” types. Some ad specialists (and other specialists, for that matter, including some site developers) are very convincing on the “selling” side, but their backend implementation can be absolutely awful. It is often very time-consuming for us  to repair the damage done—and bad decisions made—by these self-proclaimed experts. If your efforts are not starting to gain traction within several months, it’s time to investigate more deeply. Have someone you trust look at the back end of your site, for example, or review your Google Ads campaigns. 

There is more that can go wrong, including the biggest mistake that company owners have always made—even before digital marketing became the norm: Failing to interview and truly understand the very specific desires, concerns, and questions that your buyers have (I call this their “Mindset” when they set out to buy). 

The gap between what you think they want, and what they actually want is robbing your company of revenue, every single day. It’s causing you to spend precious marketing dollars and time on messages that won’t appeal to your buyers. Fortunately, it’s a pretty convenient and straightforward problem to solve (again, chapter 3 of my book spells it out in detail).

Marketing is primarily digital now; this is where the main battles for customers and sales are taking place. The more you understand and the more you master what is happening on your behalf, the better your chances for success will be. 

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