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How to Diagnose a Digital Marketing Dud

An expert details three fast fixes to make your campaign a success.

So your company thought it did everything it could to spread the digital word about a product, a service, or a brand, but your message is not making it. What went wrong? To find out, we interviewed Steve Taormino, CEO and president of CC&A Strategic Media, who has 20 years in the marketing business, as well as being a leader in cybersecurity, team leadership and development, and all aspects of business operations. And he says he’s often sees the same three basic marketing mistakes being made in digital campaigns.

“Businesses know that everyone is spending more of their time online,” says Taormino, “and they know that if they want to be visible, they must have a digital identity. And, of course, they’ve heard that digital marketing can be a gold mine. But many organizations are hesitant to invest, and when they do, they make simple mistakes that destine the effort to failure.”

What would you say are the most common of the marketing missteps?
I’ve researched years’ worth of marketing campaigns and discovered three common trends that cause campaigns to fail. And the first is a crucial step—it’s astounding that many organizations miss this—but it’s about targeting your audience. Most organizations have a large group of prospects within their market. Not only can the market itself be diverse, but the services and products available to the market can be diverse. Instead of trying to reach an entire market, use targeted marketing to put energy into connecting with specific, defined groups within that market.

By what characteristics are markets segmented?
Let’s start with the obvious: demographics, which is age, gender, education, marital status, race, religion, and so forth. But there’s also psychographics, which is values, beliefs, interests, personality, and lifestyle. Of course, you also have to consider the industry you’re in and the geographic reach of the campaign, including neighborhoods, area codes, cites, regions, or even nations.

Once the market is segmented, it’s easier to create messaging that speaks directly to defined audiences, attracts and converts the right prospects, retains customers, and ultimately, builds deeper loyalties within the customer base. But when digital campaigns begin without proper targeting and segmentations, the effort is diluted and ineffective.

Tell us about another common mistake in these campaigns.
That would have to be the choice of a distribution channel: After the audience has been segmented, it’s time to identify where those people are likely to be found online. Not everyone is on Facebook, and, contrary to popular belief, not every organization can benefit from Google. And, as another example of a bad choice for a certain demographic, maintaining a Snapchat account could be a wasted effort if your largest customer segment is 60-year-old women.

So how should the decision be made regarding a distribution channel?
The most effective digital strategies are driven by data, and there are many tools available to help organizations use data to determine which channels support specific demographics. Websites such as Pew Research Center can provide detailed information on social media uses. For example, did you know that women are more likely to use Instagram than men—31 percent vs. 24 percent—or that 41 percent of LinkedIn users earn a salary over $75,000? Tools like Google’s keyword planner provide insights into which search phrases generate traffic. Keyword Planner also allows organization to filter the results by geography.

If we fix some of these mistakes, then how do we know the campaign is working?
That’s called defining success. There needs to be a concrete, black-and-white definition of success that’s easy to measure and free from ambiguity. Many times, digital marketers will discuss total traffic, bounce rate, time on site, etc., which are important, but they are only KPIs (key performance indicators).

Organizations need to create a definition of success that directly effects revenue. For example, home improvement companies should measure the growth of leads generated and/or size of new projects, while most medical practices need to focus on recurring patient schedules, and some industries need to use marketing to recruit new team members or employees.

Besides those top three pitfalls, what other factors are there to be considered?
There are a number of other things I could get into that affect outcomes, such as organic search (SEO), social media, pay-per-click advertising, channel partners, content marketing, and, most importantly, analytical review. But I’d say that the three fixes I’ve outlined are the best bets to ensure success.