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The Dirty Dozen - Common Tripping Points in Digital Marketing

  |  June 29, 2011   |  Comments

The same avoidable mistakes continue to plague companies' online programs.

We spend a lot of time on best practices in digital marketing, but it's most often the simple or obvious things that we stumble over that delay launch or prevent fully-realized success in our efforts. There are so many ways to screw up the powerful potential of your online programs that it would be impossible to list them all, but the same avoidable mistakes seem to continue to plague companies.

Common Tripping Points in Digital Marketing

  1. Not integrating with offline marketing. Internal silos, departmental silos, agency silos - they all need to go. The business has (or should have) an overarching set of business objectives that all parties are working towards. They can't do that effectively if they are not collaborating. If you are working on digital marketing, you need to request and require insights and information about all the marketing elements and share in return with your offline counterparts.
  2. No branding guidelines for digital. Organizations often create a separate "bastard brand" online because they haven't invested in style guides for any and all digital media. Remember that the online brand experience may be the first and is always an important customer touchpoint, and that continuity and consistency in brand is critical.
  3. Underestimating the need for creative refreshes. Testing and rotating new online ad creative for new seasons, catalog drops, promotions, inventory changes, etc. is an important lever in optimization efforts. Success will be handicapped without that ability to approve and deliver new creative to break through the clutter and connect to relevant program elements.
  4. Viewing social media through old media goggles. It's a difficult shift to make for some marketers. They don't understand the essence, theory, or value inherent in customer engagement and dialogue. One way to encourage that understanding is to get comfortable in the social channels on a personal level first and study successful company efforts before putting your brand's reputation on the line.
  5. Last-minute timing for social media announcements. It's always better to be able to say "X is coming soon" rather than first announcing X when X has already started or is hours away. It's highly beneficial to start building buzz a day or two ahead of time - sometimes weeks. When managing social media accounts, plan far enough ahead to make the most of any ad hoc event announcements or promotions and remember that consumers need time to plan too.
  6. Can't or won't allow analytics access. Historic site performance as well as insights into company and other program performance will help support strong decision making. Validate the importance of this information and make sure all working parties have access to what they need.
  7. Can't or won't place tracking tags. The information gleaned from properly placed tags drives optimization and establishes performance measurement that should drive budget and marketing mix decisions. Establish in advance of your program the ability, resources, and willingness of your IT department to participate in this process. Often the IT department is understaffed and overwhelmed, so give them as much time as possible and provide clear instructions, especially if the tracked conversions occur off site or there are other complications. Dissing the IT department in general is a bad idea. In addition to tagging, the IT department is a critical partner for site launches, feeds, data integrations, email management, SEO, and other program elements. If they get surprised by a timely need, they often can't juggle their workload to accommodate. Make them a true partner.
  8. No planning for after the "campaign." There is a lot of short-term planning out there - some of it related to the test and project mentality currently popular in digital marketing. But a series of short-term, unrelated, or vaguely related campaigns or programs can create a disjointed consumer experience, especially in social media, where the community and conversation may be left hanging. Testing is critical, but make your tests part of a larger, long-term, integrated plan.
  9. SEO recommendations that don't get implemented. Most organizations have come to understand the importance of organic traffic, but they often invest in SEO recommendations that never or only late or in small part get implemented. SEO recommendations relate to the snapshot in time when they were given and relate specifically to the current competitive environment and understanding of relevant ranking criteria. It's commonly the case that 100 percent of the recommendations might not be possible to carry out, but the more the better, the more timely the better.
  10. Not accounting for time for internal, including legal, review. Marketing teams routinely underestimate the time required for internal reviews. In advance of your needs, get all stakeholders on board and set expectations for the turnarounds needed to keep programs on track.
  11. Gathering content last minute and way too late. Whether in a site build, promo, or other digital effort, the content collection, review, and approvals always take longer than anticipated or accounted for. This can lead to delays or unwelcome compromises in the end product. Invest upfront in your content strategy, planning, and collection to avoid diluting, delaying, or derailing your efforts last minute.
  12. Ignoring branding elements and jumping directly to direct response. Consumer research and buying follows a predictable pattern, though it is different for each business and industry. Even when the sale or conversion is the end goal (as it usually is), it is often beneficial to spend time and money on branding and awareness to produce the scale of results that you want to attain. Use all stages of a decision lifecycle to enhance your bottom-line results and make sure that your analytics give credit to the critical early stage assists to avoid budget mismanagement.

A lot of this is common sense, coming down to good old-fashioned planning, respect for all the parties involved in a successful effort, and an understanding of the channels in which you are working. With a little forewarning and some upfront planning, you need not repeat these common mistakes.

What do you see as repeated and avoidable mistakes in digital marketing?


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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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