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Why Your Digital Marketing Campaigns Will Fail (And What to Do About It)

Digital marketing consists of many aspects – SEO, social media marketing, inbound marketing, analytics etc.

So how do we fit the different parts of digital marketing to help companies grow?

This article is my attempt at explaining that.

You’ll also learn what is wrong with some companies’ approaches to digital marketing, what digital marketing really is, and the frameworks we use in our digital marketing campaigns to achieve success for our clients.

Digital marketing is no longer the “next big thing”

This means that digital marketing is no longer new, or the “next big thing” as some claim.

It has been around for more than a decade. But the problem is many digital marketers enter the field of digital marketing without knowing the basic principles of marketing.

When I interview digital marketers, I often ask the interviewees what do they understand about digital marketing. One of my favorite questions to ask is this: I have a new website that just went live, and it has 0 visitors. How can I get to 500 visitors?

Many times, interviewees would be too eager to throw around buzzwords like inbound marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing etc.

That’s a junior marketer’s response.

An experienced marketer would respond something like: Who is your target audience? Where do they spend most of their time online? What are you selling? What’s your customers’ buying journey like? etc.

The creation and use of these buzzwords have caused a generation of digital marketers to enter the industry without knowing the basic principles and frameworks that underpin our field.

This is a big problem.

Inbound marketing is not new

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.

To put it simply, inbound marketing is the practice of drawing consumers to your brand through channels and strategies that are not traditional advertising.

Alternatively, you can say it’s simply a combination of content development and Public Relations (PR).

Channels that are included in the current inbound marketing strategy have been working under different names and definitions for many years.

At the core of it, PR is telling your story through third-party mediums. A brand pitches its story to the media, and if the media thinks it’s a good story, they write about it and publish it on mediums where your target audience is.

If the brand did its PR well, the message will reach its core audience, and they would have controlled the message so closely that they have convinced their customers of their product/service’s value – and since PR is done on third-party mediums, it would imply a non-biased endorsement from the media.

So what happens next?

Customers are influenced and lured to buy something from the brand.

They bought it from an inbound channel.

Today, inbound marketing is just operating under different mediums – social media, blog, email and etc.

Content marketing is not new

Content marketing was termed around the mid-2000s as well, by Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute, which sells, of course, content marketing courses.

And what is content marketing?

The strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

In the years since content marketing was termed, marketers began to say: Content is king!

As if content has not been the most important part of marketing:

  • A pandering Coca Cola’s commercial that is shown on TV during Super Bowl
  • A viral video on Youtube that propelled Dollar Shave Club to success
  • Ronaldo’s comeback to Manchester United on Instagram
  • The contribution of this article to the media (although this article would most likely get ignored because marketers are too eager to differentiate themselves from other marketers by claiming that “some paradigm has shifted” even though nothing significant really changed)
    Content has always been the most important part of marketing.

Digital marketers shouldn’t fall into an echo chamber of meaningless buzzwords. They should start understanding and practicing real marketing.

What is marketing?

Marketing has always been the creation of a message that resonates with a target audience, and transmitting this message into a piece of content on a channel where the audience is, in an effort to build the brand and increase demand so that prospects become customers, customers become repeat customers, and repeat customers become evangelists of the brand.

The tools and channels change, but the principles of marketing remain the same.

Digital marketers are doing nothing significantly different from what traditional marketers have always done.

What digital marketing really is

To understand what digital marketing really is, we have to first understand what marketing is.

Here’s a simple 4P framework that we learn:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Placement
  • Promotion


Understand the product/service that you’re really selling.

  • What is the product you’re selling?
  • Who is the target market?
  • What problems are you solving with your product?
  • What desires are you meeting?
  • How is your product meaningfully different from your competitors’?
  • What are the core features and benefits of your product?


How much should your product be priced?

Your product’s price is linked to the value (or perceived value) that you create for your customers. A few questions to ask yourself when deciding the price:

  • What’s the actual cost of this product? (manufacturing, staff, etc)
  • Can your customers afford it?
  • How will the price be perceived in relation to what your competitors are selling it for?
    • If you’re selling it at a higher price, how can you justify it?
    • If you’re selling it at a lower price, how low can you get before your customers question the quality?


Where is the place you’re going to sell your products?

Pick the place where your customers are. Don’t expect them to come to you, you have to go to them.

For eg, if we put all our resources on Tiktok, would we get enquiries for our digital marketing services? Most probably not, unless our clients are 16 to 24-year-old people.

Here are some questions you can consider asking:

  • Where do your customers hang out?
  • What’s the typical customer buying journey?
  • Where do your competitors sell their products?
  • Do you need salesmen, or would this be self-service?
  • Do you need a platform like an eCommerce website for customers to buy your products from?


Once you’ve done the previous 3 Ps of marketing, it’s time to think about your promotion strategy.

How are you going to promote your products to reach your target audience with your message? Think Google advertising, social media marketing, SEO, PR, etc.

  • How would you convert prospects on the channels you’ve chosen, to customers?
  • What is your Unique Selling Point?
  • What would be the main message on those channels?
  • How would you follow up with prospects once they’ve enquired?
  • How do your competitors promote their products?
  • Are there any demographics, psychographics, time, season, etc, that you need to be aware of in order to promote your product effectively?

The problem with digital marketing

Now that we understand digital marketing is, at the end of the day, marketing, on digital platforms, let’s talk about the problem with digital marketing.

Because digital marketing has many different platforms and channels, many companies have become one-trick ponies.

If we think SEO works, we try to rank for more keywords and publish more ‘content’: second-rate paraphrased content from another website.

When new social media channels start to trend, and we see our competitors doing it, we start to adopt the social media marketing tactic.

I get it. It’s easy to give the management/clients what they want. They want rankings, we improve SEO rankings. They want followers, we deliver followers. They want 5 blog posts, we write 5 blog posts. They want a new and sexy marketing tactic, we do it.

Focusing on tactics is a lot easier than explaining the importance of a proper marketing strategy and indirect attribution.

But tactics only get you so far. A digital marketing strategy is what all companies need.

With digital marketing tactics, you’ll see diminishing returns

In the end, every digital marketing tactic will reach its limit.

SEO will. So will Google ads, social media ads, churning out content, etc.

Companies that have worked with various digital marketing agencies might have encountered the Law of Perceived Diminishing Returns:

After engaging an agency for a while, you might feel that the agency does not add value (rightfully or wrongfully so).

Therefore, you might think that what your agency does is very easy, and your nephew can do the same. Or you might think that another agency can easily do better just because they promised ‘guaranteed results’ and there’s no risk to you.

You flock from one agency to the next, because these agencies promise to give you what you want. The problem is, you don’t know what you need to do to achieve success through digital marketing.

Your expectations of the agency are wrong. You start out on the wrong foot. You limit the agency’s work or influence by engaging them for a single digital marketing tactic.

Of course, sometimes if the digital marketing campaigns don’t work out, it might simply be because the agency is not good enough.

But, engaging digital marketing agencies for a single tactic is not the right way, because there are diminishing returns to tactics:

  • It’s not difficult for your competitors to catch up with your marketing tactic.
  • Advertising channels get saturated very quickly, driving up advertising costs and eventually hurting your ROI.

I’m not saying tactics are useless. Tactics are needed to get things done. Without tactics, we’ll have consultants talking fluff and delivering nothing.

But we need to integrate the different marketing tactics into one coherent strategy and combine it with data, to produce a sustainable way to grow your company.

What is digital marketing strategy?

According to Google, strategy is defined as: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

Similarly, a digital marketing strategy can be defined as: a plan of action that integrates all tactics and data, to achieve repeatable, long-term and sustainable growth.

Factors of a good digital marketing strategy:

  1. It’s repeatable. You can do it again and again and achieve success.
  2. It’s a process that involves other departments like Business Strategy, Product/Service, Business Development, Customer Service etc.
    1. Have you ever heard of the phrase: “… but they did it with ZERO marketing!”
    2. Good marketers will know that this is not true. It’s not true because:
      1. It confuses marketing with paid advertising.
      2. It treats marketing as a silo activity, instead of it being part of the product/business development process.
      3. It communicates that marketing is a waste of time. Marketing is more than writing a blog post, running paid ads, creating seasonal greetings for social media.
  3. It withstands the test of time. There’s a new social media channel? No problem. New marketing trend? No problem. The tactics may change, but your strategy will not. A good strategy transcends channels.
  4. It’s data-driven. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Data provides a closed-loop between business goals and marketing strategies/tactics.

The last factor is what separates digital marketing agencies from traditional ad agencies. Traditional ad agencies don’t have access to accurate data. Good digital marketing agencies do, and data is essential for success.