Select Page

Why Your Digital Marketing Efforts Fail

In this episode...


Why does digital marketing fail more often than it succeeds?

What you can do to ensure success.

You have to love the smell of a fresh new campaign launch. Or how about the excitement when you hit the launch button on your new website? And the anticipation of your trophy set of keywords getting a great ranking in Google.

Now fast forward a day, two days, a week, a month, a quarter, or a year. Why is it that those successes don’t feel as successful?

There are all kinds of articles about poor performance in digital marketing and all kinds of marketing firms trying to debunk this random 90%+ fail rate. I am proud to say I am a consultant, not a salesperson. Not that there’s anything wrong with salespeople. But there is a huge difference between a real consultant and a salesperson. And that difference is precisely why I am in a better position to discuss failure rates in digital marketing than a marketing firm, for example.

I don’t believe anyone has published a study with enough supporting data to nail down a defendable percentage of failures versus successes. I am certain that more digital marketing projects fail than succeed when asking a small business owner or operator. I am also 100% certain that the percentage of successes is much greater when you ask a digital marketer or a marketing firm.

I am hoping it does not require much explanation to point out that a small business owner/operator and a marketer have different biases when defining success or failure.

Therein lies the rub. As a consultant, I can tell you that both the small business owner/operator and the marketers are wrong, in general. It may be that in either of their experiences, they can tout some number of successes and some number of failures. However, their experiences do not equal the ability to generalize the whole industry.

As a consultant, I am bit of an outsider. I devise strategies and help an organization guide those strategies into reality. I can tell you with certainty; I am usually brought in because the business has experienced failure in the past. If I talked to the marketing firm or team working on the “failure,” they will typically say the failure was not a failure or that the client made some mistake. The business’s decision-makers are certain the marketers were at fault or whatever tactic doesn’t work.

The crappy thing about this scenario is everyone might be right, or everyone might be wrong, or some combination of right and wrong on both parties. This does shine a light on two things, 1. There is a lot of perceived failure to go around AND 2. The biggest failure is the way digital marketing projects are setup.

Since I am talking to business decision-makers (of course, marketers will get as much out of this, but they are not the intended audience), let’s be clear that the project must be set up properly. I am going to tell you how to do that, in brief. No more excuses; from here on out, you will have the knowledge to make sure your projects succeed consistently.

The first issue that needs resolving is you need to lead. One might wonder how they can lead when they have not trained marketers. It’s easy; you lead by stating what you are trying to accomplish. Do not mince words. Be clear. You must understand the galactic difference between telling a marketing firm you want to improve your online presence and telling them that you need to generate more high-quality leads. It’s the difference between success and failure – all by itself.

The fact of the matter is marketing companies are amazing at producing things – commercials, websites, campaigns, online presence, and so on. But the problem is, if you’re a marketer, cover your ears. You’re not going to like what I am about to say – marketers want to serve their customers. Because of that, they become order takers. If you start your conversation by saying you want to improve your online presence – your likelihood of getting more high-quality leads just dropped – a lot. Really good marketers will ask you why you want to improve your online presence, but most will respond with – yeah, we noticed you’re not keeping up with your social media, and you are not very visible in search results.

Congratulations! You just bought SEO and social media services. I know I will get some kickback from this but, depending on your business, there is nothing that says social media presence or better rankings in Google will help you achieve more high-quality leads. On the day of the launching social and pay-per-click campaigns, you’re jacked up, excited to see your company all over Facebook, and great placement in Google search results. But what happens in a week when the number of high-quality leads actually declines?

In 30 days, you notice there has not been any measurable difference in the number of high-quality leads. This is a disaster! But, the marketers delivered exactly what you wanted.

In my experience, the number one reason why projects are considered failures by stakeholders is because the objectives were not clear. Be clear in what you are trying to achieve and work with the marketer as a partner in achieving that result, not the creator of some nicely wrapped deliverable.

In one of my most-listened-to podcast episodes called “The One Thing,” I discuss this point as the most important thing at which a small business person in charge of directing marketing efforts must become adept. When it comes to marketing, you must buy a result, not a service. The marketer must draw a direct line between the service they provide and achieving that result, and this is huge, they must be accountable as part of the agreement in achieving the objective.

That brings us to the next way to ensure you don’t become part of the digital marketing failure statistics, no matter what they are.

A marketing project must be set up so that the end of the project is when the objective is met, not when the service is in place. That means the business and the marker must agree on how to measure when a project is complete. This would mean that in our “more high-quality leads” scenario, the business and marketer must agree on a measurable increase in high-quality leads and how that will be measured transparently.

In one article I read where the author, from a digital marketing company, was attempting to debunk the super-high failure rate of digital marketing projects, his supporting data on how they were successful were not always helpful. The author cited increased in traffic to the client’s website, an increase in page-views, and an increase in conversions – which could be anything, including an increase in horrible leads. The other thing that was concerning was the author depicted 4 examples of success. Anyway, I am sure they are a fine firm, but the defense was not supported very well.

So here is a suer simple recap on how to avoid digital marketing failure. As the small business person in charge of marketing, you must make sure you clearly define the objective. It is also on you that the business and marketing firm or marketer’s agreement is designed to conclude when the measurable objective is met. This will significantly reduce your odds of failure and ensure your odds of success.

In almost all situations, this is NOT the case.

Let’s do something amazing together. If you’re a small business and want to up your marketing game, give me a call at 262-528-2858 or drop me a line at Cale at totallyhyped dot com. The call won’t cost a penny.

Upcoming Episodes

  • Improve Marketing Success Rates by 87%
  • Clarifying Objectives to Guarantee Marketing Success
  • How to Reduce Marketing Costs and Get Better Results

Listen Anywhere

Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Join thousands of small businesses who get FREE marketing advice from our newsletter.

Let’s Work Together

For one on one consultation visit

Small buisness marketing and business analytics