Strategy pitfalls to avoid

  • Post published:August 23, 2019

Pitfalls to avoid when designing your digital strategy.

Over the past 20 years I have been involved in thousands of amazing online and digital marketing strategies, spanning many countries, companies and budgets of all sizes. These experiences allowed me to observe first hand what works and, more importantly, what not to do when developing and implementing an online or digital marketing strategy. 

Here are my top pitfalls to avoid when designing and implementing your digital marketing strategy.

Pitfall 1: lack of strategic connection

Clients tend to be quite good at setting their online or digital marketing (DM) goals. Though less good at ensuring their DM goals connect with their overall company strategy. 

For example, if a key goal of your company is to “grow sales revenue for X shoes in the Australian market by 25% in 2020” then your digital goals should compliment this objective, rather than go off on a tangent. 

Too often we find digital marketing strategies are set in isolation, rather than cascading off the overall strategy of a company. Why does this happen?

  • digital gets treated as a low impact / low priority tactic, so lacks a senior internal sponsor
  • digital marketing is perceived as different to other strategic activities
  • digital is regarded as too complex to comprehend, so ignored  
  • digital has no clear goals, do lacks direction
  • internal cynicism towards digital derails the program

Unfortunately, a digital marketing strategy that lacks strategic purpose within the organisation will ultimately run out of oxygen. 

Pitfall 2: too much focus on execution

Linked to pitfall #1, most clients we work with have an array of digital marketing (DM) activities being executed at any given time. However, whilst these activities are essentially a plan of action, they tend to be random, seldom connecting back to a clear DM strategy. The strategy gets quickly designed annually, then the energy for the remainder of the year goes into execution with a few quarterly meetings to adjust budgets. 

In my experience, the problems with implementation tend to stem from rushing the strategy, not doing it properly. And if the strategy is not done properly then the activities will lack purpose and not deliver their promised return on investment (ROI).  

The secret to success is to get your DM strategy designed properly whilst not letting it monopolize all your time – there has to be a healthy balance between strategy and implementation. As they say, implementation without a strategy is the noise before defeat and strategy without execution is hallucination! We recommend you outsource the facilitation of your DM strategy to an expert strategist that also hosts regular review performance review and recommendation sessions.

Having an expert facilitate your strategic planning process has many benefits such as:

  • helping you focus on business as usual (BAU) tasks whilst he gets on with designing the strategy
  • providing an objective framework and approach 
  • keeping you focused on the strategy, not just execution
  • providing expert advice

Pitfall 3: lack of digital marketing expertise

There is a critical shortage of good digital marketing talent in New Zealand and globally. This means that inexperienced staff are often left to manage activities when they do not have the required experience. This creates problems such as:

  • staff churn, when employees become too stretched and feel out of their depth
  • outsourced digital activity not being managed properly
  • inefficient execution
  • junior managers being promoted too early
Ultimately, your digital marketing plan needs to highlight what resources will be required to enable the plan. However, we suggest putting in place contingency plans that take into account factors such as:
  • the growing cost of recruitment
  • churn
  • outsourcing vs doing it in-house
  • the cost of training

Pitfall 4: analysis-paralysis

Almost everything in digital can be tracked and measured. This is mostly true though be sure to include the cost of setting up a tracking system in your planning budget, as some activities cost a fair amount to track properly so may not be worth the effort. 

Also, try and have one system that tracks the entire DM strategy, as managing multiple analytics systems can become too complex. 

Finally, be careful of ‘analysis-paralysis’ – set SMART digital marketing goals, then setup a customized tracking system that clearly highlights how each activity directly contributes to your DM goals. Then educate your team how to read, analyse and interpret reports or get an analytics trainer to show you the ropes. 

Pitfall 5: return on investment (ROI)

Demonstrating ROI is critical to guiding your decisions, such as where to invest your resources.

Linked to pitfall 4, we are often approached by clients that want us to help them develop a better return on investment (ROI) from their digital marketing strategy. We start by assessing these two questions: 

  1.  Has a proper strategic planning and implementation framework been followed?
  2. How is ROI being tracked? 

You can read more about point 1 above in our strategic planning blog. 

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid in order to track your DM return on investment more effectively:

  • Don’t track your digital marketing activity in isolation (e.g. enquiries from Google Ads). Rather track the performance of your digital marketing activity as an integral part of all your marketing activity. Understand that your customers don’t live in a digital world only, they may hear your ad on the radio, then search via Google on their phone before contacting your sales centre, then receive a follow up email that ultimately prompts them to go to your store and buy something. 
  • Don’t just look at generic goals like “number of enquiries” or “size of email database”. Rather narrow your goals to focus on quality, not just quantity e.g. “number of enquiries generated by x segment”. This may take a bit more effort to determine though is a very worthwhile habit to get into. 
  •  Ensure your digital marketing KPIs connect directly to your goals and the overall strategy of your business (see pitfall 1). There’s no point celebrating the success of your digital activity if it does not contribute directly to the overarching goals of your business.

We hope you enjoyed this article and that you got some benefit from the five pitfalls we outlined. Don’t hesitate to email me on [email protected] for further information on how we can help your business develop and implement a digital marketing strategy that drive effective ROI.