Digital Marketing Doesn't Always Work - 6 Reasons Why Not

(Photo by  Ashley Batz  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash)

It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while I have a customer who complains that digital marketing isn't working. In this post, I want to look at why that happens and what are a few things that you can do to improve the effectiveness of digital marketing.

1. Not Spending Enough

(Photo by Jeff Nelson)

(Photo by Jeff Nelson)

I shouldn't have to say this but marketing requires an investment. You actually have to spend money in order to make money. When it comes to product development business owners understand that in order for innovation to happen there needs to be a capital investment. However, when it comes to marketing, many business owners seem to shy away from investing enough in marketing to make it work properly.

When you have developed a campaign, you hope that the campaign will get a return on your investment. In other words, if you spend money on marketing, you hope for a return of more revenue.

This makes perfect sense until you are the one cutting the check and spending the money, then things get dicey. The campaign that you've developed could work, but it might fail. Failure means that you spent money and you did not get the revenue that you had anticipated. Success, on the other hand, means that you invested in the campaign and you were able to reach your revenue targets. If you succeed, everyone thinks you're brilliant. If you fail, everyone thinks you're an idiot. Luckily the companies and people that I work with think that I’m only an idiot occasionally.

2. Not Experimenting Enough

(Photo by  JJ Jordan  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash)

I wish that marketing was an exact science but it isn’t. There are so many variables and so many unknowns that a lot of times it seems like campaigns are developed on intuition and creativity only. I wish that marketing was more scientific and exact. But it isn’t. Marketing is all about experimenting, testing, and adjusting.

On occasion, I listen to Terry O'Reilly on CBC and his program called Under the Influence. I love listening to carry and the stories that he has to tell. It all sounds so wonderful and easy but when you're in the trenches it isn't so easy. Terry tells wonderful stories that often and with a successful outcome. Occasionally Terry tells of a situation where there were difficulties or failures. Those are the stories where I learn the most. 

One thing that I do know about marketing and advertising is it seems to require a lot of experimenting. You try this campaign, then develop a new one. You try this marketing channel, only to switch to another. You try this message and then change it. You try this price point but it’s too low, so you increase. You try this market and then that market. Some work some don't. The one nice thing that I will say about having worked in the industry for over 20 years is that a level of experience does help. There's a little less guesswork when you've been around the block a few times and skinned your knee trying to jump over fences. Experience doesn't mean that everything goes perfectly but it often means that you make fewer mistakes and less catastrophic errors. 

3. Not Understanding Macro vs Micro Conversions

Many people have written on the topic of macro and micro conversions but Avinash Kaushik was the person who brought this concept to my attention first. This was probably in 2008. Have a look at his blog post, “Excellent Analytics Tip #13: Measure Macro AND Micro Conversions.

A macro conversion is the end behaviour that you want a person in your market to do. An example would be to buy a product. Another example would be when a prospect fills out a form requesting that someone in your company give them a call. A macro conversion is what I tell my clients is “The Ultimate Outcome”. 

A micro conversion would be any behaviour that shows that a prospect is engaging with some information related to your company. An example would be signing up for a newsletter, adding a product to a shopping cart, signing up for a free trial, commenting on a Facebook post, watching a video and or liking a tweet on your company's Twitter feed. The bottom line is that you want many micro-conversions - lots and lots. 

4. Not Using Technology Well

From Jeff Nelson

From Jeff Nelson

I could go on and on about companies not using marketing technology well. It seems that owners and leaders will spend oodles of money on production equipment and then refuse to make adequate investments on tools for marketing. Often the tools for marketing includes software. And often a subscription is required. I get that. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, effective marketing requires an investment. Tools are needed for customer relationship management (CRM), email marketing, marketing automation, lead nurturing, functional websites, event management and tools that help measure the effectiveness and performance of marketing.

If a company doesn’t have the right tools in place, marketing will fail.

5. Not Understanding Attribution

(Photo by  Tomas Sobek  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Tomas Sobek on Unsplash)

One of the major difficulties in marketing is attribution. Attribution involves assigning a marketing channel or marketing campaign to a specific sale. There are many types of models for attribution. For example, the last interaction model assigns the attribution of a sale to the last marketing channel that the buyer identified. First interaction model would assign the sale to the first impression or first exposure that the buyer had to a company and its products.

In the world of digital and social advertising, this type of data is readily available on most platforms. An example would be Google Analytics. However, in traditional advertising, it can be difficult to attribute a sale to a specific marketing channel or marketing campaign. When a person walks into a restaurant, sits down and purchases something off the menu, it is uncommon for the servers or management to know how this person came to be in this restaurant. This person may have seen an advertisement on TV a billboard listen to a radio program with an advertisement or maybe seen an advertisement in a magazine. 

The bottom line is that the owner of the restaurant may never know which marketing channels are working unless they ask their guests these critical questions: “How did you hear about us?” and “What motivated you to come to our restaurant today?” These questions and the resulting answers are critical for understanding attribution.

Once you understand attribution, then you can determine which marketing channels and which marketing campaigns are working. Easy!

6. Not Measuring ROI

Photo by  Kate  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kate on Unsplash

Management guru Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” (For a detailed analysis on this quote have a look at, however, I’m going to stick to the most common understanding of this phrase and that is that measurement is important).

With this in mind, let me conclude that Company should be measuring the return that they're making on their marketing investment. Here is a list of additional posts that you can read on this topic: 

ROI and ROMI are Different. Seriously!

Measures vs Metrics for Marketing

17 Essential Marketing Metrics for Customer Acquisition


If you want digital marketing to be effective you will need to do the following:

  • Make sure your investment in marketing and advertising is sufficient

  • When it comes to developing new campaigns, leave room for experimenting

  • Aim to get lots of micro conversions - you need those before you can get the macros

  • Invest in good software but make sure that it is performs well

  • Be sure you understand attribution and start making the links between marketing and sales

  • Start tracking your investments in marketing and use the ROMI calculation to measure performance