skip to Main Content

5 common mistakes killing your online marketing

Common online marketing mistakesOnline marketing is a process, not a “one-time event.” If you buy one ad, draft one blog post, target one keyword, post one Twitter update, or send one email, you haven’t marketed yourself online. You’ve only just started. As I talk to people about their online marketing, the following five mistakes pop up again and again:

  1. You haven’t set clear goals.
  2. You haven’t defined your target customer.
  3. You don’t know how you’re going to measure success.
  4. You fail to focus on clear customer benefits.
  5. You waste time/money chasing “the next big thing.”

Let’s look at these in detail.

You haven’t set clear goals

A good friend of mine runs email marketing for a Fortune 500 company. Again and again, her bosses ask her to run an awareness campaign, then ask her how many sales resulted from that campaign. Now, while I agree that measuring sales is a great goal, it’s not what they should necessarily expect from an awareness campaign. If you want sales, focus on a direct response campaign. If you want awareness, measure awareness (more on this in a minute).

It’s not that goals can’t complement one another—hell, an awareness campaign that doesn’t eventually lead to sales is of little value. But, your goals will drive every step of the process. Say, “My goal is to drive a 20% increase in sales to repeat customers in the next 120 days” or “My goal is to acquire 250 new qualified email subscribers in the next 90 days” or “I will lower my cost-per-acquisition by 10% in the next 6 months.”

Setting clear goals allows you to choose the right methods and messages to reach the right customer and ensures that at the end of your campaign, you know whether your tactics worked or not.

You don’t know how you’re going to measure success

Speaking of knowing whether your tactics worked or not… you’ve got to have your success measures in place before you start your marketing activities. What constitutes success for your specific effort? More sales? More email signups? More downloads of your brochure, white paper or catalog? More friends, fans, and followers on your favorite social network? How do you know what worked?

Tracking success is not as hard as it sounds, either (we’ve got a short series on measuring success). As mentioned above, if you’re looking to measure awareness, what constitutes success for you? Two measures that come immediately to mind:

  1. An increase in traffic to your campaign’s landing page.
  2. An increase in natural search traffic from terms related to your campaign.

There are others, of course, and plenty of ways to measure any goal you set for yourself.

This isn’t to suggest you let your ability to measure success (or lack thereof) drive your marketing decisions. But, you’ve got to know how you plan to track success before you begin to ensure that all your messages and calls-to-action support the goal.

You haven’t defined your target customer

Once you know what you want your customer to do and how you’re going to determine whether they did, you’ve got to be sure you’re talking to the right customers.

If you’re looking to increase repeat sales, are there customers buying more from you than others? What interests them? Similarly, if you’re looking for new customers, what attributes—behavioral, psychographic, demographic—do your recent new customers share? Are there segments that look like your best customers? Attracting tons of traffic from people who will never buy or gaining friends, fans and followers only among those who will never talk about your brand limits your long-term success. Make sure you’re talking to the right people.

You fail to focus on clear customer benefits

Every message your customer sees every day—and they see thousands—must pass through a simple filter. This filter asks one question: “What’s in it for me?” (commonly shortened to “WIIFM” and pronounced “wiffum”).

If your marketing message doesn’t answer that question for your target customer, it creates wasted impressions, clicks and visits. When Steve Jobs pulled the original iPod from his Levi’s 501’s and stated, “1,000 songs in your pocket,” everyone in the room understood what he was talking about. Immediately. And, more importantly, wanted to own an iPod.

Once you’ve defined your target customer, make sure you can articulate what folks looking for, what they care about and what about your offer is in it for them.

Waste time and money chasing each “next big thing”

Marketers and consumers often fall trap to “Ooh, Shiny… Syndrome,” where they abandon their current tools for almost anything new and shiny. Obviously, when consumers shift, marketers need to shift along with them (or, even better, just slightly ahead of them). But, you don’t want to move too fast.

Email remains the most successful tool in most marketer’s toolkits, followed by search. Last year, most Super Bowl ads directed interested customers to Facebook pages. This year, almost none did, preferring their own landing pages instead.

Your website, your email list and your search marketing still remain among the most effective ways to reach your customers. Put your focus on those first. Only then should you test the current “flavor of the month,” whatever it may be.


Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. Avoid the common mistakes of the folks who’ve gone before you and expect to see great things from your marketing going forward.

Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top