It’s more competitive out there. These days it takes every crucial detail to figure out how to leverage digital marketing strategies and implement something that can be executed seamlessly.

At this point, if you are a business owner you are aware that some level of online engagement is needed in order to attract and keep customers.

You might have even jumped in with enthusiasm and executed some techniques or strategies you heard or read about.

Or you might have resisted (and been dragged in kicking and screaming) –  your results may vary, depending on your level of knowledge and skill.

My experience of working with business owners on projects from around the world over the last 8 years, has shown that there is a gap between the understanding and execution of online marketing tools.

Strategies that worked 10 years ago don't seem to work anymore. The market is wiser and competition is fierce. Passionate business owners cannot seem to keep up with the changing trends, and money is spent on techniques that do not bring in more sales.

Not all mistakes are created equal though, some might just cause a blip on the radar, but others can be really, really EXPENSIVE.

I've noticed that these 8 mistakes below are the most expensive, and your company cannot afford to make them. Let's go through them.

For reference, here are the slides Veena and I use when we give talks on this very topic at conferences:

8 Most Expensive Online Marketing Mistakes - slides by Ewa Wysocka and Veena Sidhu

So here are the mistakes I am going to cover in this article:

1. Putting Execution Before STRATEGY
2. Building A Website Instead Of A FUNNEL
3. Asking For An Email Or Selling Too Soon
4. Doing SEO Instead Of Content Strategy
5. Poor Execution
6. Not Knowing Your Numbers
7. Failing To Integrate Paid Traffic
8. Failing To Integrate The Right Software

 MISTAKE #1: Putting Execution Before STRATEGY

I get it, if you're part of a larger marketing team, you might need to execute ASAP in order to show that you are doing stuff and things.

Big boss is looking over your shoulder! But if you are the boss, let me float this idea by you - focus on STRATEGY, and execution will follow.

NOT the other way around.

If you don't set the fundamentals of your digital strategy first; if you don't do your homework or put up some bases, you might end up paying a lot of money running an operation that will go in very different directions.

If your clients don't understand your product, you’re in trouble.

Unsure what the fundamentals are? I've listed them for you below:

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5 Fundamentals of Online Marketing Strategy

I. Do you need a digital marketing strategy right now?

Yes, ask yourself this question. Do you really need a digital marketing strategy right now? Or are you just jumping on the bandwagon because you think it's what you need?

Not every business needs a website immediately. Yes, I said it. Blasphemous, but true. Perhaps you work by word of mouth, and you need to focus on that right now.

So bottom line, do not do online marketing simply for the sake of it.

II. Know your buyer persona profiles.

"If I'm gonna advertise, let's talk to the world!" - fictional client.

Yeah, no. This is the biggest mistake you can make.

Find that one person who is your demographic, speak to them based on their age group, find out where they hang out; know who they are, and you will build traction with this one persona - the rest who have similarities will follow.

But if you talk to everybody, you dilute and/or complicate your message.

So ask yourself, who are you speaking to?

III. Know your persona AWARENESS LEVEL towards your product.

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4 Levels of Persona Awareness Towards Your Product or Service

Awareness level is how much a buyer persona understands that they need your product.

If your potential buyer is already searching for products in your category, you will use a very different message and platform to approach them; as opposed to, if they have a problem but are not aware that a product like yours exists.

In each of these situations, you will have to use different channels to reach out to your Persona.

Discovery platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube or Instagram are great for lower awareness levels, while Adwords works great for higher awareness levels.

IV. Know the SOPHISTICATION LEVEL of your market.

We tend to gloss over this one but it is just as important as the rest.

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Market Sophistication Levels

Do you know how your competition is communicating with your buyer persona?

You might know who your competition is, but are you researching how they communicate with your client? Do you look at their ads? Do you look at their content? Do you know what they are doing to get your persona's attention?

Once you know this - make sure your communication clearly differentiates your product or service.

V. What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

I'm sure most of you have heard of unique selling proposition, but how many of you actually take the time to come up with one?

For instance, let's use a meditation product as an example. It's a highly saturated market out there.

Perhaps 15 years ago you could put out a meditation CD and really stand out. Today, you will drown in all the noise.

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USP (unique selling proposition) Formula

So what's different about your meditation product? Are you using technology to aid meditation? Perhaps you're saying: "Hey, you could meditate in 60 seconds, and you'll be done".

So how are you actually setting yourself apart from everyone else out there playing in the same field?

How does your USP differentiate you from what's out in the market?

MISTAKE #2: Building A Website Instead Of A FUNNEL

I get asked to evaluate people's websites all the time. And yes, while websites are important, it's just a small piece of the puzzle. Instead, you should focus on building a funnel.

What you see below is a model of a digital sales funnel.

A funnel is the combination of different digital marketing tools and techniques that come together and create a journey for your end customer - from the moment they first see you online to the moment they're finally ready to hear your message and business pitch; and subsequently, make their first purchase and hopefully remain a customer who continues to buy from you.

Digital Sales Funnel Model

This funnel contains two layers that focuses on different elements of your strategy.

It’s almost as if it’s a puzzle you get to play with and tweak to create a system that will help sell your products online.

To begin, you need to first understand the communication flow you will use to get your message out to the world.

Funnel Layer # 1: Communication Flow

  1. Get attention
  2. Paradigm shift
  3. Offer results in advance
  4. Deliver results in advance
  5. Build trust
  6. Present the offer
  7. Overcome objections
  8. Close

Check out the 1 minute video below, where Veena and I talk about the first layer:

Funnel Layer # 1: Communication Flow

After which you have to deliver the sample and some results — and that's just the beginning!

Then you have to build trust, and perhaps only now, they're finally ready to see your offer. And you're still gonna have to close! It's a sexy little game that you need to play with care.

You always want to work on your communication first before moving on to tools and technology.

Funnel Layer # 2: Tools and Technology

  1. Ads
  2. Social Media Platforms
  3. Content forms
  4. Website sitemap
  5. Remarketing plan
  6. Automation software
  7. Email marketing

You know what you want to say. You know the steps to take to say it, but now, how do you turn this into a digital marketing conversation?

Keep in mind, in the online world you will not get the full attention span of anyone long enough to build an entire communication flow.

There are too many things competing for our attention online.

So what do you do?

Break it into smaller pieces, and execute using the right digital marketing tools. These tools are your toys and you get to play with them.

You're going to play with ads, social media platforms, content forms, websites and different landing pages. You're going to use different remarketing tools and techniques, different automation systems and email marketing.

These pieces have to be put together in the right order and merged together by someone who actually understands each of them - so you can clearly communicate the message you designed in layer one of the funnel.

MISTAKE #3: Asking For An Email Or Selling Too Soon

These days we consume much more sophisticatedly, unlike 10-15 years ago, when asking for an email you would get an email. Now people are more private with their information.

Nobody wants to just give away their email address.

So prior to driving traffic to any page – whether it’s an opt-in for emails or a sales page – give a lot of free value to your potential customer before asking for something in return (email or otherwise).

This (giving information away) is something that scares a lot of people.

"If I'm giving it away for free, why would they bother to buy?" - they ask.

But here's the thing, you must be patient, pace yourself and give away a lot of free quality content. We like to call this UNGATED CONTENT - basically, no restrictions to receiving good quality content.

So find out where your audience is hanging out. Is it Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? And through these platforms, when you know who your persona is, you can speak directly to them through these platforms.

Veena and I expand on this in the 1 minute video below. As we mention, give them free value and show them they can trust you, and soon they will be asking you to take their money:

Mistake # 3 - Asking for an email or selling too soon

Here is a sample funnel strategy from one of our projects – a subscription-based online yoga platform:

A Digital Sales Funnel for an Online Yoga Membership Platform

Our funnel begins with yoga videos posted on Facebook. Those who interact with the videos and visit the opt-in page, are presented with an offer to sign up for a free webinar.

An offer is only presented to the attendees of the webinar during the webinar (after delivering results in advance).

MISTAKE #4: Doing SEO Instead Of Content Strategy

Don't get me wrong, SEO is very important, but putting out content only positioned for search engines will definitely limit you from tapping into other resources.

Why? Take a look at this video to see what I mean:

Mistake #4 - Doing SEO Instead of Content Strategy

Because the majority of people spend more time on social media platforms than on Google Search.

If you're not building your content to suit the needs of your audience on social media - without asking for an email address, or selling; in fact, if you do not understand the needs of those on social media, you're actually wasting a lot of potential - and money.

As I mentioned above, you want to focus on the strategy of your content first. I've listed the six most powerful content types below.

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6 Most Powerful Content Types To Use In Your Digital Sales Funnel

MISTAKE #5: Poor Execution

Ok, so I've talked about the importance of strategy and how it is the lifeblood of your plan. But then again, even the best strategies fail with poor execution.

Our strategies are complex works of art (we'd like to think so anyway). Yours will be too, and you will have to use a lot of processes and tools to get this complex execution right.

Luckily, there are a lot of softwares that can help you - project management softwares, feedback softwares that enables you to put documentation in the cloud and more.

Below is a simple process you would use to design the execution process of building a funnel.

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8 Stages of Building a Digital Sales Funnel

Always start with the big picture.

Once you have a strategy, move on to mocking up some page designs, followed by writing and copywriting.

It is always helpful to have a copywriter trim and tease your words to suit your message (remember writers and copywriters are not the same thing).

Your copy/text is the most direct expression of your communication, you will want to pay attention ---> you'll want to pay attention.

Once you have these down, only then should you move on to web development and backend development.

And finally, it's time to get your marketing automation and analytics sorted leaving your paid traffic integration to the very last. This whole process might sound tedious but it is essential in order to execute well.

MISTAKE #6: Not Knowing Your Numbers

This might come off as creepy, but one of my favorite things about a digital marketing strategy is that everything is tracked.

I know where you’re hanging out because of the little pieces of data and information you leave behind. And because of this, it’s possible to measure the impact of any investment that I put into advertising.

Imagine spending all that money on ads and not knowing if it's working!

Sounds like a waste of money, but you'll be surprised just how many businesses do not know their Cost per Acquisition (CAC). If your in-house or external team is not talking numbers with you, you're working with the wrong people. Firm words, but true.

It's not just about the clicks!

Sure it's nice to see your clicks and impressions numbers rise, but at the end of the day, it's about conversions, because you are after all trying to get customers.

Conversions are trackable and will tell you exactly how much it costs to get an email address.

The second number you should be aware of is your Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)  which tells you the amount of money your end customer will spend on you (your product/service) throughout their lifetime.

Using these two numbers in a simple equation (pictured below) will give you a good ratio to strive for.

LTV vs CAC Formula

Right, this might look scary if you don't know what it’s about, but really it’s quite simple and is a good focus for your digital marketing strategy.

Breaking it down

The goal here is to acquire customers for less than three times what your customer is spending on your company.

In money terms, if you're spending $100 on the acquisition, you should be trying to get $300 back from the customer (in the course of a "lifetime'').

If you want to know more about this theory, then definitely check out the book The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow where there is a full chapter explaining this equation.

Once you know this rule, there is room to play around. The goal is to lower the CAC. You can use different digital marketing tools and techniques to lower it, but you can also work on the other side of the equation by increasing the LTV!

So much room to play here. Armed with both the CAC and LTV you'll be able to tell if your marketing efforts are working or whether or not you should change your tactics.

MISTAKE #7: Failing To Integrate Paid Traffic

Veena and I basically get two types of clients - the first is the conservative business owner who does not want to spend any money online, and the second is the business owner who wants to pump money into different online venues without thought or process.

So here's the cold hard truth - if you want to speed up your marketing process, you will have to spend money.

The good news is, there are ways to spend money on online advertising that will not bleed you dry. Facebook is a great platform for people who are coming to this playground and want quick results.

If you learn how to use traffic systems well and use tools like remarketing, you can start generating great results from the money spent on traffic (this amount does not have to be huge but it is necessary to spend).

Paid traffic is a great tool when used wisely.

MISTAKE #8: Failing To Integrate The Right Software

And finally, we come to software integration. I'll admit, at the beginning of my digital marketing journey, I was not into automation.

But in time, I learned that this is the way to go.

It saves time, money (in the long run), and raises productivity. Below are some tools that you can use for automation:

Useful Online Marketing Tools To Automate Your Digital Sales Funnel And Execute Fast

I once worked with a company that spent six months trying to build a digital quiz from scratch when there are excellent quiz softwares like Typeform available.

Six months! That is a waste of resources that could’ve been used elsewhere.

However, as with all things, there is a negative side to integration as well. Sometimes technology is not cheap, or even good.

Before you spend a whole lot of money on a piece of software, always make sure that it actually fits your needs and is well tested.

Being up-to-date with what's happening in the market, and talking & sharing with others, can help you avoid this.

As much as possible - as long as it suits your budget and needs - we suggest you find a way to make it easier and simpler for your company.

There are tools that help you build beautiful websites, automate emails, process payments, manage sales, track conversions and much more.

Look into what works for you or ask us what we use.

So now the real question is, how many of these mistakes do you think you've made in your digital marketing journey?

Take our quiz and find out. You can't fix what you don't know is broken.