Digital Marketing Strategy Development: 12 Common Problems


Marketing looks very different now than it did as few as five years ago.  And yet most still approach developing strategies from the viewpoints they always knew.  They develop for push, when in reality pull strategies are more effective and even scalable.

Approaches designed to take advantage of a connected society have allowed some brands and personalities to achieve strong growth.   However there exists a deeper problem:  literally every marketing and communications company/consultant claims to be able to produce digital marketing results.  And very few actually succeed.  Why?

  • Companies fail because they aren’t patient enough to put in the effort to see results – let alone increasing returns.
  • Strategists/consultants fail because they misunderstand their audience, continue to vest efforts in the wrong areas and get things wrong from a lack of experience.
  • Pull activates others organically, which of course cedes control.  People on all sides continue to fear and misunderstand this.
  • Insane approval processes created by corporations unable to adapt to changing times live on.  Companies are in many cases their own largest barrier to success.
  • Ideas that don’t pass the “so what” test continue to be pushed forward by both executives and consultants who think in patterns no longer applicable.

OK – those are pretty general.  What are some of the specific problems I see most?

1.  Lack of understanding what image they are trying to project

You need to understand this from the start and have a style behind the image, along with substance to back it up.  It also needs to resonate with key audiences.  Most are not consciously sculpting how they are perceived or creating any reason they should get noticed in the first place.

2.  No path to acquire and grow an audience

It’s not enough to figure out ways to gain attention from random people for fleeting moments.  You need to find a way to market to target groups consistently over time.  And the tactics used should be compelling enough not just to attract an audience, but inspire the audience to grow itself.

3.  No cohesion of content

Lack of consistent voice/personality behind content will never allow you to build cohesion and have your ideas/perspective reach critical mass.  You need this in order to condition others to share your ideas.

4.  Placating executives by executing their bad ideas

If this is happening to you – stop, now.  No one wins when you’re creating things merely because someone up top is forcing down a one off idea here-and-there they feel might work (especially if they have limited  experience with digital marketing).  If it doesn’t play into the strategy, it doesn’t matter who it comes from.  If you see this happening put a stop to it.  No one wins when resources are drawn away from a winning path to placate bad ideas of the king.  If the emperor has no clothes, say it – if you’re that valued you’ll be respected for it.

5.  Having to dumb things things down for the team

If you have to consistently do this, you need a new team.  There are far too many others fluent enough in modern marketing strategies, it’s unnecessary to waste time doing this.  If you have to dial down ideas for internal comprehension, it means your competition is already running circles around you.

6.  Living and dying by data

I’ve had more than enough ideas be successful without data behind them to know that you don’t always need it.  In fact, if you develop an area where your team is free to experiment, you may find the results there to be even more effective than if your decisions are driven purely by data and not creativity.  Let data guide your decisions and create a framework but never let it get in the way of a great idea by someone, especially if that person is tapped into the niche/market base.

7.  Trying to reach the wrong group

You want to reach a certain group – great.  But in some cases (mostly B2B, but some B2C) the group you want to influence is too shielded to reach in any kind of efficient way.  There is another path.  Find a different audience that is more accessible and a proxy to your target.  Going through them may be more effective and forge greater trust than trying to reach the end target directly.

8.  Misunderstanding the importance of content

It kills me to see companies removing perfectly good/resourceful content from their web properties that has attracted links, buzz and attention in the past.  Yet it happens daily.  So many businesses don’t understand the importance of organically growing out digital archives of content over time – it benefits both search and social.  Additionally, looking at the content produced by most, the first thing I notice is a lack of fresh thinking.  This shows the value of content is underestimated or misunderstood.

9.  No plan to actually reach anyone in the first place

If you built it, they will come is a flawed approach to marketing.  And yet I still see examples of this frequently.  If you don’t have a consistent plan to reach people and tactics to execute on this daily how do you expect to be found?

10.  No difference from others

The importance of accentuating your differentiation point can’t be overstated.  Uncover something to stand out and then don’t be afraid to drive that point home consistently.  Building a brand is tough, but you make it impossible if you can’t be different enough to get tagged to something that is all your own.

11.  No forming of relationships/alliances

Digital alliances are an underused element in marketing.  So many opportunities to work and grow together remain untapped.  Bring alliances/relationships into your strategy – especially if you’re small and agile – and you can encourage mutual growth.

12.  Lack of influencers on your team

There is an inequality of influence on the web held by a minority.  To ignore this divide in digital influence is like sticking your head in the sand.  You need influencers on your team, they have their finger on the pulse of web culture/trends and will be able to position you as appealing to others.

This is a shortlist of problems companies/agencies face and definitely not inclusive.  What else do you notice?

image credit: Ladman via Shutterstock