Look at Me! Why Small Business Digital Marketing Fails

Muscle guy on the beach posing for a selfie for social media

Accessibility to the Internet and the perceived simplicity to market a business or product is driving me nuts. The pervasive logic amongst business owners, CEOs, and most 20 somethings is that if you have a website and a social media presence that the path to riches is only a few short steps away. Planning, A/B testing, data analysis, and content are terms and concepts that are passing thoughts by most until the ROI is in the red. Experienced digital marketers are often cast aside in lieu of the cheaper intern or nephew who is “a computer wiz” because of the lack of respect that marketing on the internet gets from just about everyone.

A great example is a past client. 7x took on a  small retailer that wanted to have an E-commerce presence but lacked the knowledge to get there themselves. I knew this would be a difficult task because of the culture and the lack of any sort of marketing savvy by the leadership team. On our first day, we were informed that a 25 year-old college student employee who believed that the “Like” button is the only analytic in the world would be handling the social media marketing for the business. This belies the underlying belief about digital marketing that anyone can do it. There had been no marketing plan written. When our team asked if he knew what is a CRM, analytics, or what social media dashboard he was going to use for his campaign, his response was; “That has nothing to do with what I am doing dude.”

This company’s social media campaigns were churning through a large number of dollars with no trackable results. There were absolutely no KPIs or even the concept of what metrics should be tracked that were associated with their attempts at marketing. The premise of “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” was being used to drive their digital marketing with no sort of data analysis to help determine any future actions. In short; the lack of professionalism was overwhelming but more importantly, their marketing effort was burning cash

The company had access potentially to great graphic assets and very good, differentiating content. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a strategic marketing plan and messaging they used the; “Man that is a cool idea!” marketing plan. Most of the content they used, whether visual or textual, said little or nothing about the company and even less about the products they were trying to sell. They fell into the trap of making their content more about the person or persons who were creating the content. In the end, they could not take themselves out of their marketing and are still spending large sums on very low and often negative ROI.

Our team is constantly fighting the “look at me” syndrome that pervades social media and content marketing within small to medium-sized companies. It takes a lot of our time convincing them that a picture of professionals like themselves engaged in a product-related activity makes prospective customers want to be like them is ludicrous. Future customers want to see people like themselves excelling with the product or service that a company offers, not an expert. This one basic tenant of marketing is ignored often in the digital world-make your product look fun, useful, and user-friendly. Small business tends to do the opposite because of hubris.

I am sure you have noticed that there no mention of blogging, fresh content, analytics, paid ads, or SEO in the example above. These most vital elements of digital marketing were being handled by the company’s contracted IT/ web developer guy who maintained the business website as a side job while working literally out of his own garage. These proverbial “Bro Deal” services usually deliver results proportional to how much they are paid and usually cost a great deal to rectify in the end. This is due to a lack of expertise and pure ignorance about how professional digital marketing and branding is done. The only thing that was attempted by the team at this company from our plan was one blog post that was exceptional in how poorly conceived and written it was, keyword stuffing being the most visible no-no of the numerous ones that were committed.

My example shows why most marketing campaigns fail. The view that anyone can do it and that everyone in the business will participate in the company’s social media strategy dooms many digital marketing campaigns to failure before the first selfie to social media can be posted. There are no do-overs on the web because of the damage that can be done to a brand by an incoherent and self-absorbed marketing strategy. Once bad content, whether written or visual is delivered it is out there. This is why small businesses with limited customers and clients must be more insightful and intelligent in their implementation of any marketing plan, particularly digitally-driven ones. Customer alienation and negative branding from social media marketing and other digital marketing campaigns are two of the biggest reasons many small businesses fail to compete in the digital world today.

Author: Sean Johnson

Sean Johnson is the founder of 7x Strategy•Tactical.