Avoid Making These 3 Digital Marketing Mistakes7 min read
“It’s just like fishing,” John Neal Jr. responds when asked what lessons he’s learned while managing digital marketing as Vice President at Neal’s Furniture. “First, you need to fish where the fish are at. The right location goes a long way, whether that is a physical location or digital,” he says. “Our current [digital advertising] preferences are Google Ads, re-targeting, social media and mobile club.”
“Second, you need the right bait or incentives. Don’t be like everyone else. Keep it fresh and you’ll get more bites,” Neal Jr. says. “Third and final is catch and release. You will want to catch them again, and they usually get bigger! Treat your customers well, and they will become repeat customers.”
That valid advice applies whether you’re selling furniture, a car or an apartment community. Despite being a small-town fish in a big pond of corporate home furnishing retailers and e-commerce websites, Neal’s Furniture in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, continues to advance the store’s digital marketing strategy and improve the customer experience by investing in technology, such as a CRM database, marketing automation and text communication. Innovation keeps their stringer full of online leads and helps them reel in more showroom sales.
To bring you this blog series on how to better manage your company’s digital marketing over the past couple of months, I talked to business execs, website whizzes and marketing gurus working in various consumer industries. For our last post, I asked my sources what digital marketing lessons they’ve learned through trial and error or mistakes they commonly see other business owners make.
Everyone makes bad decisions on occasion, especially in a field like digital marketing where tools and trends rapidly change. Oftentimes, when you fix one problem in your digital marketing strategy it inadvertently exacerbates other pain points that perhaps you didn’t know existed. Learn these three valuable lessons from other businesses, so you don’t suffer through the same mistakes.
1. Back to Basics: Work on Your Website and Lead Process
Before spending more money on digital advertising, closely evaluate the performance of your current website platform and lead management process. It may be a better investment to improve the website infrastructure with AI-driven solutions that deliver a more cohesive, personalized online shopping experience, and possibly add more manpower to more effectively handle the leads you’re already getting.
“Look at your website — start there,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager at The Great American Home Store, a furniture and mattress retailer headquartered in Memphis. “Before you even think of getting more traffic, ask yourself: what do you do with the traffic you get now?”
He advises companies to focus on the sales funnel and website first, identifying whether there’s any step in the buying process that makes the customers go out of their way to obtain the information they want and seeing what specific problems they’re encountering. That way you can make fundamental changes to how you’re nurturing leads.
“If your sales process is suboptimal or broken, invest your money there,” Bowen says. “Focus on your sales funnel and website first. We’ve made that mistake and see others make it all of the time.”
2. Plan Out New Business Processes
Once your website produces solid traffic-to-lead rates and meets lead-to-conversion goals you’ve set based on a benchmark, then it’s time to branch out and try new digital marketing avenues.
Gene B. Glick Company, which manages apartment communities across the eastern half of the U.S., added AI-driven website engagement software to 20 of its multifamily property sites. By delivering prospective renters with a personalized online experience and capturing details on what’s most important to them, the Glick leasing teams book more online appointments than ever before and convert more online leads, making the property websites their No. 1 leasing tool.
The tour scheduling tool drives hundreds of online leads for Glick each month. “We’ve found the appointment setting feature to be excellent,” says Jenny Richard, Glick’s Director of Marketing. “It provides the customer the best opportunity to immediately schedule their tour of the community while finishing up their research on our property website.”
Given the success of the online tool, Glick’s marketing and management teams had to work quickly to bring the onsite leasing specialists up to speed on how to handle this new incoming lead process. They discovered communication gaps and adjusted operational processes like staggering lunches to cover the live tour schedule updated in real time. Leasing team members who previously set all appointments on their calendars manually were sometimes caught unaware of a tour scheduled online and there was occasionally a time lag when following up with an online prospect to confirm an appointment.
“It is essential to formulate a great plan with your onsite team members to help them adapt to new ways of getting customer information and foster good communication,” Richard says. “Making a few adjustments to the way we received notifications for new appointments, providing clear messaging to the customer regarding confirmation of appointment, and educating our teams to ensure the best first impression when guests arrive at our communities has proven to be very successful.”
3. Try New Digital Marketing Strategies, But Stay True to Your Strengths
The rapid evolution of new digital marketing technologies and lead generation tools presents businesses with more opportunity than ever to attract and convert more online leads, but it’s a mistake to change too many things at once.
“Rather than try to diversify and be everywhere at once with minimal involvement, pick one or two platforms you can really develop out,” Bowen says. “Focus on what your company does well. People start to lose focus on what you’re doing for the customer every day. We’ve been guilty of this. We lost sight of who we are, who we are doing it for. When we recentered on that, it helped put into focus our strengths. We have a lot of advantages over e-commerce giants and competitors — a lot we can lean into and put more effort into.”
Bowen points out that if any team in your company needs to fully understand your customer better than anyone, why you’re different and why you’re good at what you do, it’s your digital team. “Put processes in place that play to your strengths,” Bowen says. “Make investments into solving customers’ problems.That will pay off more than anything else.”
While trying every new trending digital marketing tactic can cause problems for your business, so can never trying anything new or giving up on new digital efforts too early. All of the marketing experts I talked to agree: finding the right online marketing strategy requires some experimenting and patience.
There’s typically a ramp-up period with digital, so results may start off slow but you need to give it enough time to take hold before making any long-term decisions on a solution’s effectiveness. On the flip side, set a testing time frame and specific benchmarks beforehand to know when a new technology isn’t measuring up to your goals or giving you the ROI promised.
Sometimes, fishing requires staying incredibly still and quiet as you patiently wait for a bite. After a while, if you’re not attracting the fish you want for dinner, you might switch bobbers, type of hook, or tweak the weight on the line to fish a little deeper. You only focus on catching the right size and species on the menu, and throw back fish that need more time to grow or aren’t a good fit for what you’re serving.
“Stay uncomfortable. Try new things,” says Neal Jr. “Keep the ones that work and drop the ones that don’t.”
Spoken like a true fisherman, and an experienced marketer.
3 Digital Marketing Guidelines
Business leaders often get too focused on website traffic statistics or obsessed with trying every trending digital marketing tactic. Here are 3 basic rules to guide your decision making when trying to improve your company’s digital marketing results:
- Don’t be afraid to try new technology, like artificial intelligence or a digital marketing cloud.
- Don’t give up too early on new digital marketing efforts.
- Don’t change too many things at once, or lose sight of your strengths.