Why your business needs digital marketing

Before launching in to the 7 reasons your digital marketing isn’t working, let’s take a quick step back and remember why your business needs digital marketing.

Having had an interest in digital marketing since the early 2000s (soon after Google Adwords was launched), I’ve seen a lot happen.

Fads have come and gone. Technology has completely transformed the way digital marketing works.

It’s more powerful.

And more complicated.

But also the technology makes some things much simpler and more accessible.

Getting started is easy. Mastering it is hard.

As someone running their own business, you can be forgiven for not understanding all the technical complexities – that’s not your role!

But there are some things you do need to understand. You can forget most of the technical detail.

What you do need to focus on are the fundamental principles of digital marketing and how to turn a digital browser into a digital customer.

And to do that profitably.

That is the revolutionary thing about digital marketing. It used to be said that 50% of all advertising is wasted, but you don’t know which half. Now you can know that – and know it at a granular level.

Of course digital marketing is important for your business because the world is moving online, but as a business reason “everyone else is doing it” completely misses the point!

You need to do it because of the control, insights and discipline that it gives you.

Instead of marketing being a mystical activity with nebulous outcomes, digital marketing becomes a profitable system for creating customers!

Digital marketing without the jargon

This article is designed for you, the business owner, to walk you through the sorts of things that I’ve seen people doing when their digital marketing isn’t working.

This isn’t a technical article. There are lots of technical things about SEO, CPC, ROAS, DMARC and SPF that you may stumble across at some point, but let’s put all these aside and look at this from a business objectives perspective.

With that in mind, let’s get back to the 7 reasons your digital marketing isn’t working – they are the common mistakes I see when working with small business owners.

These are some of the key high level reasons your digital marketing isn’t working.

Reason 1 - Most of your traffic goes to your confusing Homepage

As you know, your website’s main front page is called a homepage. It is by definition a general entry point. It is trying to do too many things at once to be able to do any one of them effectively.

So investing time, money and effort in driving people to your generic homepage probably isn’t a good use of resources. There are probably lots of things to say to several different groups and your homepage may be the place to say it.

Not everyone needs to arrive through the front door. Instead you can have lots of doors – which we call landing pages – for different people to arrive through.

You’re trying to make each person feel at home as quickly as possible. You can have as many entrances as you like – so why push everyone through the one entrance that doesn’t suit anyone?


  • Review your homepage – what impression will your intended customers get?
  • What other entry points / landing pages do you have – what would be more appropriate for your intended customers?

Reason 2 - You’re not clear about the purpose of each Landing Page

This point follows on naturally from the first point.

You need to have some landing pages that aren’t your homepage. A landing page is simply the page that a visitor lands on first. Getting this wrong is a major problem and could be the key reason that your digital marketing isn’t working.

Let’s assume that you’ve got some landing pages set up for each of your different customer segments. (Customer segments is a whole other issue which we haven’t got time to go into here!)

The next question arises – what is each landing page for? There needs to be a clear purpose for it. As a result of them arriving on your landing page, what do you want them to do?

Now of course people are people and will do what they want, but if you are not clear on what you want them to do, how can you design your landing page to encourage them to do it? If you are confused about the purpose of your landing page – how do you think they will feel?!

You’ve done a great job creating a landing page which is separate from your confusing homepage. Now you must make sure it’s not confusing! It must be clear and focused.


  • Look at each of your landing pages – what is their intended purpose?
  • Is their intended purpose clearly reflected in the landing page text, images, design etc – or are they just as confusing as your homepage?!

Reason 3 - There isn't just one Simple Next Action they need to take

So you have your landing pages set up with a clear purpose and the landing page reflects that purpose. Well done!

So what next? You then need to give them one Simple Next Action to take. It has to be easy and logical. It needs to flow naturally from everything on your landing page.

Let’s just unpack this:

Give them one action to take:

There is no point in giving them a whole menu of options. This then replicates the errors of the confusing homepage.

You are probably now competing for their time and attention as they scroll through your page on their mobile phone.

It’s best to assume they don’t have time to think.

Giving them choices about something they don’t fully understand isn’t particularly helpful to them.

They don’t know what’s coming next, so you need to lead them through it.

Your landing page should be encouraging them to take ONE action and your landing page should be making it clear to them why that action is a good one for them to take now.

They must be able to answer the “what’s in it for me” question before clicking.

Make the action simple:

The action that you want them to take really needs to be simple, quick and easy.

The simplest instruction on any website has traditionally been to “click here”. Couldn’t be simpler – but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.

It could be that they need to fill in a form. Typically, a name and email address and then click a button that says “submit” or “subscribe”.

The point is that the action should be as simple as you can make it in order to achieve the intended purpose of your landing page.

This might mean completing a long form with many questions. Why? Well the result will be that only a few people will complete the form but they will be highly committed.

So your intended purpose for the page will help determine the level of simplicity or complexity of the action you want them to take.

It’s the Next action:

The landing page should ideally just nudge them one step along the process.

If you can make each step a small one, there will be less resistance to taking each step.

Clicking on a button that says “Learn More” is much easier for someone to commit to than “Buy Now”.

So the next action you want them to take implies that there are actually a series of actions that you want them to take from arriving on your website to making a purchase.

Having the right number of steps for your business is important.

Too many small steps and people lose momentum and never make a purchase.

Too few steps each of which are a bit too big, just means that only the most committed will make them.

What’s important though is to have a plausible sequence of steps that someone needs to go through to become a customer and then encourage them to take one step at a time.

Include a Call To Action

To encourage them to take each simple next step, you need to have a clear “Call To Action”.

This could be as simple a button saying “click here”! (Although there are many more relevant and effective calls to action than that, but you get the idea. Designing a good call to action is whole other topic!)

Your landing page should really just have one intended “Simple Next Action” which is encouraged by one clear “Call To Action”.


  • Look at each of your landing pages – do you have one obvious call to action on each one?
  • Is it simple enough for them to take and does it move them along the pathway journey that you want them to follow?

Reason 4 - You haven't got a defined Digital Customer Journey

This point follows on from the previous point. If you have a Simple Next Action, it needs to be part of a defined sequence that takes the person on a journey.

It’s a journey of exploration, education and understanding.

Your digital marketing activities need to facilitate that journey.

But you need to define that journey first.

You may well understand the journey already – it’s what your customer in real life do. You just need to convert that into the digital space.

Understand their internal journey

They may be going on a digital journey through your online pathway, but they are also going on an internal Psychological Journey.

But how can you become a mind-reader?

You don’t have to – you can see it in their Keyword Journey.

If you look at the search terms that people type into Google, they represent what is going on inside the head of the searcher. The intent of the search is (mostly) clear from the words they use.

The intent of the searcher reflects the psychological stage of the journey that they are on.

If this is news to you, then this could open up a whole new dimension of insight for your digital marketing!

Imagine being able to read the minds of the people coming to your business – wouldn’t that be amazing?

No more guesswork.

Understanding the intent behind their search terms and their stage of the psychological journey isn’t quite reading their mind – but it might be the next best thing!

If you’re not excited by that, then I’m not sure you’ll ever be excited by digital marketing!


  • Have you got a Digital Customer Journey mapped out that will achieve your business objectives?
  • Look at your landing pages – how could you improve them to help move people through that journey?

The implications of all this are profound for your business. Let’s see mistake number 5…

Reason 5 - Your messages aren't aimed at the right part of the Buying Cycle

If you don’t understand the Digital Customer Journey, and, in particular, the Psychological Journey and the Keyword Journey, then you cannot confidently create the right messages to connect with them at the right time.

Understanding the Digital Customer Journey means that you can tailor the right messages to the right people at the right time.

There is no point in trying to sell a particular make and model of a product to a consumer that doesn’t understand what the basic model does.

Let’s illustrate with an example.

There’s no point in trying to sell an expensive bag-less vacuum cleaner to someone that has never seen any vacuum cleaner before.

They don’t know that bags are inconvenient and inefficient – they’ve never encountered the concept before!  They are just looking at this miracle machine that can suck up household dust in seconds and save themselves huge amounts of time and effort.

A cheap vacuum cleaner will be fine for them, just as it was fine for most people for decades until the bag-less vacuum cleaner arrived on the scene.

So when someone arrives on your website for the first time, they don’t know who you are, what you do and whether they can trust you.

Create purposeful key messages

You need to give them the right messages, either explicitly or implicitly, which show that you:

  • are trustworthy and knowledgeable
  • understand their problems and what they are looking for
  • and that you have some solutions worth looking at.

So going back to our vacuum cleaner example, you may need to start off by explaining what vacuum cleaners do.

This is the education phase.

You need to check what problems they have and whether they’ve fully recognised those problems.

You need to increase their awareness of these issues so that they recognise that they have a need.

The next stage is to help them look at solutions and which one might be right for them.

Finally, you offer them the specific product or service that will meet their needs and explain why they should buy it from you.

The intention, tone and content of your messages needs to match where they are in the buying cycle, i.e. where they are in the Digital Customer Journey.

One key mistake is trying to sell too early, when they don’t know you, don’t understand the solution and didn’t even know they had a problem!

But of course, you need to make sure you are trying to make sales to the right people in the first place. Which brings us on to reason number 6.


  • List out the main steps in your buying cycle – have you got some messages that are relevant to each step?
  • List out your messages – review how they are being put in front of people at the moment – how could you improve the relevance of the messages at each stage of the buying cycle?

Reason 6 - Your messages aren't aimed at the Right People

There is no point in having a well-formed Digital Customer Journey and highly optimised landing pages that convert well, full of compelling messages, if you then put those compelling messages in front of the wrong people!

It has never been a good business policy to try and sell to “everyone”.

In the real world this just results in no interest.

In the digital world this results in more cost, a damaged online reputation and no interest!

Getting the audience right for your messages is more important than ever!

It’s also easier than ever, if you know the right approach.

You need to do three things:

  • Define your ideal customer
  • Choose the digital channel to approach them through
  • Translate your ideal customer into an audience on that channel

Define your ideal customer

So, firstly you need to define, as best you can, who your target audience is, who your ideal customer is.

You’ll already have done much of this as part of defining your Digital Customer Journey. You understand the changing psychological journey and the buying cycle.

Now you need to look at these people through a different lens.

You need to look at it through the lens of the channel that you are targeting. To do that you need to choose a channel – this is the second step.

Choose the digital channel

Why is this important?

Gone are the days when everyone used one search engine. The online audience is now fragmented.

Now people spend their time on multiple channels, not just search, but social media as well.

For digital marketing purposes, a channel is the route to finding your ideal customer. This could include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat… the list goes on!

This is a critical choice. You need to go where they are.

There is no point in trying to be everywhere as it’s too complex, costly and time-consuming for most small businesses. Two or three channels are more than enough to handle for most small businesses.

So a B2B business is probably looking at Google and LinkedIn, plus another depending upon the business.

Whilst a B2C business is probably looking at something like Google and Facebook, plus another depending upon the business.

Those choices might look reasonably obvious – but it’s not always obvious which channels will be best for your business.

Get the choice wrong and you are saying the wrong things in the wrong place.

Create an audience

Thirdly, once you’ve identified your customer and chosen the right channel(s), you can then select an audience on that channel.

This has become more critical in recent years.

You need to match your message with the audience in a way that works with the culture of that platform.

Fortunately the tools to enable you to do this have multiplied in complexity and power.

Facebook has a highly developed ability to define and select an audience.

Think of it as a huge database of people with all sorts of facts, interests and behaviours about them.

All you need to do is select the facts, interests and behaviours that most closely match your ideal customer and you’ve got your target audience. It’s as simple and as complicated as that!!

Creating a relevant audience is critical if you are to make your digital marketing efficient and effective.

But you won’t get it right first time.

You need to it and then refine it, which brings me on to reason 7.


  • Review your choice of channels – are you on the right ones for your target audience? How do you know?
  • Which channels should you prioritise – and are there any that you should withdraw from to avoid being over-stretched?

Reason 7 - You're not measuring, so you’re not improving

Originally an accountant by profession, I saw marketing expenditure with little obvious return. Maybe it was good value – maybe not.

There wasn’t really the data to assess it.

Digital marketing has changed all that.

It produces overwhelming amounts of data! The accountant part of me loves that!

Now you can tell what activity is profitable and what is not.

You can then refine it and improve.

Review your digital marketing data

Many business owners shy away from the data. A sea of numbers can be difficult to comprehend.

Taking the right lessons from them is another skill.

Yet this is so important that I’ve identified taking an analytical approach is one of the three skills needed in digital marketing.

In many ways the data is the whole point of digital marketing! There’s no more guesswork required.

The data tells you what’s working – so do more of that.

The data tells you what’s not working – so do less of that.

Then – and this is the genius of it – redeploy the resource from the activities that were not working to the activities that you know are working and you compound your positive returns.

The different platforms are so sophisticated that they let you have your best guess and then they test if for you! They do the refining for you.

It’s basically a big experiment – but if you don’t look at the results of the experiment and act accordingly then you’re missing the point.

It’s a mistake I see business owners make over and over again.

Partly it’s because there is so much data that it’s overwhelming. So they stop looking.

They don’t log in to Google Analytics, or they receive a report they don’t understand and so shelve it.

Or they spend some money on advertising but do the simplest thing because anything else looks too complicated.

Or they outsource their SEO but what the people are doing for their monthly fee is a complete mystery – the business owner just knows that they shouldn’t stop!

In short, they can’t correlate their digital marketing activity with any tangible results, so they don’t know whether to expand or stop.

Define your digital marketing objectives

You need to start in a different place!

Decide what business objective your digital marketing activity is meant to achieve, identify what indicators you need to decide if it’s working or not, then look for those indicators in the data at appropriate intervals.

Then when you’ve got your answer you can ignore the rest of the data (or scan through it just to confirm there’s no hidden surprises).

If those indicators don’t give you the answer then you can dig further into the data – or run another experiment.

Business owners say that they tried a bit of advertising but it was too expensive. That may be true, but it may also be that they didn’t do enough experiments and get enough data to make it work for them. They never got out of the learning curve to performing.

What is certain is that if you don’t measure things and don’t look at the data, you’ll never improve and your business will under-perform.


  • Schedule some time to look at your data in depth. What is it telling you? What should you do as a result?
  • List out your digital marketing activities – what indicators will tell you whether it’s working well or not? Have you got that data?


So there we are, 7 possible reasons why your digital marketing isn’t working.

These are really all business reasons. These are not issues to be pushed off to a marketing expert, but issues for you to grapple with as the business owner.

There’s no magical insider digital marketing knowledge needed.

You are simply looking at it as a means of creating customers repeatedly in a cost-effective way.

Digital marketing often doesn’t work because it’s lots of unfocused activity for the sake of it, with no design and no plan. Often the thinking is all tactical rather than strategic. Reactive rather than proactive.

Instead, digital marketing can be thought of as system with a business objective.

If you treat it like that and look at it holistically and strategically you will stand a much better chance of making it work for your business.

You will find out whether your marketing is a wise investment of a useless cost.

You will then be able to identify what is working and what isn’t and act accordingly.

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