Why Your Digital Ad Strategy is Failing

Abel Nunez Digital Strategies Leave a Comment

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If you’re investing in any type of digital advertising, whether it’s social media, display ads, Pay-Per-Click, geofencing, retargeting, etc., and you’re not seeing a return on your ad spend there may be some obvious reasons as to why your ad strategy is failing. Well, I say obvious, but unless you understand when and how to utilize the different tactics then it won’t be so obvious – and that’s a problem in and of itself. I usually find that having a lack of a coherent strategy is the number one reason any ad strategy fails, so let’s start there.

No Goals, No Strategy, No Results

This may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at what some people consider to be an actual strategy. Let’s back up a sec, you don’t begin with a strategy. You start with a goal, or a set of goals, then develop a strategy to reach those goals. A strategy is then achieved through a series of measurable steps called objectives and tactics are tools used to pursue objectives. Let’s see this in a list format that begins with the end in mind, we’ll use the “Intel Inside” Campaign as an example:

  • Goal, a primary outcome- Example: Make our core PC microprocessors a category leader in sales revenue by year X
  • Strategy, a plan to achieve a goal- Example: Persuade buyers that our Core processors are the best on the market by associating with large, well-established PC manufacturers
  • Objective, a measurable step – Example: Retain 70% or more of the active, worldwide PC microprocessor market according to Passmark’s CPU benchmark report
  • Tactics, tools used to purse objectives- Example: Through creative that underlies our messaging, leverage hardware partner brand awareness to include key messages about the Intel Inside program
Intel Inside Ad Example

I’ve just given you a real-world example of a well thought out campaign, one that I’m sure you’ve heard of or have seen in action with your own eyes. Next time you have someone pitching you on the latest technology tactics – whether it’s addressable geofencing, retargeting or remarketing, display advertising, etc., make sure it contributes to a measurable objective that will, in turn, help you achieve your goals and strategies. Most importantly, make sure you have specific goals in mind that will ultimately contribute to your bottom line, market share, brand recognition, etc.

You’re Looking at the Wrong Data

Yup, you’re looking at the wrong data.

For example – one thing I see too often is an agency, a salesperson or a freelance marketer trying to justify the lack of return on the ad spend through redirection. What I mean by that is they use a tactic used by magicians- they redirect your attention – and get you to focus on website traffic and click-through rates as proof that the campaign was successful. The problem with that is that it’s the wrong data to be focusing on. They can be driving all the traffic in the world to your site but that doesn’t mean it was quality traffic or that those website visits turned into sales.

If you’re betting on a display ad campaign alone to drive traffic to your site and generate leads, you’re using the wrong tactic. While you may be sold on the fact that you’ll get hundreds of thousands of impressions in front of a hyper-targeted audience, display ad campaigns are generally used for brand awareness and have a notoriously low click-through rate (between 0.12 – 0.36% is industry average).

Also, website traffic alone doesn’t mean squat if your website bounce rate is above average and your site visitors aren’t spending enough time on your site to convert into qualified leads. You say you drove 14,000 new visitors to your site last month? Cool, how long did they stay and how many converted into sales?

The data that does matter is the one that shows how well a campaign performed towards your overall goal. If you’re looking to increase sales then the data must focus on lead generation and conversion and, when measuring conversions, don’t forget to account for offline conversions as well. Offline conversions are sales that began online, either they simply saw an ad or clicked on an ad but the sale was completed by an offline event like walking into your shop.

You’re Mesmerized by the Technology

What if I told you there was a technology (there is) that could identify anonymous visitors coming to your website by name, email, phone number, and physical address? Or that you could place an invisible, digital fence around all of your competitors so that you can send digital ads to the phones of people visiting their shops? Or that you could target your audience by IP Address? Or place your ad on streaming services like Hulu, Pandora or Spotify? The opportunities to reach your target audience would be almost endless – right?

Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. But, there’s more to it than just that… and there are so many questions!

I mean, once you identify your website traffic – how would you handle the data? What will you do with it? How will you use it to your advantage? What does the law say about identifying, handling and storing Personally Identifiable Information? How many of them are in-market for your goods and services?

How much foot traffic are you going to be capturing by geofencing your competitors? How much of that traffic is relevant? How many of them are in-market for your goods and services?

If you target by addressable IP address – how do you know you’re showing the ads to the right people in the household? How many of them are in-market for your goods and services?

Using streaming services sounds great – but what’s the reach in your geographical area? How many folks are streaming those services? How many of those that are streaming are paying to skip ads? How many of them are in-market for your goods and services?

Once you have answers to those questions, the next obvious two-part question is – how do you find the ones that are in-market and get them to convert into sales?

Are you using call-only PPC ads? Are you setting up a lead generation funnel with email sequences? Do you want them to download an e-book or watch a video? How do you entice a site visitor enough to want to fill out a form? Are you doing A/B testing?

Technology is cool, but there must be a reason for it. You must understand how it works and fits into the overall strategy, and finally, it should help you meet measurable objectives.

You’re Putting the Cart Before the Horse…

When I was in college I would get in trouble with my marketing professors for dreaming up the creative elements for a campaign before I knew what the strategy or marketing message was.

Classic. Rookie. Mistake.

I’ll give you an example of how my creative genius was 99% creative, less than 1% genius.

For our core class (the last class you must take to graduate) we were tasked with a real-world project. State Farm was looking to create a campaign to target college-age kids to sell them renter’s insurance. I had a Don Draper moment and knew right away what the creative should look, sound like and where we would be focusing the majority of the ad budget. I had it all figured out, it was an easy sell… or so I thought.

The problem is that most college kids don’t have the money to be able to afford something as *ahem* affordable as renter’s insurance – which means they weren’t the primary target audience. Guess who is the primary target audience? The folks with the money. The ones buying the laptops and helping pay for tuition or books or both. The living, breathing, walking ATM’s a.k.a. “Mom & Dad”.

Had we gone with my idea, we would’ve blown the budget.

Moral of the story – know your goals, develop a strategy, create a marketing message – but most importantly, know your audience and have a clear understanding of what will appeal to them before you launch your next campaign.

You’re Not Testing Enough

There’s a saying that goes something like, “There’s no such thing as expert marketers, just expert testers.” It’s true. Marketing is about researching and testing. Then testing some more. And more and… more.

If you’ve ever run a successful PPC Campaign you did it by doing one of two things:

  1. You Got Lucky
  2. You Tested Several Ads & Optimized the Hell Out of Them
I have not failed 10,000 times…

Optimizing your ads and landing page headlines, copy, calls to action, imagery, color scheme takes skill and time. But this doesn’t simply apply to digital ads, this applies to traditional ads as well.

Are you running a TV ad that isn’t making the phone ring? Optimize it by changing the message, changing the scenes, changing the audio… and running it again.

Running Facebook or Digital Ads that aren’t converting? Optimize them… then run them again.

Upset that you spent all your marketing budget and didn’t see an increase in sales? You should because you probably used the same ad over and over again hoping for different results.

Marketing isn’t about gimmicks, magic or luck. It’s in science. And while some scientists have a “Eureka!” moment once in a while, they still rely on data and testing.

Thomas Edison is attributed to a quote that says something like, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” This couldn’t be truer when it comes to marketing. You gotta test until you figure out what is gonna resonate with your audience and get them to convert.

You’re Marketing Message Sucks…

Yup. How memorable is your messaging? Is it, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance,” memorable? Or is it as memorable as the thousands of knock-off taglines inspired by the “Got Milk” campaign?

Messaging matters just as much as having a Unique Selling Proposition matters – you don’t just want your tagline or messaging to be memorable, you want people to understand what makes you different and why they should do business with you – and you want them to remember that.

Beyond having a memorable tagline, your messaging should match across your digital ads, landing pages, website, radio, TV, billboard, and print ads as well. Want a perfect example of someone who has a consistent, kick-ass message? Just look at Geico. Aside from having a memorable tag line, they also use a “Gecko” as their mascot, which kinda sounds and looks like “Geico” – the use of words that look and sound similar is a great tactic used in brand recall. Why do you think the “CarFax” mascot is a “Car Fox”?

I can’t remember if the use of words that look and sound similar are called homographs, homonyms, homophones or heteronyms… I guess we’ll have to write a whole new blog on that topic.

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