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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

The 5 Most Costly Digital Marketing Mistakes Startups Should Avoid

Updated: Jan 25

For startups these days—there are plenty of avenues that could lead to prosperity. However, in order to arrive at any of those avenues—every startup will eventually have to hop on the highway known as digital marketing.

Sure, there have been plenty of unicorn startups that have come out of Silicon Valley that did things their own way. But even the biggest, brightest, most toughest of unicorns has had to inevitably embrace digital marketing in one way or another in order to scale.

The reason why digital marketing is so imperative for every business—especially startups, is due to the fact that it’s the best medium for businesses to reach their target audience where the vast majority of their time and attention is focused nowadays—which is online.

And while digital marketing is definitely a 'pro,' that could be beneficial towards the advancement of a business—there's also a handful of digital marketing 'cons,' which come in the form of mistakes that have cost startups thousands—even millions of dollars.

To avoid those costly digital marketing cons—make sure that your startup doesn't make the following five mistakes.

1. Placing ads on the wrong websites

Have you ever driven to a store to purchase an item—only to arrive at the store and find out that the item that you drove there to purchase wasn’t only not in stock—even worse, the store never even carried the item at all?

Well, that’s sort of what happens when a business places digital advertisements on websites in which its ideal audience isn’t located. But instead of wasting time and gas searching for an item that a store never had—a business loses cash by placing ads on a website to appeal to a target audience that isn’t there, and possibly never will be.

Unfortunately, this is a very common mistake that many startups make by taking the mass marketing approach when it comes to digital marketing. Often with the intent of introducing their brand and its offers to as many people as possible at once.

For example:

Let’s say that you owned a company that rented high-performance motorized scooters to high school and college students via your website.

Your CMO decided to purchase $2,500 worth of ads on Facebook targeting 15-25-year-olds that’ll run for three weeks. After the last week of your Facebook ad campaign, you realize that your ads have not resonated at all with your audience. You tell a colleague about your problem, and she tells you that your target demographic is now on TikTok, and no longer frequents Facebook.

You quickly realize that you’ve just wasted $2,500 of your startup's precious marketing budget advertising on a website in which your ideal audience isn’t present.

Instead, it would've been far more cost-efficient, and therefore—beneficial, to take an alternative approach—which is programmatic advertising based on personalization.

By purchasing programmatic banner ads based on audience insights—you could target your audience via the multitude of websites they actually frequent based on consumer data and insights. That way, you could effectively introduce your brand to your audience with alluring offers that’ll lead them directly to your website’s landing page.

2. Non-permissive interruptions

They’ve been around since the world wide web first became accessible to everyone. Most people that browse the internet find them pesky, annoying, and intrusive. So much so, that many people purchase software that'll help them avoid ever encountering them. Yet and still, the vast majority of companies are still placing them on their websites now more than ever before.

What am I talking about? You probably already guessed it—I’m talking about those pesky non-permissive pop-ups!

Despite what most marketers may believe—interrupting a person’s online browsing experience with non-permissive pop-ups is not an effective way to market a brand, product or service.

In fact, according to a study by Hubspot, over 70% of respondents say that they dislike online pop-up ads. The same study also showed that 37% more people favor television ads over pop-up ads (which says a lot).

In marketing, the ultimate end goal for placing an ad anywhere (including online), should end with your audience viewing your brand through a favorable lens.

Unlike television commercials—where people expect to experience ads, placing pop-up ads on a website that prevents a person from navigating the website freely—for any amount of time—is very unlikely to end with the person browsing that website to view the brand that prevented their navigation process—through a more favorable lens.

3. Prioritizing SEO over your audience

If anyone were to ever tell you that SEO isn’t important when it comes to digital marketing—wait for the punchline…because they’d have to be setting you up for a joke. Search engine optimization is not only important—it’s one of the most integral components of any effective digital marketing strategy.

The problem with SEO is that every digital marketing professional is aiming for it—often at the expense of their intended audience. Which is a huge mistake because it often leads to their copy and content focusing more on fulfilling keyword quotas to rank higher on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo—than providing true value to their audience.

In his book Digital Marketing Strategy, author Simon Kingsnorth outlined what should be a top priority for every SEO strategy, “When we think of SEO strategy, we do not optimize for Google, we optimize for the consumer.”

4. Ineffective email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient tools for a startup to reach customers and provide content that’ll keep them informed, engaged, and excited about the brand’s next offer.

In fact, email marketing is such a cost-efficient tool for a business—that according to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing on average yields $44 back for every $1 that's spent on it. Which is a pretty good return…right?

That’s if the email marketing is done correctly—which unfortunately, is rarely the case when it comes to startups.

Far too often—companies misuse the most valuable asset that a person could give a company these days (besides their money), which is their email address. Too many companies bombard the inboxes of their customers or a potential lead with offers and information that they’re unlikely to have any interest in—hoping that their brand will achieve top-of-mind status whenever the recipient decides to make a purchase.

The reason why that’s such a bad strategy, is because it actually has the opposite effect—often causing the email recipient to have an unfavorable opinion about the company filling up their inbox with offers they’re not interested in. This then leads to them tagging the company’s emails as spam—which essentially equates to the company flushing $45 down the toilet.

Instead, companies should only send emails to customers and leads—twice a week, at most. And that's only if those emails consists of offers and information that would truly be beneficial to the recipient—not just the sender.

5. Not measuring/planning

There’s a famous quote by author and management consultant, the late Peter Drucker that perfectly describes the most important component of an effective digital marketing strategy, “What gets measured gets managed.” Sadly, one of the biggest mistakes made by digital marketing professionals is not measuring the results of their marketing campaigns with KPIs (key performance indicators).

By failing to properly measure, a business could easily sink a large amount of money into a marketing campaign without finding out which practices are working, and which ones aren’t.

The metrics of a digital marketing campaign has to be the key component of a digital marketing strategy. If not, the plan isn’t complete.

To analyze the metrics for a digital marketing campaign, the following objectives should be answered for every tactic in your strategy:

  • Why are we doing this?

  • What are the milestones?

  • What does success look like?

  • When will this be implemented?

  • What’s the deadline?

By meticulously measuring your digital marketing campaign—you’ll be able to know what’s working—so you could keep it. And what’s not working—so you could either eliminate it, adjust it, or pivot to something else.

As author and Marketing Hall of Famer Seth Godin, stated in his classic book Purple Cow, "Measurement means admitting what's broken—so you can fix it."

Contact us

If you’d like for us to help you create an effective digital marketing plan that'll help your startup connect with your target audience and advance, please feel free to contact us to become a Decryption client.


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