Why digital marketing fails


Digital marketing fails often. Sometimes it even feels like the biggest scam going around right now. Most times it seems like everyone is having great sales numbers except you. Don’t even get me started on the “case studies”. Their metric gains are always staggering. Their numbers seem to be doubling over night, and they keep going up. But despite your best efforts, you have had underwhelming results. Maybe you were banking on the digital channel to boost your top line, but that does not seem its going to happen anytime soon.

Well, you are not alone. Almost everyone is struggling. The few outliers who have achieved success are far and in between.

But why is this the case?

Could the state of the economy be affecting online sales?

why digital marketing fails

Perhaps the economy is just not doing well enough. I mean, the fact we survived 2020 is a miracle in itself. Tons of jobs were lost and working hours were cut as the economy slowed down. This reduced the amount of money going around because incomes reduced.

But regardless of the economic situation, people were still buying. As a matter of fact, online sales got a huge boost. Because we couldn’t go to our favorite stores, we were forced to actually buy online. Many people got their first taste of online purchases at this time.

So we can’t really blame the economy for the poor performance of digital channels.

So what could be the reason your digital marketing fails?

I have been doing digital marketing for around 10 years now. 10 years in technology is a very long time. I have witnessed, the come and go of trends. I have also had the privilege of working with a number of clients in a very wide assortment of industries.

My industry findings on why digital marketing fails

In all that time I noticed a few things. Perhaps they may shed light on the dismal performance of digital marketing.

The copy cat trap

When I was a young boy, I loved Jackie Chan and other fighting movies. I watched any movie that featured the protagonist utilize their fighting skills to overcome challenges. In addition to that, what I loved more than the actual moves was trying to replicate their moves. If I saw say, Jackie Chan do a fancy kick, my 6 year old brain would not have enough will power to resist also trying it out. If you could be an expert martial arts practitioner from simply watching movies, I would be a Master Sensei right now. But alas, no matter how many Karate movies you watch, you won’t be able to do Karate.

Most businesses and 6 year old me don’t differ in that regard. For most businesses, their will power to resist trends is akin to my 6 year old self’s will power to resist copying Chuck Norris doing a round house kick.

Following trends for the sake of trends has the effect of bleeding off your energy. There are only so many hours in a day and resources are limited. One dollar spent on chasing the next trend is a dollar less for channels that are actually working

Don’t just do something because you saw the other company do it. In fact, you don’t know the situation. Maybe the strategy failed to generate revenue, but it made a lot of noise. If your goal was to generate revenue in this case, then you will end up disappointed. Maybe the strategy worked but only because they had money to burn.

You are not getting any sales from digital marketing right now, because you have jumped onto every band wagon that came your way. Now you are spread too thin and the channels that actually work do not have enough resources.

Inefficient processes is why digital marketing fails

How long does it take you to put out a social media post? From design to approval? Do you have a content calendar? Do you have someone on call ready to answer questions from your website visitors?

I have noticed that a lot of companies simply spend too much time on things that don’t require it. For example, coming up with a simple blog post takes more than a week. So they post content once a fortnight. They then expect to receive tons of organic traffic to their website.

Another example is the website creation process. Because of the sheer number of people who need to give their approvals within the organization, getting a consensus is next to impossible.

Or maybe it takes too long to come up with an email to send to their subscribers.

This wastes valuable time. In digital marketing, time is critical. For example, the quicker you can put out your blog post, the quicker the ranking process becomes. The more videos you can put out for YouTube for example, the more time you have to gain subscribers and build an audience.

As a marketing manager or CEO or Business Owner, you need to really analyze your processes. You need to identify the bottlenecks and find out the core of the issues. Those issues are then to be addressed.

Your digital marketing machine needs to run like a well oiled machine. Don’t create and tolerate unnecessary complexities that waste time.

Also Don’t punish innovation

This is the most common issue I have observed that causes inefficiency. Most CEOs or Marketing managers are focused on their employees appearing to work rather than being productive.

There is a talented graphic designer that I know. The lady takes just minutes to produce really compelling works of art. This is because she has always been seeking to improve her skills. But she tells me that she has to lie to her superior that a certain work of art takes longer than it should. This is because, the superior is more focused on her appearing busy rather than her actual output.

She is frustrated at her work because, she feels that as soon as she tells her superior that it takes her less time to complete a task, she will just be given more tasks. So you have a situation where this particular marketing department has untapped capacity.

So what do you do as a CEO or Marketing manager in this case?

You need to align compensation and rewards with value brought to the firm rather than the appearance of looking busy. I this case, maybe the graphic designer could get more work and a significant raise to compensate for the increase workload.

A bad way of approaching this situation could be trying to blackmail her into doing even more work for the same pay.

You need to create an environment that encourages your team mates to come to you with their ideas and innovation. If they have discovered a way to do something faster than it normally would take, they should be adequately rewarded for their efforts.

This single step will go a long way towards ensuring that your firm is lean and mean. This helps you do more work, publish more blogs, follow up with more leads etc. Punishing innovation is why your digital marketing fails.

Being mediocre at sales

I had a client meeting earlier this year. Let us call the ZF LLC. I handled some aspects of their digital strategy and other aspects were done internally. Basically, I handled the top of the funnel marketing functions. Everything else, the middle of the funnel functions and the bottom of the funnel functions were handled by their internal teams.

If you don’t know what I mean by top/middle/bottom of the funnel, you can read this article here.

I don’t know why I agreed to this set up. Most of the time, I like to handle the entire department. From traffic generation to customer success. This greatly ensures my success because I can keep an eye on everything, but In this case, I relented.

Zero follow up

ZF LLC got tons of traffic but very little in the way of sales. You see, the reason for this was zero follow up. Zero follow ups is a big reason why digital marketing fails.

A website is just distribution. Remember that. A website isn’t a magical tool that will motivate someone to buy from you. Just because you have products or services on a website, does not mean that your website visitors will develop a sudden desire to buy your product.

People falsely believe that sales is all about getting someone to your website. If someone comes to your amazing, newly designed website, they will automatically buy, so they believe. But reality does not work like this. And this often leads to frustration because they don’t know what is going on. I mean, the traffic is there, why are they not buying.

What makes people buy is a combination of need and desire. Lets leave alone trust for a while. The part that is often lacking is the demonstration of need to the prospect and sparking desire. This is rarely done on the first website visit. You need to follow up with the website visitor. This means;

Collecting information

Someway or somehow you need to collect email addresses and phone numbers of the people who visit your website. This is often a very difficult task. But it forms the first step. You can collect information through a tactic called a lead magnet.

A lead magnet is simply a piece of value that you exchange for your customers contact information or social media follow. It can include, discounts, how to guides, white papers etc. Basically anything that, the customer would consider a good exchange for their contact information or following you on social media. What would you consider a worthy exchange for your phone number and email address?

Leading with value

Once you get the contact information, it is not yet time to sell to them. While they have expressed a need for your product, the desire may not be that strong. There is a concept called inertia that I have personally experienced. There was a time, I really needed to buy a sofa. The ones that I had, were nice and unique, but they were starting to show their age. The kids had essentially decided they were trampolines. That combined with the many food accidents, the sofas were not a pretty sight. So the need was there and the money was there.

But work and social commitments made me very lazy. The mere thought of ordering new sofas, having them delivered and doing the swap. It all seemed very exhausting. So I postponed that decision over and over.

But all this time, I still went online and looked at sofas. I must have visited countless websites.

I have feeling maybe you have an experience similar to mine.

In order to overcome that inertia, you need to make someone jump out of their procrastinating ways and make the purchase. This can be done, by showing them, the benefits of making the purchase. Essentially, you have to keep reminding them of their pain.

Email marketing and social media posts

Email marketing and social media are great avenues to remind your prospects of their pain. You could post amazing photos of for example, interiors. This would make lazy buyers like me constantly uncomfortable. I could see how my living room could transform and look amazing. Everyday, I would be reminded that my living room looked like Afghanistan. Then you could send me emails describing your sofas. Tell me how they are made, what materials are used. This will (rightfully) create the impression of value.


After you have hit me with the amazing photos and posts. Its time to bring out the big guns. Maybe one day I could find in my inbox an amazing offer. If you have done a good job of creating the impression of value, that offer will be something I would not want to miss out, and thus, I will rush to your website make a purchase.

Customer Success

After the sale happens, your contact with the customer does not end. The goal now is to make them buy again and keep buying from you.

Relying too much on ADs

Ads are like cocaine. They are addictive once you start the habit. Don’t get me wrong, Ads work sometimes but they should not be relied on too much. Relying too much on Ads is why a lot of digital marketing fails. Here is why;


Ads are based on a bidding strategy. This means that the higher you are willing to pay for a click the higher the probability your ad will be shown to a user. So there is this race to the bottom companies participate in without knowing.

These days, its all about who can sacrifice the most profit or capital to spend on Ads. Ads have single handedly eroded the profitability of so many products and industries. Customer acquisition costs simply becomes too much, especially when the actual customer value is low.

When it comes to traffic on your website, if the majority of it comes from ADs then you are doomed. All it takes is a deep pocketed competitor taking an interest in your industry.

You need to diversify you traffic sources. Look into SEO, social media or email marketing. There are other marketing channels out there that are not as money intensive and yet provide better returns. Relying solely on Ads is a common rookie mistake.

For example, SEO costs way less than ADs yet it has been proven countless times that it’s conversion rates are better.

Email marketing is also very effective. Email has been around for ages. And this is for good reason. It has proven to be the most reliable and consistent marketing channel. It out paces Ads by a very wide margin.

Most of us tend to gravitate to Ads because it feels easy. I mean, all you have to do is come up with the copy and you are set to go. You have have thousands and even millions of visitors on your website at the push of a button. We forget that Ads have their time and place, but they should not form the corner stone of your advertising.

The truth about digital marketing success

I am going to be honest with you. Let me tell you the real reason why a lot of digital marketing fails. The reason why is because, their goals are off. Most people create digital marketing strategies with the goal of getting sales. But it is a bad way to approach this and its putting the cart before the horse.

The key goal for any digital marketing strategy should be to connect and build relationships.

Am sure this flies in the face of everything that we believe in.

I mean, don’t we start businesses to make money? Don’t we allocate marketing budgets to get a return on investment?

In these days of hyper competition, businesses should go further than the profit motive. Attention is fickle. Anyone can create an Ad that will entertain a viewer. Many can draft marketing copy that will make people click on a search ad for example. And Many will do this..

But the difference between companies that are successful in and those that their digital marketing fails is the rapport created. You need to create a rapport with your prospects. Your values need to align. You need to fully understand what it is they want to accomplish.

When you understand the goals and objectives of your prospect, then you can craft a customer journey that will guide your prospect to their desired destination.

All we are as businesses are mechanisms to help people solve their problems. People don’t give us money simply for the hell of it but rather, because they could not do without the solutions we provide.

You need to further understand your customer and understand, what does the end goal for them look like?

Seek to build an audience

An audience is simply a one to many relationship. This means that you as a business have relationships with many people. Do you have an audience? And how solid is this relationship. Can your prospects rely on you to solve their problem reliably over an over? Do you prospects see you as a valued advisor and source of answers?

The key to digital marketing isn’t to show everyone on the planet what you sell. Rather its goal should be to build solid relationships. People are more likely to buy from people they like and trust. Sure they may do a lot of window shopping elsewhere, but if they like and trust you, they will always come back to you.

Think of digital marketing as dating. When you first meet someone, no matter how awesome they might be, do you immediately jump into a relationship? No. It takes time to build the foundation of trust. Prospects are no different, they need time to get to know you. They need time to get to know your values and what you stand for. So don’t focus too much on getting the sale but rather ensuring that you have made a connection.


Digital marketing is simply a more efficient way of doing something that we have been doing for ages. That is making a connection with people. Since time in memorial, we have been meeting new people and forming lasting bonds. All digital marketing helps in, is that it boosts our reach dramatically. We are able to reach more and more people everyday. But because of this reach, the quality often of relationships often drops. So instead of dropping the quality of your interactions with others, especially your prospects, you should seek to increase it. Make sure that the relationships you are seeking to build with your prospects is based on solid footing and tied together with shared values.

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David Mbwana is an SEO specialist at Ahadisoft Group LLC. The company is based in Nairobi, Kenya and it helps businesses navigate the world of digital. You can reach Ahadisoft Group LLC at info@ahadisoft.com.