So, you’ve got a valued product or service, a clean, professional website with a strong domain name, and you’re ready to launch an online marketing campaign. Well, get in line because every day millions of business owners are doing the same. Thanks to the Internet, the old analogy of the little fish in the big pond no longer holds water. Today it’s more about a tiny grain of sand on a very large beach. But don’t get discouraged because when it comes to online marketing, most business owners are doing it badly. And being that all great business owners learn from the mistakes of others, here are 5 surefire ways to kill an online marketing campaign which should be avoided at all costs.

1. Start with a muddled marketing message: You know who you are and what you do. That’s why you started your business, because you recognized needs and realized that you could effectively meet them. The challenge is to communicate that information clearly and concisely to your prospective customers with a crystal clear marketing message. A strong marketing message should cut through the clutter to identify the most critical needs of your target market. It should then address exactly how your company can meet those needs, thereby showing prospective customers how they stand to benefit from your product or service. As clever as your message may sound, if it doesn’t answer the one critical question all customers have in common, namely: “What’s in it for me?”, your marketing campaign is doomed to fail.
2. Expect instant results: With online business competition being more intense than ever, business owners need to recognize that, regardless of how well executed their marketing strategy is, success will not come overnight. The danger in having unusually high expectations early on is that when those expected results don’t come, the tendency is to assume that the marketing strategy is flawed. This leads to tweaking and abandoning various elements of the marketing process before they’ve had a fair chance to prove or disprove themselves. Impatience with marketing efforts leads to second-guessing, discouragement, and ultimately a lack of focus that dilutes effectiveness and leads to lackluster results.
3. Ignore industry trends: One clear truth that has emerged from doing business online is that the marketing methods of the past no longer apply. The Internet has provided people with more ways than ever before to express their opinions about what they think— of not only your entire industry, but your very own company. If you want to be competitive it’s critical to stay in touch with industry trends. Knowing what keywords, phrases, and terms the people in your target audience are interested in, and searching in the search engines, will help you to better meet their needs. You should also watch your competition, always being on the lookout for weaknesses and more importantly, winning strategies that you can learn from.
4. Fail to “get” social media: To be successful with your online business, the effective use of social media is a must. Unfortunately, many business owners are clueless as to what makes social media such a powerful marketing tool, and so they use it incorrectly—seeing it as a means to get, rather than to give. Effective social media is all about sharing information and knowledge that the people in your target market find to be relevant and useful. A good way to start is to create a business fan page on Facebook. Keep in mind that your goal here is not to sell but to engage. The best way to engage fans and create customer loyalty is to post compelling content that is both thought-provoking and helpful. This is not as difficult as it sounds, providing that your efforts come through as genuine and not self-serving. Being real and relevant is also critical for creating a large and loyal following on Twitter and LinkedIn. Along with creating goodwill, sharing useful information is a great way to generate inbound links that will gradually improve your rankings with the search engines.
5. Underutilize analytics: As brilliant as your marketing strategy may be, once you launch it into the “ether” it’s very difficult to determine what’s working and what’s not. Using Web analytics it’s possible to get quantifiable answers to key questions such as: How many people are visiting the site? How long are they staying? What pages are they looking at the most? How many are leaving the site earlier than expected? How many visitors are actually converting to paying customers?  Armed with this information, you can better implement the kinds of changes that will have a direct and positive impact on the overall effectiveness of your marketing campaign.
About the author: Martha Hamilton is a freelance writer for Omniture.  Omniture provides website optimization and search engine marketing tools.