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Digital marketing is a rapidly evolving frontier for brands and agencies alike, with new technologies and platforms constantly changing our ideas about what it means to run a successful campaign. If you feel a little behind the curve, don’t worry. That’s simply the nature of the game these days. But here are four common marketing mistakes you should never allow yourself to make:

Mistake #1: Failing to mine for customer insight

There’s a tendency among agencies (and brands) to approach social and digital campaigns the way we tackle traditional marketing; putting all our energy into producing well-thought-out content. That’s all well and good. But in focusing too much on production, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important: whether your audience is engaging with your content or not.

To be fair, audience response isn’t the only success metric that matters (see mistake #2). An attention-getting digital campaign that promotes your brand has value in itself. But with the availability of simple tools like custom short-link generators, it is now possible to know exactly which content is performing best. With a little additional planning and investment, you can mine important insights about your audience by tracking what pieces of the campaign are getting clicked. Can’t afford a fully integrated cross-channel measurement platform? Start with Bitly and a spreadsheet.

Dreaming up a marketing strategy and executing is what many marketers do best, but the value of your next strategy will increase if you apply a little learning from the last one. If your campaign is long enough, commit yourself to making one round of optimizations based on real-time measurement of which channels, creative concepts, or calls-to-action are pulling best.

While we’re at it, don’t neglect available third-party data. Your instinct might tell you that your brand should have a presence on as many social networks as possible, but research suggests that may not always be the case because different demographic groups use social platforms to interact differently with brands.

So how much can this mistake cost you? Well, research from the Aberdeen Group shows that organizations that actively mine for customer insights – and use those insights to map and manage customer journeys – enjoy 79% higher annual growth rates in cross-sell / upsell revenue and 30% higher growth rates for positive social media mentions, compared to those who do not use customer insights.

Mistake #2: Optimizing for responses, rather than for end actions

 Once the data starts flowing, it’s relatively straightforward to start optimizing for response behavior (like clicks). But hang on. It’s easy to get excited about response data, but response isn’t always the best predictor of what’s really important. Is your work actually impacting the bottom line?  Clicks are all well and good, but they don’t mean a whole lot if the campaign isn’t leading an audience to the objective of the campaign: to sign up, make a purchase, share content, or otherwise engage with the brand.

In the old days of social media (five years ago!) marketers looked to lead gen as the single measure of success, mostly because they didn’t have much else to go on. But now we can glean deeper insights about the path someone takes from the first marketing touch to the targeted end action. For example, your Google AdWords account can track the connection between AdWords campaigns and in-store purchases.

Attribution modeling does gets harder as people engage with brands across multiple devices. Jason Spero highlighted this difficulty at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit. It has become harder to tell which marketing touches are most effective, and which are only effective in conjunction with other efforts. This underscores how important it is for marketers to seek data on exactly how consumers are completing their path to purchase.

Mistake #3: Failing to find an IT collaborator

Analytics may be the modern marketer’s best friend, but it’s your friends in IT who will help you bridge the gap between knowing what you want to know and knowing how to know it.

For example, the benefits of behavioral targeting in advertising are well known. Targeting messages based on user behaviors provides more relevance to the user and more results for the brand. But fewer than a quarter of marketers in 2014 actually targeted consumers with behavioral data. Many marketing automation and CRM platforms make it possible to conduct A/B tests in email or landing page environments, but the majority of marketers fail to exploit these valuable methods of building customer intimacy.

Why? Because—even though marketing technologies are getting easier for dummies like us—implementing, measuring, and optimizing marketing strategies with behavioral targeting or A/B testing requires some technical savvy (no matter what the brochure tells you).

Even in the largest enterprises, a lack of collaboration between IT and Marketing is a leading predictor of program failure. And programs that do have the support of both the CMO and the CIO gain more support and funding from the C-suite because they’re more likely to produce value for the business – whether that value is defined as brand awareness, sales, loyalty, or customer insights.

Mistake #4: Not experimenting with 10 percent of your budget

With the pace that marketing technology is evolving, the only difference between a rut and a grave is its depth. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep 10 percent of your budget earmarked for experiments: small-scale tests of emerging strategies that might provide a bigger or better result. Try to maintain a healthy financial reserve while setting aside part of your budget to move in new directions.

Experimenting with new technologies and services will help grow your business. The willingness to fail is an essential ingredient in the “test & learn” culture that separates fast-moving businesses from those who fail to evolve. Who can argue with Nike’s recent experiment using Instagram video? A small investment uncovered a new audience of millions. Whether you’re experimenting with new platforms, content types, or simply the way you message your audiences, saving a little time and money to “fail fast” might just lead you to your biggest wins.

Wire Stone - Neil Michel HeadshotAbout the Author: Neil Michel is the Executive Director of Strategy at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands. Neil leads the agency’s Center of Excellence in digital analytics and decision science. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmichel.

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