Your Online Business Plan Sucks. Prepare For A Crash

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  In the past 5 years, I have witnessed countless online businesses failing. The entrepreneurs behind them had creative ideas, beautiful mindsets, and a fantastic level of energy. Still, they tasted failure primarily because they followed the wrong steps in their online businesses. Beginners luck is quite common in the online industry. Anyone who starts an online business ends up earning a decent day wage, gets initial sales to make ends meet, but is that enough? Is that all you need to fulfil your dreams? That’s a question you need to ask yourself. If you do not have a game plan for success in your online business, if you are not an online traffic puller, if you are not ready to learn anything new, then get ready to be stagnant in your business growth for a pretty long time. Here, in this post, I’d like to share the most common reasons due to which online businesses fail. So, if you’re running an online business or if you are planning to start one, this is what you need to read. You don’t have to worry about everything, as far as you follow the right steps to make your business work.

1.   Your Targeting Sucks

Believe it or not, targeting plays the most significant role in an online business success. Many entrepreneurs make the fatal error of thinking that they understand the market. This is the stage where they consider that every person is their customer and they have a huge market potential. Well, in reality, that’s not true. If you do not know your customers well then you cannot sell to anyone through your online marketing efforts. I have been in marketing for more than 12 years. During this period, I have seen the transition in marketing from 4 P’s to 7 P’s and then 20 market separators. If you know at least 20 characteristics to identify your target customers, then you can certainly reach a great market personification. There are two pivotal Areas where many online business entrepreneurs go wrong while trying to target their customers.

Data Tells the Perfect Story

Here is an example of target audience failure. We’ve seen Facebook ad campaigns targeting over 20 million people in the U.S. alone. However, unless you’re a household brand, your offer and ad copy might not be relevant to such a broad set of people. The main threat of targeting too broad of an audience is that your offer might not reach the people with the highest purchasing potential due to a limited ad budget. The image shows a Facebook campaign that reached 234,000 people. However, the total potential audience size for all ad groups was over 1.1 million people. This means that more than 850,000 people didn’t see the ad due to budget limits.

2.   Wrong Targeting

When you start creating the campaign in Facebook and you select a campaign objective, Facebook asks for demographics, gender, age, and location. The Facebook algorithm also needs the interests. This goes without saying that you can certainly target your customers and advertise to them with demographics only, however, interests play a major role here which you should not ignore at all. Although, there are numerous interests in Facebook that the social media giant has noted over time, based on people’s likes, dislikes, check-ins, and activities. However, knowing these interests, studying them deeply, and following the success formula is as important as looking at the keywords in search marketing. You can easily go wrong by selecting everything in the interests. I have seen some great examples and I have also visited some worst cases where people have added everything that they can think of within the interests. If you look at some of the ad campaigns built up by the online business entrepreneurs in the clothing niche, beauty niche, and custom t-shirt niche, for an argument sake, you will realise the there is a pattern of mistakes, which shows the process is misread by many entrepreneurs. For instance, throwing in vague interests in a beauty niche won’t help. Likewise, adding the interest groups of denim jeans, blue mug, New Delhi, Karachi, politics, and coffee, whilst promoting a kitchen accessories business won’t help either. I have recently met a gentleman who said he failed primarily because he was adding pages into interest groups within the Facebook ad campaign which had a huge fan following. Hell yes. Of course, this was a wrong approach. How could it be possible that the person who is interested in New Delhi is also interested in Denim, and is also interested in Karachi, and is also interested in politics, and is also interested in the pages with a huge fan following, and you think that the same person would be interested in your product? Seriously! Let me built up my argument by saying that you are way better off not add anything in the interest, if you have to add all of such irrelevant items into the interest groups. Since your ad set is going haywire then let it go even without interests. If you have to add interests, first add some sense into your targeting, study your data patterns, and look for the data, check out my success formula and follow my case study too. Don’t Spend on Varied Age Groups Till Your Targeting is Crystal Clear No matter how good your Facebook ad copy, design or ad placement, if it’s seen by an indifferent audience, there won’t be many results. When analysing the 2016 Q3 Facebook ads statistics, AdEspresso found that there could be over a 1000% difference in the ads’ cost-per-click, depending on the audience you’re targeting. For example, the cost-per-click for some age groups is higher than others. Remember. Facebook has a bidding system so your targeting has to be correct, along with your offer and creative designs. Otherwise, you will end up spending money in advertising whilst targeting various age ranges and spending different amounts, but generating zero output.

3.   Broad Targeting

When you create an ad set on Facebook, you can see on the right-hand side that it gives you the ad reach based on the demographics, interest groups, and audiences you have shared. This reach is your ad set’s potential reach only. This is another variable many entrepreneurs make a fatal error with. They make such an error because they consider that if their ad set’s reach is going to be large, they are going to have a greater number of customers, which is not the case. This is just a potential reach of your ad set. Nothing else. By going broad in your reach, you are settling for lower returns on investment and just shooting yourself on the foot. It’s best to go narrow. Here comes a question that how narrow you should go? Well, you should go as narrow as you can till your ad set’s reach stays marketable on budget. I have discussed this in detail in my targeting lectures.

Points to Consider

How to tell when your ad audience is too broad? First, take a look at numbers – If your audience size reaches millions of people, ask this: “Are there truly millions of people potentially interested in buying my product?” If the answer is “No”, narrow down your audience with demographic or interest-based targeting. Facebook’s projected ad reach – Another way to tell whether your audience is too broad is to compare Facebook’s projected ad reach and the total audience size. For example, if Facebook’s campaign setup interface shows that for the budget of $2,000 you can reach 250,000 people out of 2 million, you might want to consider downsizing your audience a bit.

4.   Your product has no market

In any marketing campaign, your focus must be to stand out from the crowd. Your ads must be so different and unique that your audience takes notice of it. In an era, where the social media consumes most of our attention every day, your best bet is to attract as many customers as possible. To do that, you would have to stand out from the crowd. Stop selling run of the mill items. If you keep on selling items that are available everywhere without any significant differentiation factors and without great creative, your product would fail eventually. The best at-bat is to stop selling mediocre and bring great levels of creativity and uniqueness in your product sourcing procedures. There are two salient factors to be kept in mind whilst sorting your product issues out.

Learn from AT&T Phone Launch

Most of the times your product fails because you fail to understand consumer needs and wants. Here is an example: After spending years researching and trialling the product, in 1970 AT&T finally launched the Picture phone. The company’s executives believed that a million units would be in use within 10 years of launch. They pulled it off the market 3 years later due to a lack of consumer interest. Why did Picture phone fail? As it turned out, users found the equipment too bulky, its controls unfriendly, and picture too small to actually enjoy viewing. Blinded by their own vision the company ignored negative user feedback right from trials and developed a product that failed to meet customers’ needs and wants.

Bad Pricing Strategy

In the world we all live in today, customers are well educated. Thanks to the widespread mainstream and social media. Customers can easily find out if your product price sucks. Believe it or not! People easily know where they can find the cheap products from, but it’s just the products with a value-added proposition and luxury that they do not know the prices in most of the cases. Make sure that your price is suitable for the people. You must also remember that when selling over Facebook is your best bet, then you should aim for 1 ratio 3 scenarios, but this is just to start with. With the passage of time, you should be able to build up on this. Let me explain what the 1 ratio 3 scenario is. Every one dollar that is spent in your marketing on Facebook, should bring you 3 dollars in return. So, let’s say, if you spend $1,000, you should make at least $3,000 in sales. Out of this $3,000 return,Facebook already deducts $1,000. You are left with $2,000. Your product should not cost you more than $500, thus, giving you a profit of $1,500. That’s a typical 50% return of a growth industry. I have given you an example in thousands. You can certainly do your own math and take it to millions. However, remember one thing here. This scenario is applicable when you are a beginner and not a Facebook Marketing savvy. Once you learn Facebook Marketing, and you become good at it, then your ratios must improve to 1 ratio 15 or 20. That’s what you should aim for in long run.

Data Research

Here is an example, The Apple Newton PDA flopped because it was priced too high. Although some observers sight poor handwriting recognition as another reason for the product’s failure, the$700 price tag contributed significantly. Customers could afford the Newton. But what’s worse, is its pricing affected its market positioning too.

5.   Your ads are so 1990s

Facebook has made some great advances towards videos and if you are not utilising a video marketing strategy, you are losing big time.

Benefits of Video Marketing Strategy

The beauty of video is that you can target the people who have watched your videos and based on this, you can create new custom audiences. This is a feature, which is not available in image posts and image ads. If you can segregate your customers based on the amount of time they have spent watching your videos, you can do beautiful things out of this data. So, make sure you are following the video marketing strategy and using it effectively in your online business campaigns.

No carousel access

Carousel ads play a great role in the success of your online business campaigns. Within a carousel ad, you can show more images of your product and videos of your best selling items and generate orders directly. When you have a bigger catalog, carousel Ad comes handy. If you are not using carousel ads, stop everything and start using them. It will immediately get you the results and you will witness some decent profits.

Focus on Consumer Needs

Bad design, poor user experience, sloppy implementation, feature creep, and lack of quality control all contribute to product failure. A 2007 iteration of their core product, Windows Vista used so much power that most users found it unusable. Many people encountered issues when using the Internet.

6.   Shoot! You are still selling counterfeit products

If you are still selling counterfeit products, you’re at the losing end. Many countries have adopted the policy and implemented it effectively over the Internet, where they are effectively curtailing the sales of counterfeit items. Now, I know you might belong to a country where you are involved in the manufacturing of the products for some leading global brands. Even, if you’re the backstop manufacturer for such global brands and you manufacture these products, you still cannot sell them or any of your export leftovers without the permission of the owning brand. If you are still selling such items then you are involved in counterfeit items sales. If this is you then you need to understand the social media is taking a bold step, along with the leading global brands to curtail the sales of such items. You might have received a message from Facebook, or you might soon when some of your ads will not be approved, or your approved ads may get disapproved. The best thing to do at this moment is to fix your business model, stop selling counterfeit items, and stay away from shortcuts.

Use the right tools

If you are someone who does not sell counterfeit items online but you think you have been mistakenly considered by Facebook of selling such items, then you can do a couple of things to get your ads approved. First of all, disintegrate your Facebook pixel from your website. Fix your website with the right products & messages, and then integrate the Facebook pixel again. This has worked for many e-commerce sellers and if you have been mistakenly considered as a counterfeit seller, this should fix your issues too. The best part is always to contact Facebook Ads team to look into the matter for you. Try reaching a human in Facebook.

Fact Check

More than 70% of counterfeit products are sold online. Let us take the example of Amazon. The queen of e-commerce has found it difficult to have a strong grasp on counterfeit products making its way to their site. Even with the supposedly more secure Amazon Prime, fake products have found a way to get the ‘authentic’ mark on them. In April 2017, Chanel sued 24 Amazon sellers for selling replica items as the brand’s products. The judge awarded Chanel $100,000 in damages for each of the replica counterfeits.

7.   No healthy data is a dead business

The beauty about the Facebook environment is that it gives you enough data that you can build up your whole empire on. Imagine, if I know who my customer is, what are their ages, the gender, the income status, their likes, dislikes, the devices the get connected to, the times they get connected to, and their buying preferences, then this is simply a gold mine for me and certainly, it would be for you as well. Start studying the data. Find the patterns and focus on them in your marketing. This is one of the major mistakes that many entrepreneurs commit when they do not look into the data of the metrics of the campaign. They do not know where their sales are coming from, which ad sets are spending money and not performing, which ad sets they should focus on. You must learn the difference between the cash cows and dogs. Focus on your cash cows and kill your dogs. That’s the simplest method of success.

Data is King

Lack of customer data will eventually lead to dead business. I mean if you really want to expand or be a successful business, you got to have healthy data. Without it your business will not run, not even a single day. More than 35% of people close their e-commerce store due to this reason. Don’t be one of them?

Dead business is like watering a dead plant


8.   Wrong Optimisation

I can bet that almost every entrepreneur is doing online business for only one thing; Sales. There is no rocket science in that, but just focusing on sales does not mean that you should optimise your ad sets for purchases. There is a step by step process, which I have explained in the lectures in detail that when to optimise for a landing page view, when to optimise for an add to cart, and when to go for a purchase. These are surely different events and there is a sequence of events too. Sometimes, the stronger data is not reliable. When should you look at which optimisation? That’s the name of the game. Stop making this mistake and follow the right path of success in online business.

Optimise for Right Events

Most of the times people use an ad campaign to boost conversions but fail. In order to find the problem, they optimise their ad campaign and spend more budget. Optimisation won’t help you if you have not collected the right data, I have mentioned this in detail in my lectures that when to optimise and how to optimise. And because of the wrong optimisation, you get minimal or no sales. This mistake is done by more than 69% of the people who run online e-commerce store.

9.   Wrong retargeting process

Retargeting plays the pivotal role in bringing you lost customers. Many online businesses do not even have a roadmap for retargeting, or they just don’t care about it at all. I have data backed results showing that my retargeting brings me 20 times more sales than my main campaigns. One thing you should immediately do is to develop a plan for retargeting, solving questions like what to retarget for, and where to retarget. These are some of the significant questions you should ask yourself. These questions are based on the behaviours of your customers, your current conversion rate, and your sales objectives. Every retargeting campaign has layers of ads. When an ad is shown for more than 7 times to a customer who’s your right market, they are more likely to convert. You can certainly do the rest of the math, that how much you should be spending and how many layers of ads you should develop, but there must be a logic behind every layer, because every layer is going to cost you money and if you have the worst conversion rate, then things won’t to really sexy. Your online business can be successful as far as you follow the right steps, learn the roadmap to success, and adhere to it. My only advice to online business entrepreneurs is that never over rate your hard work. Keep your focus on the game & keep looking at the bigger prize. Your bigger prize is an awesome conversion rate that has never been seen before or heard before in an online business and once you achieve that, you improvise on it.

Data Research

Wrong targeting process may lead to loss of ad budget and time. In order to retarget the right audience, you need to understand this principle that without proper collection of customer data, you won’t be able to generate conversions. Due to lack of data, retargeting may lead to business loss. This mistake is done by more than 55% of the people in the online market. See my lectures in order to avoid this, in near future.


I hope you guys understood the reasons why your online business sucks and crashes. I have discussed many “Issues Faced by Your Facebook Business in Pakistan”, do read it. Being an entrepreneur is tough, mentally and emotionally, especially when the results in the first year are often inconsistent. But you can do it. Learn from your mistakes, try new approaches, and most importantly keep showing up. Sometimes obstacles can slow your progress (sometimes a whole lot at once can really throw you off track) but you’ve just got to deal with each one as it arises, keep coming back and showing up. You can do it. You can make your new online business a success.


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Imtinan shares his thoughts through his blogs, and vlogs. He shares his teaching & experiences in his online courses, available only For speaking engagements, please contact his PR team.

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About Imtinan Ahmad​

Imtinan Ahmad is an award winning Entrepreneur. He has built multiple 6 and 7-figure businesses for himself and for his clients, & that's in dollar terms. He has helped over a 1,000 entrepreneurs through private coaching, & still ready to give back. He holds an MSc. degree in Marketing from The University of Manchester, UK, a Chartered Marketer, UK, and he's also an MBA in Marketing. Learn how to sharpen your online business game with him.

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