Marketing can be an expensive and time-consuming venture for any business. We’d all like to see a 100% return on investment from our marketing, though realistically, that’s unlikely. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect at least some measurable ROI. But when marketing fails (not mildly, but miserably) we need to take a close and honest look at what’s standing in the way.

The shocking reason for your marketing failure? It just might be you. Yes, you.  

It has been my experience that most self-inflicted marketing failures have three causes. Too many marketers fail to:

  1. Identify biases. As a result, they hold wrong assumptions about their business. Whether the biases pertain to what marketing channels have proved effective, or to the organizations’ capabilities to see projects through to completion, a marketer’s biases can often be fatal for the company if they go unrecognized and unacknowledged.  Biases emerge from incorrectly answering why certain marketing efforts worked or did not work in the past. Even if a marketer answers the question honestly, they still might get it wrong. After all, just because something worked ten years ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to work today. The bottom line is to understand and acknowledge the biases and to be open minded to new solutions.
  2. Consider context. In other words, the state or environment in which the prospect receives the marketing message. Is there a failure to consider what moves a prospect to purchase? How is the organization presenting the consumer benefit? Are they effectively communicating the payoff for the consumer?
  3. Recognize the real work that needs to be done. Instead, many marketers are detached from the capacity and capability of the organization, and as such, lack a clear perspective not only on what needs to be done, but what can actually get done. Conceptualizing a great campaign with no follow through or execution is a waste of time and resources.

Clouded Judgment

If you have a past you are biased; a problem made fatal if you don’t recognize it. A failed email campaign can lead you to believe email doesn’t work. An unsuccessful sales season can lead you to believe you don’t have the right sales people. Or you may say, “Our website is fine. We don’t get much from it so it is not worth spending any more money on it.”

What’s more, bias is not just rooted in failure. Successful campaigns can blind you to changes in your industry, market and company. One company we work with successfully broke into a Fortune 1000 company by positioning themselves as young, scrappy and hungry to impress. It worked so well they are now a dominant player in their market. What’s more, because of many innovations they brought to the market their customers have changed. In the end, they have changed and their market has changed which means their marketing needs to change. Instead of being your and scrappy they are now innovative and experienced.

Key biases that a company may hold are often subtle and hard to pin down. In fact, they are the dark shadows of marketing, often illusive and always a reflection of a troubled past. Take a look at your organization’s mindset. Quite often, you’ll discover a bias against one type of marketing or another. For example, “Direct mail does not work for us” or “We don’t need a better web site because our customers already know what we do.” These are the unspoken background assumptions that guide the organization’s thinking. Additionally, biases may form based on past successes (“Email marketing has worked in the past, so it’s the only marketing channel we use.”) The first step to addressing biases is to admit they exist.

What is your problem?

Poor marketing results are often the outcome of lazy marketing tactics.  For example, many organizations lead with boastful marketing the first time they connect with their target, bragging about their place in the marketplace (“We’re #1”) or the awards they’ve won (“Voted most popular in the city.”)  Instead, they should be looking for a way to solve their prospects’ problem. Why? Because prospective customers don’t usually make purchasing decisions based on a company’s accolades, but on what the company can do for them. Your prospect has a need to be fulfilled or a problem to be solved. The first step your organization must take is to determine how you’ll effectively address those things and offer a solution. To do that you must consider:

  • What’s the benefit to the prospect?
  • What does the organization want to do?
  • What doesn’t the organization want to do?
  • What’s happening in the industry and the marketplace?
  • What is the competition doing and how is it impacting the customers?
  • What’s going on in the customer’s world that’s affecting their view of your company’s products/services?
  • Where is the customer in the buying process? Shopping around or ready to buy?

Looking over past data may prove beneficial, but it’s also important to do so with a critical eye and an awareness of change. Certainly ubiquitous media and social networking sites are examples of how quickly the vehicle that delivers your marketing message has changed. But bear in mind, trends sweep through large organizations with every change in the economy. For example, a few years ago LEED certification was a hot topic and environmental concerns were affecting the most unlikely products and services. However, in the wake of the recession, goals shifted to cost savings, and as a result, few even ask about LEED certification anymore.  

Reality vs. Fantasy

Once you’ve determined the context in which you’re fulfilling your customers’ needs or offering a solution, you must then objectively and honestly assess what you need to do with a realistic and clear plan. You need the kind of objectivity that you can’t have, simply because you are too close and you may lack the experience to have a fully informed opinion.

For example, if you’ve never run a successful email marketing campaign, how can you be sure that your past failed efforts were not brought about by poor execution? Perhaps you just don’t know what good execution looks like? Additionally, if you’re failing to set goals (for example, the percentage of replies to a direct response piece you’re expecting to receive) then it’s likely that your lack of experience is getting in the way of your success.

Too often, optimistic people in an optimistic company tend to think they can do more than they can. Unfortunately, one of the results of that overly positive mindset is that things don’t get done. People get frustrated which results in low quality products and services. In addition, necessary time that should be dedicated to evaluating quality is universally missing. No one takes a moment to step back and say, “Did we do this well or not?” There is a certain fear in recognizing and acknowledging failure. It’s human nature to want to hide our mistakes. However, marketing should be a series of tests. Some will succeed, some will fail. To be successful, you must be willing to adapt your marketing based on your results. Of course, you must then accept that marketing is always going to be in flux, because everything changes so quickly—the medium, the message, and the market.

Where do we go from here?

You don’t need to choose between great strategy and great execution. You need both. It’s important to remember that even if a campaigned failed, if it was well executed, you can learn from it and adapt accordingly. Unfortunately, a poorly executed campaign is a waste of your marketing dollars and will never give you an accurate view of where the path to your market lies.

If after assessing your organization, you identify biases or find that your team is failing to set and measure goals, then it’s time to take action. At Your Best Next Step, we know how to guide you in the right direction so that you start consistently seeing the ROI your marketing efforts should produce. To learn more, contact us today.

Your Best Next Step can wake up your company to the money you could be losing by not attracting and converting prospects who should be your customers. Best of all, we do it fast and with no risk to you. What if you could know exactly where your prospects drift away from you and turn to your competitors? Or what if you knew why your prospects just decide to do nothing, when they should be buying from you? Want to learn more? Would you like results in just two meetings? Would you like a no-risk guarantee? Contact us or call 952-896-0062 today!