What To Do When Your Marketing Is Underperforming

At some point in our marketing careers, we all end up in a position where our marketing efforts are not bearing any fruit.  It could just be a perception issue - your client (internal or external) are not seeing results they want and they place blame at the feet of marketing.  But in today's ROI based world you will probably have plenty of numbers to show you when what you are doing isn't working.  If you end up in this situation here are a few things to think about as you dissect the problem:

  • Is it really a problem yet?  All program take some time to generate results and yours may just not have had enough time.  However, it is important to know when enough time has run on the clock.  Just like calling a timeout in football or basketball, knowing when to do it is an important part of your strategy.
  • Is it a strategic issue or a tactical one?  If your stuff is failing, you need to figure out if your issues revolve around strategic issues or tactical ones.  Was your targeting off?  Did you overplay your market position?  If your strategy is off, no amount of tactical brilliance will make your marketing work - and vice versa.
  • Is it positioning and messaging?  Maybe you have the right strategy in place but you are not communicating correctly.  Are your value proposition and feature/advantage/benefit transitions getting your message to the market?  If you are lost in your own internal vernacular or using complicated terminology that just doesn't work with the target the loss of signal shows up in your lack of results.
  • Is it art and/or copy?  Sometimes creative gets too much of the blame when marketing goes wrong (see Pepsi, H&M, and Dove for recent examples) but at some point in the process that creative got approved.  Hopefully, you have enough time to thoughtfully review your creative from all angles and you can be in a position to make minor tweaks once you are in market.
  • Are your metrics right and measurable?  Making sure you measure the right things and have the ability to measure them is important.  True objective measurements of performance provide a real dividing line between success and failure, but the important part is to know what success looks like before your marketing efforts go out so that the goals are clear.  If there are not you have little ground to stand on and end up chasing around answers to questions you don't really know.

No one likes calling their baby ugly, but there are going to be situations when your marketing efforts don't get you what you need.  Don't hold on to your position too long or you'll end up like General Custer at Little Bighorn.  Take an honest assessment of what's happening and make the changes that need to be made.  Everyone makes mistakes - it's the ones that correct them without ego getting in the way that see more success in the long run.