7 ways to correct a failing marketing strategy
A floundering marketing strategy isn’t failure, but ignoring reality and refusing to adjust will be.
No entrepreneur has a perfect first marketing campaign. Even if you’re experienced as a marketer or entrepreneur, you can’t really dial things in until you have data to inform your campaign.
So let’s say you have a marketing strategy that’s, for the most part, “failing.” You aren’t seeing the results you predicted, and from what you can tell, your return on investment (ROI) is either negligible or negative. I’m going to assume that this isn’t just a gut feeling or an early reaction, either — you’ve looked up the hard numbers, and can objectively demonstrate that your marketing strategy isn’t working the way you’d hoped.
You don’t want to abandon your strategy altogether, so what can you do to correct it?
1. Give it more time
First, I want to acknowledge that some strategies—like SEO—take a long time to start paying off. If you’re investing in your brand image, or if you’re relying on inbound channels of traffic to bring you more customers, don’t get discouraged after only a few weeks of effort.
On the other hand, some strategies — like PPC advertising — should start working immediately and improve over time as you make adjustments based on the data. If you’re working on a long-term strategy, consider giving your campaign more time to develop. Otherwise, try one of the approaches below.
2. Differentiate it
The marketing world is a competitive one, especially in popular realms like content marketing and social media. There are thousands of brands competing for your target audience’s attention, so what makes your strategy unique? If you’re saying the same things that your competitors are saying, or if your design blends in as background noise, your campaign is going to falter. Correct this by saying something unique that only your brand could say. Sometimes, it’s the only way to cut through the noise.
3. Make a more valuable offer
All forms of marketing target some interaction as an end goal, whether that’s buying a product or visiting a website. To take that action, your customers need something valuable in return. Sometimes, that’s an affordable product. Other times, it’s a gift, such as a free downloadable eBook.
If you aren’t getting enough interactions from your campaign, it may be a sign to increase the value of your offer. That could mean offering a discount on your main product, adding more free gifts, or otherwise incentivizing users to take your desired action.
4. Retarget to fit your audience
Targeting a generic audience may seem like a smarter choice for getting a higher return. After all, you’ll be reaching a larger number of people. However, it’s almost always better to target a smaller audience with more relevant messaging. If your generic messaging isn’t reaching the audience segment that you want to reach, take a step back, run some new research on your target demographics and adjust your messaging to fit the people you’re trying to reach.
5. Segment (and AB test) your strategy
Alternatively, you could see better results by segmenting your strategy into discrete paths. For example, you could target one audience segment on a primary channel, and another audience segment on a secondary channel. You could also experiment with different types of messages and mediums, running AB tests to see which one performs better in a controlled environment. This way, you’ll have more specific data about which marketing components work and which ones don’t.
6. Align your individual tactics
Marketing strategies work best as individual components of an overall machine, rather than wholly independent units. Examine how your latest marketing tactics play into your strategy as a whole. This can help you identify problems with your brand voice, your direction and missed opportunities for cross-promotion. Try to keep everything tied together as much as possible.
7. Try a new strategy (or scale up)
If none of these strategies are working and you feel your strategy is a lost cause, pull out and try something new. That “something new” could be the same strategy with an entirely new angle (or new budget), or a new strategy altogether. This doesn’t necessarily mean the strategy is useless, but it does mean you should focus on something else — at least in the short term.
Marketing strategies are rarely total successes or total failures. Even if you perform well, there will be factors beyond your reach and key opportunities to learn from your mistakes. Even if you perform poorly, you’ll always have time to make up for your errors and begin anew.
Experiment with these different approaches when modifying your existing marketing strategies, and eventually, you’ll be able to form more audience-appropriate and effective strategies from the beginning. There’s always something new to learn, and always more ways to get better.