If you’ve just blown a lot of money on a marketing effort that went nowhere, here’s the good news:

A marketing failure is a blessing in disguise, as long as you know how to use the experience to optimize your marketing strategy. 

Just about every entrepreneur has been where you are now. They’ve poured money and resources into an approach they believed in, only to see very little or no return on investment. An experience like this can make you feel stuck, directionless, or hopeless. You may not be able to afford another failed experiment. You might be questioning your own instincts.

No matter how deep your current state of panic is, don’t worry. There is a way to use this experience to build a better marketing strategy for the future. With a little know-how, you can make this failure one of the best things that has ever happened for your business.

The key is to recognize that marketing—especially digital marketing—is as much science as it is art. With all the high-tech marketing tools available to you, you can observe buyer behaviors in real time, keep an eye on your competitors, and make immediate adjustments to your marketing strategy to avoid wasting money on efforts that aren’t working.

We’ll explain how marketing technology and a little research can help you make the most of this invaluable learning experience. But first, let’s clarify one important point.

How Do You Know Your Marketing Effort Has Failed?

We’re so accustomed to instant results in our digital world that business owners occasionally forget that certain aspects of your marketing strategy require some time to truly blossom. Before you panic, make sure you have realistic expectations about how long it should take to see results. This depends largely on the marketing channel.

For example, if you’re running a pay-per-click ad campaign, you will be able to see results right away. This is because you are paying money to have your name, product, or website advertised directly to your target audience. You don’t have to increase brand awareness or nurture relationships to get that visibility. So, if you’re not getting clicks and conversions, something about your approach is not working.

On the other hand, more organic efforts such SEO and non-paid social media marketing take more time. You are building a platform and credibility. If your website is brand new, it could be months before you make it to the first page of Google, even with a solid SEO strategy. So if you’re panicking today because the site you built last week isn’t ranking yet, you might be panicking too soon.

But let’s say you are truly experiencing a marketing failure. Here are the important questions that will help you make a full recovery.

Do You Have a Deliberate Marketing Strategy in Place?

As a digital marketing agency, we’ve seen it a million times. Business owners have smart, creative ideas for reaching buyers, but those ideas aren’t plugged into a larger marketing strategy.

You can read more in-depth information about creating a marketing strategy here, but for now, here’s the short version:

A marketing strategy is an approach to marketing that factors in loads of research, including information about your target audience, your competitors’ technique, your resources, your budget, and the objectives of your company. When you devise a marketing strategy, you lay everything out on the table so you can determine which methods are likeliest to yield the best results with the right  buyers . . . without breaking the bank.

When you take the time to lay this groundwork, you make it much easier to design marketing campaigns that have a set purpose. You may have a great idea for a marketing video that sounds clever or compelling to you, but that means nothing if it’s not targeted to your specific audience on the perfect platform. It means nothing if it doesn’t inspire viewers to take the type of action that meets with your company’s current objectives.

So take a look at the marketing attempt that failed and ask if that effort aligns with a larger strategy, or if you’re just throwing cleverness at the wall to see what sticks.

What Are Your Data-Driven Insights?

One of the best things about being a business owner in 2019 is the incredible access you have to marketing insights. Whether you’re reviewing website performance, Google Ads, or social media engagement, you can get a detailed sense of buyer behaviors using the metrics available to you.

Use tools like Google Analytics and Cyfe to discover how users are interacting with your brand online. What are they saying about you on social media? How do they find your website or ecommerce store? Through what page are they most likely to enter your site, and is there a way to optimize that page to encourage them to stay longer? Look at the exit pages and bounce rate. At what point do users abandon your website? What about the user experience could you change to make them stay?

The more time you spend with the metrics, the likelier you are to pinpoint specific problems and optimize for a successful second attempt.

Are You Using The Right Audience Targeting??

One common pitfall among new business owners is the tendency to cast too wide a net. There is a logic to that strategy—the more people you reach, the more conversions you get, right?

Not necessarily. Especially not at the beginning, when you’re still raising brand awareness and trying to connect with the audience who will ultimately become your most loyal buyers and advocates. Try narrowing your focus to the audience who is most likely to fall in love with your company. Tailor your messaging for that group and design social media and Google Ad campaigns to reach those specific users.

Also remember to include retargeting campaigns. Thanks to modern technology, you can reach people who’ve visited your site or clicked on ads before with increasingly personalized messaging. This is an easy way to build relationships with buyers and guide them through the marketing funnel from awareness to consideration to conversion.

Are You Using the Right Marketing Channels?

If you’ve done the work to clarify your exact customer persona, you’re ready to take a look at your choice of marketing channel.

There are several different marketing channels, each of which serves a unique purpose and means different things for your budget. That said, some channels are better than others for reaching your target audience. If you’re selling to social conscious Millennials, for example, partnering with the right Instagram influencer might get you better results than an aggressive Facebook ad campaign will.

If you don’t know where your target audience hangs out or what they respond to, it’s time to do more research.

Are You Using the Right Keywords?

If your PPC campaign is falling flat, it’s time to take a critical eye to your keyword choices. Why aren’t users who search for your keywords clicking or converting? Is it possible that most buyers who search for those terms are not looking for what you’re offering? Have you chosen keywords that are too broad and competitive? Have you taken advantage of negative keywords to avoid showing up in front of users who have no interest in your product?

Take advantage of the myriad tools out there and do a little research. Try Mangools to test the strength and competitiveness of your keyword choices. Try SpyFu to see what your competitors are doing. Use Answer the Public as part of your brainstorming process. Keyword research is a skill that takes some patience to learn, but the benefits to your business can be enormous.  

Have You Tried A/B Testing?

Another great gift of the Internet age is that you can observe the success and failure of a marketing effort in real time and make immediate adjustments. You can also test two different approaches to everything from Google Ad campaigns to email blasts. This gives you a host of advantages. 

For one thing, you can cancel an underperforming approach at any time. You can immediately invest more resources and effort into whichever technique promises the higher ROI. And you can examine the differences between the two for clues on how to further optimize and what ideas to try next. If the email blast about your environmentally conscious manufacturing process gets more results than the one about recent rewards and recognition, that gives you a pretty strong clue into the values and priorities of your buyers.

Now for the Big Question . . .

Could You Use a Hand with Digital Marketing?

Many brilliant, insightful business owners find their marketing efforts falling flat time and time again for one very simple reason:

They don’t have time to do it right.

Or they delegate marketing to a handful of in-house or freelance professionals who don’t communicate with each other and aren’t qualified to set up a digital marketing strategy.

Because the Internet and its many tools are available to everyone, digital marketing feels like a straight-forward DIY endeavor. But it’s not. To really build a business online, you need a dedicated team who can strategize a marketing plan, design and execute deliberate marketing decisions, and track the results for optimization. You need experts who can present real stats and numbers, clarifying exactly what your ROI is and whether your efforts are worth it. Otherwise, you have a high risk of wasting time, resources, and money on well-intended but under-researched marketing strategies.

If you feel like you keep beating your head against the digital marketing wall, it might be a good time to partner with a digital marketing agency.

Remember: A marketing failure is only a failure if you don’t turn it into an opportunity for growth. Take the time to reflect on the choices you made the first time around. Determine what about your approach needs to change. And if there’s anything we can do to help you build a new and improved strategy, please reach out. We’re always happy to help great businesses get the results they deserve.