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How Campaigns Fail

I’ll confess straight up, that today’s blog is part cautionary, part rant, and part pitch. So read at your own risk.

Here’s the thing… firms in the marketing industry almost all have the best of intentions: to achieve real revenue growth for their clients. But to actually do this requires a tremendous number of variables to work together. Missing any one piece of such a complex puzzle can truly destroy the success of the whole program.

The truth is, a marketing team is not in full control, but has to very carefully exercise the right amount of influence over the process to get the client their desired results. After all, a typical campaign is often based on whatever information you gave your marketers. It’s executed with the budget you set, and with the media channels you preferred. Certainly, to minimize risk to the marketing firm, all campaign aspects would have been executed with written approvals by the client at every stage. Even if the marketing team made recommendations, it’s true that you would have taken some of them, and sidelined others. But let’s say that in the case wherein you took most of your marketing team’s recommendations, and things still aren’t working…then what is really happening here? It could be several things:

  1. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but your sales team doesn’t think it has any relevance to them, so they don’t buy in.
  2. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but your customer experience isn’t really living up to the message, so it fizzles.
  3. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but your price is so cheap that your customers think it must be too good to be true, and don’t buy.
  4. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but your target customers didn’t find it relevant, so it attracted a type of customer you didn’t want.
  5. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, and even makes the phone ring, but no one answers the phone.
  6. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, and makes the phone ring, but the person answering the phone is clueless as to how to handle the call.
  7. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but competitors immediately imitate it and you’re back in the middle of the pack as before.
  8. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but its message doesn’t feel authentic to your own staff, so no one hangs up the promo, or executes the messaging.
  9. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but the company’s top executives didn’t participate in the strategy behind it, and when it doesn’t generate results instantly, they kill it.
  10. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, but there were separate teams implementing various pieces, and no one tracked or had full responsibility for the results.
  11. The campaign is sleek and persuasive, and generates tons of website traffic. But almost none of it translates into real leads.

Avoiding Failure

So are we saying that your marketing firm isn’t responsible? Are we throwing the blame all back on you as the client? Not at all. We’re saying that with more depth, and a better process, your marketing firm could have gotten a lot closer to the mark:

  • By conducting in-depth market research first, they could have ensured the key message was on-point and relevant to the right market. (#4 and #7)
  • By insisting key executives and staff were involved in the process early-on, they could have ensured more commitment to see the campaign through. (#8 and #9)
  • By including your sales team in the process, they could have fine-tuned the message and developed consistent sales tools for them. (#1)
  • By strategizing your price (or even how that price was presented), they could have helped ensure your credibility and perceived value. (#3)
  • By experiencing, fine-tuning and researching your offering, they could have coached you to better deliver on the needs of desired target market. (#4 and #2)
  • By honing sales processes and providing training, they could have avoided dropping the ball when handling customers. (#5 and #6)
  • By establishing a suitable level of control, or even simply information sharing, at the beginning of the engagement, they could have avoided failure due to lack of cooperation. (#10)
  • By better qualifying the target markets, and knowing what success measures are actually important, the marketing firm’s reports would match what the client sees as real success. (#11)

Yes, that’s asking a lot, and a firm needs a lot of experience and failures to get this good. But that is what it takes when a client expects a marketing, PR or branding firm to actually generate real results. If that’s what you’re looking for, the investment will be greater (in both time and money) and the firm needs to really needs to have that integrated, in-depth approach that encompasses market research, strategy, and excellent execution management.

If your firm doesn’t do these things, you’ll need to adjust your expectations. But ask yourselves this: Do we just want a sleek looking campaign? Or do we want actual results?

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."