Good marketers know that marketing is an investment in growth. Yet hitting a home run every time is
not a realistic expectation. It’s not a perfect world, so marketing sometimes just doesn’t create the
necessary results. There are lots of reasons why. We break down four marketing fails in this blog post and offer real,
actionable ways for small business owners to avoid them. That’s because we believe in learning from the
good, the bad and the ugly of marketing. That’s how to make improvements. Never stop learning. Take
these insights on marketing fails into your business and kick up your marketing!
#1 MARKETING FAIL: No Marketing Plan
The first place to look for reasons why marketing failed is the plan. Marketing tactics only work if they
are part of an integrated strategy.
A good marketing plan includes a budget and tracks expenses so the company can measure Return On
Investment (ROI). It ensures that your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) are communicated in multiple
platforms, optimizing your brand’s reach. Because the plan includes goals, it drives employee behaviors
I’ve found that an essential component of the marketing plan is the target market. It’s critical to describe
your target audience in terms of demographics, lifestyle, and needs. Marketing plans that clearly define
the target market’s main points and articulate the solution and proof points will win.
This is because many tactical marketing decisions depend on the characteristics of your target market.
Here are two good examples to consider:
Smart companies aren’t just building great-looking web sites. They’re doing everything possible to drive
traffic to the site. That includes identifying the right terms so that folks who are Googling for their type
of product will find them online. A better definition of your target audience enables you to make better
decisions about the search terms you include in your web content.
Social media is another tactic that relies on target marketing. For example, there are over 2 million
groups on LinkedIn. You need to define your target market before you can make the right decisions
about which groups to spend time interacting with other group members. And LinkedIn isn’t the only
social media channel where a well-defined target market will help. It will also help you make the right
decisions on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Finally, a good marketing plan identifies the role marketing has in building sales revenue. Imagine the
sales funnel. Marketing brings qualified leads to the top of the funnel. The leads must then be followed
up on and nurtured either continuing through each subsequent stage or discarded.
#2 MARKETING FAIL: Lack of Clarity
Marketing doesn’t work when it confuses your audience. Lots of jargon or long-winded copy fall flat
every time. The goal of marketing is clarity.
Remember the old game show, “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?” It reminds me of a golden rule in
writing marketing copy or coming up with advertising messages. A fifth-grader should be able to
understand what you’re offering. If your marketing doesn’t pass that test, go back and edit. Use short
headlines and bullet points.
I also suggest you write about the impact your product has. You can’t argue with straightforward
messaging about the effect your product will have on the consumer.
That’s especially true with hard numbers about how great your product is. Consider case studies and
market research findings that back up your marketing claims. A classic example is Trident chewing gum. They made the “4 out of 5 dentists recommend chewing Trident gum after eating” line famous.
Determine what it is about your industry that frustrates customers. Then objectively identify how you’re
unique in resolving that frustration for customers. This is the foundation of your marketing messages
and what sets you apart from your competition.
#3 MARKETING FAIL: Overreach
Some small business owners feel that there are too many options when it comes to marketing channels.
They have no idea which marketing tactics might work because there is a sea of traditional and digital
marketing options available.
An ideal starting point in determining the right promotional mix is to understand where your customers
spend their time. Get to know how and where they consume marketing information.
This can be done in several ways. Listen to your customer service representatives. Their direct customer
interaction provides them with a good deal of market intelligence. If they don’t know off the top of
their head, have them ask customers at the end of a customer phone call. Then gather and review the
Company leadership should visit customers at their location. Ask them how they get their information.
This method can be far more enlightening than a survey.
#4 MARKETING FAIL: “Set it and forget it”
Effective marketing is a lot like feeding a coal furnace. You can’t do it once and expect sustainable success.
Customers come and go. Although most great brands enjoy strong customer loyalty, the need to
replenish the customer base with new ones is pervasive. Consequently, marketing doesn’t stop.
Marketing needs time to take hold. That happens with repetition and monitoring. In general, it takes
seven meaningful touches to close a sale. I want to stress how important it is to repeat the value
We’ve all seen the Gruber Law Offices commercials and billboards in the Milwaukee area. They get it
when it comes to the power of repetition. Their goal is to be top of mind in the personal injury law
arena, and it works.
The final word on marketing fails is monitoring. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The most
critical success factor in marketing is monitoring performance. I recommend that clients measure
marketing performance on two levels: strategic and tactical.
Set overall strategic or business goals for marketing success, such as incremental revenue. Some
companies refer to them as Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Tactically, pay close attention to how
different types of content and marketing channels perform. For example, I measure audience growth,
conversion, and engagement for social media clients.
Marketing fails are opportunities in disguise. I encourage you to learn from marketing fails like the
ones in this blog post. Don’t let common obstacles get in the way of marketing your business
See more from Michael Quill on our blog page!