Why marketing campaigns fail… and what to do about it

Lack of focus

Your data selection is too general and hasn’t drilled down to the people in the exact type of job role that will be interested in your product or service. For example, Human Resources(HR) and information Technology (IT) job roles cover a multitude of responsibilities with specialists in each. As your product, service or other reason for connecting is probably relevant to just one of these areas, you may need to target that very specific job role. Sending your communications just to the HR or IT director alone risks it being lost somewhere along the way.

However as people with these two senior job titles have overarching responsibilities and decision making ability, they might be the correct people to target. Give the decision serious thought - if will affect everything.

Best practice:

Gather contacts data or buy a business list with the specific job titles of people who are going to be interested in your product and services and who are in the position to make the decision to take your approach further. While the HR or IT director may well be interested and have overall responsibility for the product area, ensure you also contact roles which have most relevance to your product or service. And make sure your messaging reflects that job role, i.e. acknowledge their specialism, and ensure your messaging fits accordingly. If your GDPR reason for processing personal data is ‘legitimate interest’, you don’t need an opt in from the people you are contacting, but you must only contact them if your product or service is relevant to their business or job role – and provide the facility to unsubscribe.

Being overly ambitious

Apart from the need to target the right job roles, targeting organisations that are likely to be receptive to your product or services is equally important.

Fixating on the FTSE 100 companies for example to the exclusion of smaller or relatively unknown organisations is a big mistake. There are thousands of organisations out there, big and small, which you will probably not have heard of but which are potentially great targets – and are not the focus of your competitors.

Best practice:

You might be better off approaching enterprises that are not household names which have less red tape to go through and are more approachable and receptive. These can range from small to large, depending on what you are offering. Think local too as many organisations like to deal with local suppliers. A good data provider will tease out the right sort of business list for you if correctly briefed.

Poor data

Poor quality, out-of-date data is a real killer and will cause even the best thought out, well-intentioned and expensive project to fail. Studies show that up to 70% of key contacts data decays over the course of a year.

If your in-house information is poor and not GDPR compliant, as can easily happen, you will need buy some in or outsource the research. But unfortunately, buying in data doesn’t guarantee that it’s accurate, recently researched or includes the level of detail and focus that will make your campaign a success.

Best practice:

If the project is costing thousands of pounds, with a lot riding on it, then using focused, high quality data should be considered paramount. Unfortunately, purchasing data is often seen as an unwelcome necessity, reluctantly purchased at the cheapest price. Find an established, trusted supplier, be specific about what you want, get samples to test, and insist that the data is re-validated just before it’s delivered to you. And don’t leave it longer than a couple of weeks before you use it.

Lack of persistence

A campaign should be planned and organised properly, allowing three months or more before you start seeing results.

Though you may be lucky and get a response from a cold contact on your first approach, it is far more likely that you will need to make contact a number of times to get a response.

Be aware of the six-point rule – you may need to make contact with people six times or more before they bite. And by ‘contact’ we don’t mean a hard sell each time, but rather the development of a relationship over time.

Best practice:

In addition to the initial push to make potential buyers aware of your products or services, you need five other "low-push" reasons to make contact. These could include:

All this requires an efficient CRM or other system for tracking communications and reminders. And having an ongoing feed of business news stories to tap into to enable you to make warm contact.

Poor quality communications and messaging

This applies to both what you say and how you say it and covers everything from campaign collateral to your website and how easy you make it for people to contact you. One of the mistakes made in many marketing campaigns is that far too much detail is given, with the reader faced with a dense page of text (whether flyer, letter or email) with the exact point of communication hidden somewhere half way down.

Another common mistake is having too many messages and/or calls to action or no call to action at all. And how many of us have clicked on a link that doesn’t work, completed an online enquiry form that no-one from the company responds to, or have had to work hard to find the right contact details?

Best practice:

Don’t waffle. The content should be concise and engage the reader right from the first sentence. Don’t apologise for contacting them, or enquire after their health (if you don’t know them) or tell them what they already know. If after a couple of sentences you haven’t told them anything of particular interest or got to the point, they are unlikely to read any further. Here’s an example of what not to say that we came across recently – don’t copy it!

“I hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I thought I would write to you to introduce myself. No doubt you have been facing many challenges during the last 12 months due to Covid-19 and have had to reorganise the way you do business. Communicating with your staff by Zoom is not the easiest way to…. ” Make sure there is a CTA on the landing page, e.g. complete this form for a quote/sign up here for 20% off your first order. Make sure you’ve tested them just prior to mailing and that they work.

Poor website, particularly the landing page

even if you have amazing collateral with great messaging and design that piques the recipient’s interest, you could easily lose them if your website doesn’t match up. The landing page in particular should match the messaging and style of your campaign and meet the visitor’s expectations.

It’s no good having a jazzy, well written email if when they click through they just get your standard landing page, which continue to take them on that exciting journey, doesn’t reflect your messaging, is hard to read or navigate, looks amateurish or is densely packed with text.

Best practice:

don’t just think of the collateral of your campaign, but the journey you want to take them on when they visit your website. If your campaign is dynamic, does your website match in terms of message, style and tone of voice, with good, clear calls to action so it’s easy to make contact. Even if the rest of your website isn’t up to scratch, a well-thought-out landing page delivers what the visitor expects and means they are less likely to start delving into the rest of the site.

Lack of clear campaign goals

An unclear idea of what actually constitutes the success of a campaign and no way of measuring it means a campaign can look like it’s failed when it hasn’t.

For example, just one conversion from a campaign to 500 people may pay for the project and provide opportunities for up-selling and repeats. So that's a success.

Hoping that dozens of enquiries will flood in is unrealistic and disheartening and can lead to good ideas being abandoned.

Best practice:

decide what success would look like and how you will measure it. Repeat the campaign, compare and contrast. ROIs are important, but so is raising awareness of your products and services, making new, sometimes slow-burn contacts, and learning from your mistakes and improvements.

Your recipients may not be ready for you just yet, but they might be in six months’ time, and when they are ready for your products or services, your organisation will by then be front of mind because of your persistence.

No sense of urgency to respond

You haven’t provided any incentive for the recipient to respond quickly. So even if they’re potentially interested, they may put you on the back burner for the time being, with the risk that your message gets lost in the email pit, or one of your competitors approaches them with an offer they can’t refuse.

Best practice:

if relevant, offer something that will pique their interest and may just push them to want to find out more. Examples include:

Poor timing

If the target organisation is doing badly, they may not be interested in certain products and services, such as luxury goods, but they might be interested in cost-saving /efficiency services.

The key is getting in there at the right time with just the right service or product. If they don’t need it, can’t afford it, or have just bought off someone else, you’re wasting your time.

Best practice:

keep your finger on the business pulse. Be ready for opportunities when they occur. A business strategy for this would be very useful. Buy into a business news feed subscription that does all the hard work for you so you never have to miss an opportunity and can target businesses that are probably going to be very glad to hear from you.

Lack of analysis and persistence in email campaigns

Even with the right messaging, spot-on web site and landing page, pertinent call to action and great product or service, you can still fail to generate any leads or useful first conversations. We talked about persistence in point no.

4, and never more was that more relevant here. But persistence alone is only one of the weapons you will need in your email campaign armoury.

Best practice:

There are several things you can do to help get your campaign noticed and here we need to be quite specific:

Use an email marketing platform, such as Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor, which will enable you to track the results. You will be able to see who opened the email; how many times it was opened (they may have forwarded it to colleagues); how long they spent on reading it; who clicked on the links; who didn’t open it; who unsubscribed, etc.

Plan your campaign covering at least a three-month period. This will include getting your landing page up to scratch; targeting the right contacts and writing your messaging accordingly; realistically understanding what you want to achieve; and repeating the campaign several times until you achieve a cumulative opening rate of 50%.

Bear in mind that the average email open rate is between 15–25% on the first send and the average click-through rate around 2.5%, so it’s definitely a persistence and a numbers game.

Make sure you have a two-part unsubscribe as many organisations have software that automatically unsubscribes any unrecognised emails/organisations. You can then ignore any unsubscribes that haven’t completed the second stage (usually a tick box of some sort).

Buy your contacts data as close to the mailing date as possible, and no earlier than two weeks before, to avoid hard bounces due to out-of-date data.

If providing a link to your website, ensure that you also give the recipient the URL as many people are wary nowadays about clicking on a link, especially if the email is from someone they don’t know.

The key elements regarding the emailing itself, include:

Resending the campaign to non-openers every week, varying the day and time you send it. The aim is to get non-openers to open their emails to up the cumulative opening rate.

Resending to openers of the email every two weeks if they have not made contact with you.

Ensuring you remove all unsubscribers at every stage.

Deploying a range of different headings to test those which are more effective in getting recipients to open the email. If you have a high enough number to work with, perhaps split the contacts into two groups and try a different heading for each, then swap over when you next resend. Tweak the headings in light of the results. Only make one change at a time so you know what has actually worked and what hasn’t.

Sending a personal email to someone who has shown clear interest in your email, i.e. they have opened it numerous times, clicked on the links, stayed some time on your website, etc., with an excuse to contact them. A good example would be to refer to your earlier email and say you thought they might be interested in the attached brochure/discount/free guide, etc. Don’t make it obvious that you have been tracking the results.

Keep a record of the results (i.e. opening rate, click through rate, response rate, new clients or new orders, unsubscribers, different headings) so you can evaluate what worked and what didn’t and use it to compare and contrast with later campaigns.

To sum up:

So, you will have seen from the above discussion that there are a lot of issues to consider, each of which will have an important impact on the results. Importantly though, if even one of them is not attended to the whole campaign will suffer and possibly even fail completely. However, if you put the time and attention into all the key areas, you will have a really good chance of getting positive results from your efforts. Good luck!

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