What To Do When Your Marketing Is Broken (And You Don’t Know Why)

One of the more curious problems in digital media is that there really isn’t a great way to match up the numbers you get from an audience targeting tool to the real world people you count on reaching. Relying on the wrong numbers can mean that you very quickly end up looking at skewed landscape.

We were working on a project a few weeks ago where our team was trying to spread awareness about a topic that would have only appealed to a very select group of people. It wasn’t that the topic wasn’t interesting. We were helping to spread the word about an initiative that had the potential to make a real impact. While many people express tacit interest in “doing good,” there isn’t a great way to break through the noise in a category so broad. The trouble was, to really appreciate the aims of this particular project, you were likely to be in a fairly select group of people.

This is a common problem.

We meet with a whole host of teams who have been relying on one or two clever targeting gimmicks. When we meet with them, they express some form of “my marketing broke.”

The reasons are always varied.

Sometimes, growing your traffic can feel like a trap.

Maybe they’ve been using a pop-under to collect email addresses, and then using those email addresses to drive the targeting schema they use to promote their posts. Maybe they’ve been focusing on developing relationships with a list of people who have publicly engaged with their content. Maybe they’ve been relying on transactional techniques like retargeting ads and wonder if they can every break out of the traffic trap.

It doesn’t really matter how you got here.

We’ve found that in every one of these situations, the process for getting out is the same.

Take Some Time To Identify Where You Really Are

Digital marketers are horrible about tunnel vision.

It’s only natural. After you’ve spent hours crafting a message and researching an audience. After you’ve obsessed about the placement of each pixel and finessed your insertion order as well as you can, there’s an all too real temptation to become a little bit obsessed with execution.

You won’t be able solve a problem you can’t understand.

If your ad costs are going up, start by isolating each data point you’re targeting.

Are you hitting too narrow an area? Try an ad without those limitations and see what happens. Is the response rate low? Try a different piece of creative.

This is a lot like the advertising version of unplugging your modem. These are just examples.

The truth is, you’ve got to find a way to work through each part. While this isn’t fun, it’s the only way you can develop an accurate understanding of where your work is falling short.

Understand Why You Failed To Reach Your Goal

It’s not easy to embrace failure — many of us are conditioned to avoid it at all costs. When it comes to developing a program on the basis of small consistent wins delivered over time, however, it’s important to recognize opportunities to do better.

Perhaps you’ll find that you neglected one or two elements of platform specific best practice that you can easily change to get your ads back up to spec.

You might find that you’ve been reaching the wrong customer segment. With a few tweaks you could be well on your way to finding a new more profitable niche than you’d ever addressed before.

Bad news isn’t bad news forever. It’s important to learn to think about bad news as the signal that you’ve stumbled into a genuine problem.

When You Find A Real Problem, Fix It

Easier said than done, I’m sure.

One of the advantages of isolating each part of your marketing funnel, is that you can quickly identify which levers impact which results. If you’re only getting 1 click for every 100 people who see your content and you know you need 100 clicks, you also know that you can either increase the number of clicks you get per 100 people or increase the number of people who see your content.

You won’t ever be able to rely on this approach to find anything but “ideal” solutions. That doesn’t mean that these steps won’t help you — on the contrary, they should prove quite illuminating. You won’t know what you find in your marketing data until you take a step back and look. We’ve always found this approach to work well for us, and we’re betting it’ll work for your team, too.

What To Do When Your Marketing Is Broken (And You Don’t Know Why) was originally published in Thoughts On Best Practices.

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