Bad calls are gonna happen: a small business guide to marketing campaign fails.

What do marketing campaigns and sports have in common? If you pay attention to any broadcast sports on a regular basis, you’ve been impacted by the so-called Bad Call. The refs make an absolutely insane ruling that leaves the fans absolutely flabbergasted, screaming things at the TV like:

“There’s no way that wasn’t a catch!”

“Come on, refs, whattya have to do to get a pass interference penalty in this league? He was flat-out mauling the guy!!”

“He had it in the end zone, that’s a touchdown in anyone’s book!!!”

But, in spite of all the pleas, taunts and outright threats from the coaches, players, and fans in the stadium, the Bad Call stands. And history is changed in the minds of said coaches, players and fans… forever. They’re robbed of their rightful place in the Big Game while the undeserving beneficiaries of the Bad Call go on to win it all.

Somehow, though, life goes on and everyone’s hard at work on the practice field again in no time.

Oddly enough, this phenomenon is not limited to sports. Bad calls are a daily, even hourly, occurrence in the world of marketing campaigns. A small business owner might spend weeks planning the “perfect strategy” and getting their creative just right only to have their campaign fall spectacularly flat almost immediately after it’s launched. (This is the point where many people throw their hands up and say “well, marketing clearly doesn’t work.”)

Marketing campaign fails and what to do about them

The fact that your marketing campaign sucked is not the problem. It’s going to happen at some point. Heck, it happens even to extremely experienced marketers sometimes. It’s what you do next that really counts. As an entrepreneur, you have two basic options:

1) You can choose to spend all your energy bemoaning the failure and looking for a judge to step in and magically fix everything. 


2) You can take a step back and dispassionately analyze what happened so you can improve your next campaign. Some common things to check first:

  • Are you looking at the right metrics? Just because your campaign didn’t generate immediate sales doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had other beneficial results, like driving awareness for your business or filling your conversion funnel earlier than your other marketing activities. You may just need to adjust your time horizon and wait a bit longer to learn the true impact of your campaign. 
  • Did you target the right audience? No matter how fantastic your cupcake business is, if you accidentally targeted Facebook groups devoted to a low-carb lifestyle, you’re not likely to succeed. 
  • Did your ads actually run as planned? It’s worth taking a quick look to make sure your campaign actually ran… you’ll be surprised how often silly things happen that are easily fixed. 
  • Do all the links in your ad go where you think they go? Also known as “Always test every component of your emails, ads, etc. BEFORE you send it out.” You may be driving a ton of business… just to the wrong location. 
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring this up, and it requires brutal honesty and courage as an entrepreneur to answer “yes” to this one: Were you trying something best left to the experts? Or would it be better to hire some outside help to manage certain pieces of your marketing? If you’ve never launched an AdWords or Facebook retargeting campaign, for example, learning as you go is usually not a recipe for success. 
  • Finally… and this one’s tough, but has to be said- were you simply too emotionally involved with the concept to begin with, disregarding all the warning signs along the way that this might not be the best idea? I ask this from painful personal experience… There’s nothing wrong with loving your idea, just make sure it’s worthy of your love first.

And the list goes on. The point is, it’s important to stop beating yourself up and instead make sure you really understand what happened so you don’t repeat the same mistakes in future campaigns. One Bad Call is not a reason to throw in the towel and quit the game forever. Or, frankly, abandon marketing.

But, for the record? Yeah, that was DEFINITELY pass interference.

Happy small business marketing,

Theron & Katie

At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer marketing advisory, strategic planning, and services for small businesses and startups. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. Our goal is to help you grow your business without blowing the bank.

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