How to NOT Repeat Your Last Massive Marketing Failure

On the KISSmetrics blog we talk a lot about marketing wins. And we should––we’re all about sharing tips and tricks, hacks and tactics so that we can learn from one another and help one another be awesome at what we do.

But no matter how much we study up on the latest developments in digital marketing, how much we A/B test and how many of the classic marketing texts we read, at one point or another we’re going to try something that just doesn’t work.

Recently, I launched a mini marketing campaign that was a pretty massive fail. It makes me cringe to write that here, but, well, it’s true. And when I saw the numbers I knew exactly why it was failing. I had neglected to do several key things any good digital marketer should swear by before launching a campaign.

So, after licking my wounds for a bit, I decided to write down the main lessons I learned from my failed campaign so that I don’t make the same mistakes twice. And I want to share them with you so that as you try new things, push yourself to be a better marketer and at the same time tackle daily stresses and distractions, you can be sure not to make them, either.

1. Think hard about whether your campaign will appeal to your audience

Don’t let yourself or your team get swept away by what seems to be a really great, cool idea. You know what I mean: you’re all sitting around a table bouncing ideas off one another, and then someone proposes something that sounds totally cool, and everyone says, “Yeah! Let’s do that”, and they get to work.

Maybe that idea is truly totally cool and will bring great results. But before diving in take a moment to think hard about whether this is something that will appeal to your audience or simply an idea that sounds good.

How? Use Ramit Sethi’s five minute straightjacket technique to get inside your customer’s head.

Close your laptop, turn off your cell phone and shut your eyes. Imagine you are your target customer. For example, you are a 25-year-old female making about $65,000 a year. You are health conscious––you go to the gym four to six times a week––and you like to eat organic foods. Then imagine coming into contact with your marketing campaign. Let’s say it’s a piece of content in your Facebook news feed. Ask yourself, would I respond to this? Would I like and share it? Does it inspire me or touch my emotional center in some way?

If your answer is yes, then you might be on to something.

2. Better Yet, Test Your Idea

Getting inside your customer’s head is a great start, but if you want to be even more sure that your campaign will work then find a way to test your idea.

Let’s say you’re launching a content series to promote an event on Facebook. First, publish a piece of content that is similar to what you have in mind and see what happens. Does it generate engagement? If not, you just saved yourself a ton of time, money and disappointment.

Maybe you want to do an email marketing campaign educating your audience on a topic related to your business. Before doing that, write a blog post on that topic to see if your community gets excited about it, or host a quick Q&A Google Hangout and invite people to talk to you about the topic. This way, you validate your idea before diving in headfirst.

3. Remember: Good Artists Copy, But Great Artists Steal

There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from what other brands are doing online. Why not watch and learn from the best? I have an interest list on Facebook called “Social Media Rockstars” that I use to follow brands that are doing amazing things in social media and get ideas for my own content.

However, don’t assume that just because a certain style or concept worked for one company it will work for yours, even if you have a similar target audience. This is where the famous line “good artists copy, but great artists steal” comes in handy. If you simply copy another brand’s concept or style, it’s very likely that it will fall flat for your audience. Why? Because copying often feels inauthentic and forced, and because when you copy something you tend to neglect the nuances of your brand, audience and strategy.

(Note: I’m not talking about plagiarism! I mean copying by mimicking the campaign, content or style of another brand without evolving the idea to make it unique to your brand.)

On the other hand, when you steal an idea or technique, you appropriate it and truly make it your own. You take what makes it incredible and adapt it to fit your marketing strategy.

So, steal other people’s brilliant marketing ideas, don’t copy them.

4. Be Strategic About Which Channels You Use To Promote Your Campaign

It can be tempting to put your marketing campaign in as many channels as possible in order to give it maximum visibility: email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, etc. Don’t do this! Instead, make sure the campaign belongs in each channel. In other words, make sure that you can adapt the content of your campaign to fit each channel you are considering so that it seems natural and genuine rather than forced. If not, don’t put it there.

In my case, I had a general idea of what I wanted to get out of my campaign (event signups), but I didn’t take the time to clarify how each channel would give me what I wanted. The result? The format worked okay in one channel, but it didn’t translate well to another social channel in which I was promoting the same campaign.

The lesson here is: Before launching a campaign create a sample piece of content for each channel you want to utilize and publish it on a test account. Be really critical while doing this; if it becomes clear that a certain channel won’t work––perhaps because the format feels awkward or the overall tone and style of that channel doesn’t jive with what you have in mind––then leave that channel out.

5. Be Clear About How You Will Measure Success

While planning your campaign, make sure you are clear on exactly what you want to achieve and how each channel you plan to utilize will help you meet those objectives. If not, your campaign runs the risk of appearing jumbled to your audience and being difficult to measure for your company.

For any campaign you design, start by writing down your overall objectives. These can be general, like “event inscriptions”, “email signups”, “e-book downloads”, etc. Then get more specific with SMART goals, such as “Sell 20 tickets for our workshop using a mix of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn before March 28th” or “Get 80 e-book downloads in two weeks”.

Once you’ve identified your overall objectives and SMART goals, determine exactly how you are going to measure each one. What metrics will tell you if you are meeting your goals? Sometimes your SMART goal makes this immediately obvious, and sometimes you need to do a bit more planning.

But don’t just jot down metrics like “e-book downloads” or “mailing list subscribers” and move on. Make sure you can measure the success of each and every channel you plan to use with a metric that relates directly to your goals/objectives. Mapping this out helps you with lesson #4 as you’ll quickly notice if a specific channel is not going to help you meet your objectives.

Finally, identify which tools you will use to obtain each metric and set up any necessary Google Analytics profiles, views, filters, goals, UTM parameters, smart lists, etc.

Just so we’re all really clear here, your goals and metrics map should tell you:

  • General objectives
  • SMART goals
  • Key metrics that will tell you if you’re meeting your objectives/goals, and confirmation that you can track them in every channel you plan to promote your campaign
  • What tool you will use to obtain each metric

This lesson might seem obvious, but when you’re facing a tight deadline, a pushy client, an over-eager boss or when you’re feeling confident, it’s often the first one to get pushed to the side.

Failure is a natural part of learning and mastering your craft. In fact, I don’t trust anyone who says they’ve never messed up big time. The key to being good at failing—whether at marketing, your relationships or a hobby—is to internalize the lessons you learn from your screw-ups and apply them to your future endeavors.

You can even keep a running list of mistakes you’ve made in the various categories of your life (right now, I have a list for mistakes I made while setting up our company website, another one for general marketing mistakes and a folder for emails I sent that got no response). Documenting where you go wrong is a huge help when it comes to not repeating mistakes.

Remember:

“You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake. It’s a choice.” –– Steven Denn

Let’s get your list started. What has been your biggest marketing fail, and what lessons did it teach you?

About the Author: Chloe Mason Gray specializes in digital marketing strategies for startups and medium-size tech companies. She currently leads the marketing team at the Big Data company Ondore. Be sure to say hi to her on Twitter. You also can follow her on

  1. Thanks for linking to Ramit’s Mixergy interview!

  2. “You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake. It’s a choice.”I love this words.

  3. This is a fantastic piece and the quality of this article reinforces why I read every KISSmetrics post! I am going to start my own Social Media Rockstars list today! Great, actionable tip! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Nice article, good thought provoking ideas.Thanks for this very succinct summary of a complicated topic.

  5. This is a really great article glad i came upon this site , very useful.

    Thanks again !!!!

  6. Your tips are really goo, you helped a lot. Hope you will write these kind of articles again and again and… well, you know. Marketing is amazing!

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