What you should do when things go wrong: Advice for learning from a failed marketing initiative

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marketing fail
Sometimes marketing initiatives fail. However, how do you know when things are really going wrong, especially with the long sales cycle in the AEC industry?

Things don’t always work right in marketing. You spend money, time and effort on a project and achieve weak or results. The most problematic situation occurs when you spend cash and nothing happens.

(This is a real risk, especially since most architectural, engineering and construction businesses are selling large-ticket products and services. Even a modest residential renovation project may be $50,000 or more — so if you achieved even a couple of orders from a single marketing campaign, you would be happy. But with a small dataset, does this mean a zero response is really a failure, or you just didn’t give it enough time and repetition?)

There are some ideas in this Business Marketing Institute post that may give you some strategies to deal with failure, but I’m afraid the results here would be helpful primarily if you achieve at least some results from your campaign. You can then mine the (perhaps few) who responded affirmatively, gather insights into their interests and reasons for responding, and modify your approaches for further testing.

But what should you do when you get no results at all?

Here, I’ll advocate a perspective-checking approach.

First, have you created a soft introductory offer to attract the right kind of initial inquiries? I doubt you will directly sell a $3 million school project from an advertisement or email  — and even a home renovation job won’t probably arrive that way. If it isn’t a public tender/bid job, you will most likely get the work from recommendations and referrals, or through a relationship developed through your reputation-building initiatives.

Second, you should look carefully at the scale and framework for your offer/message. As a rule, larger projects/initiatives require more lead time and planning than impulsive immediate purchases. So your strategy should allow for plenty of patience in your testing, evaluation and review.

None of this needs to be too scary. If your budget is tight, focusing on effective blogging, public speaking, site content, and a call-to-action white paper or report will probably cost little money and allow you the patience to test/review and rework the strategy if it doesn’t work out right the first time, without breaking your bank account.

If paid advertising is in order, keep in mind the big picture and ensure you allow the advertising campaign enough time and scale to achieve meaningful results. Certainly don’t spend your last dime on a “hail mary” advertising campaign — the money you spend here should (until you validate results) be soft enough that you can “lose” it without going broke. Once you breakthrough with an effective strategy, however, you’ll build a strong competitive advantage.

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