If there is a single marketing challenge that can be dauntingly difficult to overcome, I would say it is: Things don’t work very well, especially at first.
The solutions to these problems include testing and measuring, but there are problems here as well. In the early goings, you will probably find even your tests fail (if you know what to test). More challengingly, you may have an established pattern/process (even though you haven’t formally systemized it), and suddenly, or more challengingly, gradually, it stops performing the way it should.
There are many reasons for these failures, and this is another challenge. An individual marketing process is only one cog in a truly complex gear mechanism; of the overall marketing concept/system, internal business issues, external conditions, competitors and overall economic conditions.
Yes, these observations may make you want to throw your hands up in frustration and think about giving up. And I fear they explain why so many architectural, engineering and construction businesses give up before they get very far on the marketing path. This “giving up” can be through business failure (when marketing programs are rushed into being during a recession or downturn to save the business, usually too late) or in an established business, which has a solid repeat/referral client base, and when the initial marketing experience seems to be a costly mistake. (It usually is costly, and it is a “mistake” only if you allow the initial results to result in the end of your efforts.)
These observations explain the value of Eric Gagnon‘s Business Marketing Institute post: Sales Turnaround 101 — What to do When Your Marketing Program Hits the Wall. He outlines a variety of reasons that many of your marketing materials and tests will fail, and suggests some possible solutions.
Note they aren’t elegant, but one idea worthy of considering is to look at what went right even in the failures, and to mine the minds of the customers who purchased even though the marketing campaign failed for insights. (Fair enough, but I fear some AEC marketing initiatives especially at the early stages generate absolutely zero business results.)
The second idea he offers relates to the softer qualities of persistence and attitude.
There is Always One More Thing You Can Do
Never forget that when something bad happens to you, your response to the event ultimately determines the final result, and reveals the solution, if one can be found.
Also, remember the words of Lt. General Harold G. (“Hal”) Moore (Ret.) who, as an American commander, successfully led his 395 men against 2,000 elite North Vietnamese Army troops during the battle of Ia Drang, the first major battle of the Vietnam War.
His advice to his men: “Don’t say ‘there’s nothing you can do.’ There’s always one more thing you can do.”
Next to a positive attitude, action is the antidote to any adverse major marketing factor you can’t control. Never give up.
If you realize that you are operating inside a negative environment and, after thoughtful analysis you conclude there is nothing wrong with either your product or your marketing program—change your environment.
Break your conception of your product, and think about new ways it can be sold. Do this by continually testing new markets, and making changes to your product to make it more attractive to prospects. Keep working all of your options, and thinking of new ones.
Even if you can’t find a solution to your crisis, the mere fact that you are taking action changes your environment, and this change creates a condition where solutions begin to reveal themselves.
Taking action always creates new options. And these new options often lead you to more effective ways to selling your company’s product: A quick test mailing to a totally new and different market or industry that generates sizeable interest and response; a cheaper spin-off of your product that makes its price point more affordable, tripling your sales volume overnight; an overnight change to your pricing, or adding a new distribution partner.
Keep blasting away and the breaks will come. In business, success often comes not to the luckiest, the richest, or the smartest, but to those who can hold on the longest.
Life, and business, is not a still life painting in an art gallery. It’s a constantly changing environment: Things change, for better as well as for worse. Dumb luck works just as well as good luck, but you’ll never find either one if you give up.
Taking action helps you—and your marketing program—survive to face another day, and the day after that. And every day, the mere fact that you are alive and “in the arena” with your marketing program is another day closer to the day that things break in your favor. You’ll only fail if you quit—so don’t quit!
There is always something you can do.
Ah, the virtues of persistence — though of course the example he provides has some odd challenges. America, of course, LOST the Vietnam war, and I don’t think any level of persistence in that conflict would have proven valid — at least at the ultimate cost to both Vietnamese and American families.
Yet, there is another way of looking at the persistence issue: If you handle things with sensitivity, respect, and appreciate there is “another way” you may find your new direction becomes the old one. (The US and Vietnam, after all, now get along quite well. The woman I dated when I was 28 told me “let’s be friends” and I accepted that answer truly at face value. Thirteen years later, things shifted, and we’ve now been married 23 years.)
Do you have an example of how you were able to overcome marketing failures? Please feel free to connect with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through your comment to this post.