This time of year we are gathering information from vendors to put together annual media plans for our clients. Along with that we are evaluating what worked exceptionally well in this year's media plans, but also what has not worked so well. We feel this type of evaluation is crucial to helping our clients grow, make effective marketing decisions and for us to be good stewards of their marketing budgets. A lot of agencies may shy away from calling attention to any rotten eggs in a media plan, or if they do spin it so it is good news - gotta keep up the farce of smoke and mirrors so they keep paying the retainer, right?! But within these seeming mistakes we feel ourselves and the client can learn a great deal to improve and make better marketing decisions.
One recent example involved a B2B client. They had begun an initiative to target a new audience with their line of products. So we scheduled a webinar with a publisher that reached that audience, and picked a topic with editorial department's help. The program had a full promotional campaign of eBlasts and print ads to attract registrants. But when it got to be a week out from the event the registrants had not really rolled in - in fact we had 1/10th of the registrants as we had expected. Then when the event went live, the publisher had a lot of issues with their platform so we did not capture all attendee information. So in most respects, this program was a flop. Should we just chalk it up as a mistake, don't repeat and move on? Not necessarily. We used it to help refine the target audience for the client; and we helped the client dig into the leads we did generate to help convert them to projects, and learn what we could about the customer's needs. Plus we learned a few more questions to ask of publishers when they say they offer "webinars."
When it comes to digital programs, learning from campaigns that do not work is critical. Vendors call this "optimizing." It takes a strategic look at the digital reporting to not only see if it is performing against your KPIs but supporting your overall marketing efforts. We know that clients hate the word "testing," but the reality is that it is all a test, especially when it comes to digital. We have been to seminars and heard from major brands like Coke, UPS and others - all marketers are finding their way in the digital space.
To learn from your marketing mistakes, no matter the media it is all about asking the right questions. Look at the failure and ask questions to try to discern why it did not work (as much as you are able). Here are some questions we ask:
Was the timing wrong? Any seasonality to consider in the industry?
Were there market conditions that may have caused the poor performance? ie. weather, competition opening, etc.
Was it not enough budget to effectively reach this audience?
Perhaps the creative needs to be adjusted? Did it include a strong call-to-action?
There are a lot of questions you can ask to try to discover what went wrong. Doing so will help make bad media programs become good media ideas again.