How to Learn From a Marketing Campaign That Strikes Out

You’re full swing into the year and are cranking out marketing campaign after marketing campaign. You’ve completed your homework and know which messages are flowing into which channels to resonate with which personas. You’ve tested your subject, your headlines, and your copy. You’ve even set a performance target for each campaign. Everything is already teed up in your campaign automation system so that you can conscientiously monitor the results.

Great! Now the question is, how’s your batting average? Are you mostly producing better than expected results? Just the expected results? Are you having less than you hoped for? While we all wish that every marketing tactical effort was a home run, unfortunately, that is not the case.

So, before you move on to your next regularly scheduled program, it would behoove you to invest more than a cursory look at the campaigns that didn’t hit the mark. Why? Because often we learn more from our failures than our successes.

Plan for the After Game Debrief

Continuous improvement and performance management are crucial to achieving a winning season. Hopefully after every campaign you and your team hold a debrief session to assess feedback. We say “hopefully” because we all know that with such busy schedules, it’s easy to forgo this step. Therefore, make sure you get off to a running start and schedule your debrief meeting in advance. We recommend setting aside 90 minutes for these meetings within 1-2 days after the results are calculated.

In order to benefit from the time set aside for a debrief, make it a learning opportunity by incorporating these 5 elements into your playbook.

1. Start with a recap of the purpose of your campaign and its expected performance.
2. Present the results.
3. Move into the “dissection” phase of the meeting.
4. Document lessons learned, what to repeat, and what to do better/differently.
5. Revisit your upcoming campaigns and adjust them based on your session output.

Analyze the Play by Play Success of Your Campaign

Debriefing sessions are invaluable when trying to understand why you’re striking out. However, to be effective, a detailed and careful dissection is essential when teasing out what to improve. And that means you need to know how to ask the right questions.  

To help you understand why your campaigns are flying out of bounds, address these 3 questions for marketing campaigns that fall below your performance target:

1. Did you set the correct outcome-based performance target? Did you derive it correctly? Is the performance target in line with what you’ve achieved in the past as well as with industry benchmarks? You don’t want to “sandbag” yourself, but you also don’t want to be too enthusiastic about your performance target and set the bar beyond what is possible.

An example of an outcome-based performance target would be: “This campaign will result in N# number of prospects in market A to trial newly launched product X, and 60% of these prospects will convert to paid customers at the close of the trial.”

2. Did you identify the correct chain of behaviors and associated metrics between the message, call to action, and ultimate objective? In this example, the chain is the engagement rate that leads to some number of trial inquiries that leads in turn to a target of trial registrations which then leads to actual trial initiation.

In other words, these are the conversions from contact to consideration in the six C’s of engagement across the customer buying journey.

3. Did you conduct adequate research about the target’s pains and opportunities? These questions are designed to help you understand whether or not you’re keeping your eye on the ball. A compelling message delivered in the right channel at the right time that addresses pain points should result in engagement. Little or no engagement would suggest that you are off base. Whereas high engagement that didn’t produce results might indicate another reason for failure and a need for further investigation.

These aren’t the only questions to consider, but they’ll at least get you in the ball park. Debriefs are an important tool for every company striving for peak performance. However, sometimes you need help to make it to first base. Consult with your colleagues, discuss with your peers, or reach out to the professionals for help. It takes a team to win a game, so make sure that you’ve built a strong one.