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Almost every marketer has experienced the distress of a lackluster marketing campaign. You might get all the fundamentals right—target audience, relevant message, appropriate channel, strong creative, and lead capture—yet the results you expected still aren’t there.

It happens. Despite all the data available on which to base decisions, marketing remains an inexact science. External events and even luck play a part in marketing performance.

If you’re faced with a program that’s not meeting expectations, you might be tempted to cancel the campaign and cut your losses. On the other hand, you might hang in there and hope performance improves. A third option is to make changes to the program midstream and see if that helps.

Which decision is right for your situation?

Continue the campaign

In some ways, this is the easiest decision, because you don’t have to do anything except wait and see what happens. But it’s also difficult to simply hope things get better, especially when you’re reporting on your metrics to other colleagues. It’s natural to want to intervene.

Here are reasons to keep the campaign running in its current form:

  • Your campaign fundamentals are solid and you need to be patient.
  • If you’ve gotten positive results but not to the point you’ve hoped, it could be your expectations and not your campaign that needs adjustment.
  • The campaign has pulled in a new or unexpected type of customer and you’d like to get more of these.
  • An external event has caused a temporary disruption to your marketing flow. This could be anything from big industry news to a national crisis to a major storm.
  • The campaign is entirely new for you and you haven’t been able to accurately estimate the time it takes to see results.

Continue the campaign with changes

This is the most tempting option. If something is broken or not working properly, you want to fix it. Can you do it? Here’s why you should:

  • Some components of the campaign are performing well, while others lag. For example, you might be doing a great job driving prospects to a landing page, but they’re not completing a conversion form. You could tweak the landing page or simplify the form. Another example: Prospects are clicking to watch your video, but dropping off. You might need to edit the video to make it more compelling.
  • You’ve discovered a mistake in the campaign. You’ve used the wrong image, there’s a typo, the offer is misstated, a landing page url has changed, etc. In this case, you make the necessary repairs, keep going, and hope that does the trick.
  • You’ve had feedback from customers or salespeople that something is off about your messaging or channel approach. If this is the case, you could make suggested changes and keep the campaign running.

Cancel the campaign

Pulling the plug on a marketing campaign that isn’t working is a tough decision. You’ve already invested time and money. You hate to think you made a mistake. But sometimes, canceling a campaign is the best choice. Here’s when:

  • You’re far enough into the campaign to know that no matter how much performance improves it won’t cover your costs.
  • A change has created conditions in which your campaign is no longer viable. It could be a strategy change at your company such as the discontinuation of a product line. Or it could be a change in the market, such as a new technology or product that makes your campaign obsolete.
  • You have a better marketing opportunity and decide to take resources off of an underperforming campaign and devote them to another.

If there does comes a time when you must pull the plug on a campaign, think of it as a learning opportunity rather than as a failure. It happens to every marketer, sooner or later. Apply what you’ve learned, and do better next time.

 

 

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