SVP Digital Strategy, Digital Niche Agency (DNA), testing, optimizing, and scaling data-driven campaigns for growth-oriented companies.
Tell everyone you know that it is true — marketing does not work.
It was John Wanamaker (1838-1922), the department-store magnate, who once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
The preconceived notion that running a marketing campaign will produce a positive response from a target audience is false, by definition. To begin, if you consider that the average click-through rate of a digital advertisement (a consistent delivery method) is 1%, and a successful conversion rate is about 2%, in many circumstances, the majority of any demographic does not perform.
This 0.02% effectiveness level, or 1-in-5,000-person closing rate, would be looked at as virtually nonexistent in any other conversation. Think about it: Would you buy anything or employ anyone that only worked 0.02% of the time? The best marketing campaigns are only working at a microscopic level, if any.
Next, I would like to point out that there is no single marketing solution that has ever been available, at scale, to meet the goals of every company, in every industry, at every time of year and among countless other variants. Guaranteed achievement of milestones simply does not exist, which is why the largest marketing products of all time, including those like Google and Facebook ads, do not offer such a thing. The myth that a brand can spend to activate a marketing campaign and obtain results can set smart teams up with the wrong outlook and expectations.
Furthermore, I have directly worked with many of the top marketers from both the largest brands and fastest-growing startups, and have rarely seen stable analytics throughout each point of the calendar year. My campaigns have featured influencers who were hit with political backlash or product delivery date delays, or were shadowed by innovative competitor offers or forced to contend with an unexpected pandemic. I have encountered a long list of obstacles that have led to declines in performance, and all on top of standard consumer behavior trends. Results are earned, and the ability to optimize in response to these conditions is required as part of the process.
The sentiment of this article is not to deter from marketing conversations, but to exclaim that marketing is a mandatory function that should be continually managed to manufacture the highest outcome.
My whole philosophy is summed up in three actions: test, optimize and scale. This advertising scientific method is, ultimately, what a professional marketer does. If a campaign is not working, it is often not a lack of effort, but a shortage of conclusive tests to identify the pockets of performance that can be scaled. I define a good marketer as a good problem solver.
If I could knock out 1,000 push-ups a day to get a client’s ad campaign to work, I would. It would be great for their brand and probably result in astounding shifts for my personal health, and everyone would be happy. As this is not an accurate portrayal of a constructive solution, neither is pointing the finger at your marketing team for not working hard enough.
To see a lift in your campaign’s numbers, focus on the underperforming segment of your analytics, and develop the next set of tests. It has been said that the only way to measure anything is with numbers. I like to break down campaign metrics to impressions, clicks and conversions. My team is trained to enter a conversation around an underperforming report with three ideas: audiences (to address impressions), creatives (ads or organic content associated with clicks), and conversion pages or funnels to roll out over the coming period.
We seek out opportunities to showcase social proof and create immediacy. Furthermore, the growth of the retargeting pool (site visitors) and frequency of messaging can play huge roles in improving the metrics because many conversions require over seven touch points. Through a persistent optimization process, you can see stronger results on a more regular basis.
It is crucial that a solutions-based approach is applied to the early stages of a marketing campaign. I have worked on e-commerce initiatives that initially showed zero sales in the first three weeks, so we addressed client concerns and then celebrated results that significantly surpassed the return on ad spend (ROAS) objectives after week seven. My team has seen investor acquisition campaigns on equity crowdfunding platforms that went from three times the ROAS, which was drastically under projections, to 31 times the ROAS in the course of three months. Examples like this show the range of potential from a complete loss by turning off marketing channels too early to a dependable revenue source once developed.
The key questions I get from clients, big and small, are around scaling the purchases, leads, users and investment conversions. This means a brand’s marketing campaign is hitting its goals, and the client wants to see those same performance benchmarks while reaching a larger audience. People like to think analytics are concrete, but they are storytelling at best.
Scaling means I have to do the same marketing that was not working 99.8% of the time before, but at an exponentially increasing rate, and hope that my 0.02% supporter audience stays stable. Again, this statistically does not happen and is really only achievable with the well-oiled machine of a marketing strategy.
As a recommendation, consider referencing my article on the eight-point marketing plan to create your strategy for your next 30-, 90-, 180- or 360-day road map. As outlined, any marketing activation is actually a series of tests that need a systematic optimization process to have any hope of hitting milestones and “scaling algorithms” to strategically expand the results to growth models that reflect any respectable spike in revenue, user base or valuation.
Remember, no marketing product or assignment you move forward will work on its own, ever. However, a creative team with tactics ready to test, optimize and scale can make your marketing work — a decimal of percentage of the time, but at high enough volumes that it can successfully achieve your goals.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?