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  • Lindsay

When Do I Know Marketing isn’t Working?

I got asked this question towards the end of 2022, and I wanted to answer very quickly. I’ve been working in marketing for 20 years, and to me it’s normally quite obvious. But that’s because I’ve done dozens of marketing campaigns, hundreds of blogs and newsletters and more marketing plans than I can remember. After a while you start to notice trends. You know how to measure it, you know what to look out for and you start to understand how things work.

But that’s all very well for me to say. If marketing isn’t your main job and you’re doing it as part of a small business on top of everything else, you’re not going to have the knowledge that an experienced marketer has. You need a system in place. And that system starts with data.

Measure and Monitor

Marketing is measurable. All of it. You just need to decide how you’re going to track it. And to make those decisions, you need to be working from a marketing plan. List out your tactics and for each one of them give yourself a key performance indicator (KPI). For example, how many website visitors do you want each month, how many downloads of that ultimate guide, how many views on YouTube, how many people opening your newsletter, how many clickthroughs from your social media and so on.

If you’re starting from scratch, this can be hard. I’ve had many clients ask me if their web traffic is good or newsletter open rate shows promise, as they have no frame of reference. If you have no frame of reference, try using some logical thinking.

For example, for your website consider how big your market is. Are you super niche or out for the masses? Ask yourself, based on the lead rate your business could comfortably cope with, how many people should be interested in your company and then set yourself a reasonable target. I’ve worked with £50M turnover companies who have 20,000 visitors per month and then micro businesses who have 500 visitors per month. Both of these were seen to be very successful as it’s all based on your market and who you are.

For newsletters, MailChimp and other providers often offer industry benchmark rates, and you can usually find out what you should be aiming for with a simple search.

I could go on forever, but I hope you get the point. Consider what your budget is, what you’d realistically expect and put a reasonable target in place. Then tweak it over time when you start to see trends.


Now you’ve got your KPIs in place, you need to regularly track them. It can become very addictive looking at who is on your website or how many people have looked at your newsletter. But try to look just once a month. I look at the start of the month and review all my KPIs for the month before. This gives me trends not real time stats that may not be relevant.

No matter what the stats tell you, don’t change a single thing for three months. It takes at least three months to build up any sort of reliable data. Things change over time. Seasons can affect things. Three months is seen to be a good amount of time to get some useful insight.

After three months, we can now make decisions. The main question is: what has changed? If nothing has changed at all, or things are going backwards, then it’s definitely time to make some tweaks. But if there is any sign of growth, no matter how small, such as more followers on social media or more people visiting your website, then this could signal that things are working and you need to keep plugging away. Long term sustainable growth takes time.

If things are moving positively, keep checking it month by month, and keep thinking in blocks of time. After six months, are things still moving in the right direction? Great, keep going.

Tweaking Things

As I said before, if after three months things haven’t changed at all or show a decline, it might be time to make some tweaks. That doesn’t mean change everything. Through your KPI tracking, try to identify where the problem points might be and use logical thinking to work out why they might not be working. Are people going to your website, for example, but not filling out your lead form? It could be as simple as the form is too longwinded or too hard to find. Think like your customers and don’t be too quick to make drastic changes.

Even if things are improving, if after twelve months things are only improving a little, it might be time for a tweak then too. Again, review all of your KPIs and find out where the culprits lie. It’s often a small obstacle here and there that needs some modifying. If you’ve created a proper marketing plan based on sound research, tweaks should be all you need. Please don’t be tempted to keep ripping up your ideas and returning to square one.

Don’t Start Again

Stopping and starting is detrimental to marketing. If you’ve tried something, given it a few weeks, decided it isn’t working and then tried something brand new, you look manic. A poorly constructed marketing campaign that hangs around for the long term will probably provide far better results than twenty great but different campaigns flooding your customers’ inboxes every year. We don’t like to be hassled. Remind people you’re there, but look calm and consistent. It’s far more professional.

The answer here is to use your logic and realise that marketing takes time. And when you do realise that, you’ll understand why stopping and starting will get you nowhere fast. Every time you start again, you’re right back at square one and you’ll have no hope of reaching that finish line.

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