When you Google "Reasons why marketing campaigns fail," you get hundreds of links to websites and blogs that list various reasons why your marketing campaign failed. Some of them include:
- You were closed-minded and didn't experiment
- You had unrealistic goals
- You didn’t allocate enough budget
- You used poor research and/or data
All these reasons can be summed up into one main reason why marketing campaigns fail; you did not plan your campaign strategy successfully. Planning is a crucial part of any marketing campaign. You can avoid all of these issues and more with proper planning. First and foremost, this means giving yourself and your teams time to plan ahead instead of planning in the moment.
This is especially critical right now, given the state of our supply chain and the print industry as a whole. Shipping and material availability delays are inevitable. Planning ahead was our #1 recommendation for the year in our February Supply Chain Challenges blog. Six months later, this is still very much the case.
Time – The Best Reason to Plan
While timing is not the only reason planning is critical, it’s one of the most important so let's start there. When using printed materials as a part of your marketing strategy, you should remember to build in time to check for print materials availability, time to ship the materials to your printer, and time for your finished materials to be sent to your locations. This must include possible delays in customs and transportation availability. Do not assume you know the typical timelines here. Everything is different now. Collect as much information as possible and build in as much flex time as possible.
Remember that the more complicated your project is, the earlier you should start. A project becomes complicated for many reasons. Here are just a few:
All of these variables add details to the project that must be sourced, managed, quality-checked, and executed, all before your campaign launch date.
Other Important Reasons Why Planning is Important
Consistency across all channels – When you don't have a clear strategic plan, it's easy to lose track of your campaigns across your marketing channels. This can lead to confusing or contradictory messaging that will turn off your customers. How will your customers know what to believe when your in-store marketing contradicts your social media posts? Or if your emails show a different product on sale than your direct mail piece? They won't. And they will move on to your competitor. Consistency is critical in building brand loyalty and meeting your strategic marketing goals . Having a marketing and communications plan that your whole team is aligned on ensures everything your company puts out is consistent and your prospects never feel confused or slighted.
Optimize your budget – It is extremely difficult to maintain any budget when you are reactive versus proactive. Having a set plan and corresponding budget gives your team parameters that will assist them in finding the best vendors and materials to meet their needs. You will also avoid last-minute rush fees and shipping costs. As a result, you will not only stay within your budget, but you’ll also get the most bang for your buck.
Avoid mistakes – It is very easy to make mistakes when we don’t take the time to think through a marketing plan. Again, it goes back to being proactive instead of reactive. Without a solid plan, we often will not respond to problems or questions appropriately and therefore risk making small and large mistakes. For example, if pressed for time your marketing team may just assume postage will be the same for this year's holiday direct mail campaign and not make plans for budget increases. However, those who think ahead will know that postcard rates have increased in August 2022 and will plan accordingly.
More flexibility – When planning, you afford your teams the ability to have more choices in your marketing campaigns. If one strategy doesn't fit with your budget or timeline, your marketing vendors and consultants will have time to offer other solutions that will work. However, when you do not build in that extra time or are so regimented in your marketing campaigns that flexibility is not an option, your marketing results may suffer.
Measuring results – When you have a clear strategic plan with a measurable set of goals and objectives, you can analyze how your marketing campaigns perform. That is the most compelling reason to take the time to plan. No marketing campaign is successful without the ability to measure results. Your goals may be foot traffic into a store, coupon redemptions, web traffic, conversions on an e-commerce page, overall sales for a particular product, overall sales for a campaign, or any combination of the above. All of these metrics are easily measured with the right tools, a clear goal to strive for, and proper planning.
A Real-Life Example
Here's an example of the pitfalls of not planning -- client gifting for the holidays. It’s possible that, as of early August 2022, you may have waited too long to order holiday gifts for your clients. This, of course, depends on many variables, including the item you choose, the number of units you need, where the gifts are coming from and where they need to be shipped, and your personalization needs. However, it is safe to say that with the supply chain issues we have been experiencing this year, you've already limited your choices. If you are a marketing leader or business owner, you should be planning Q4 2022 holiday and Q1 2023 marketing campaigns NOW.
Tips to Start Planning
It's not as hard as you may think to start planning your marketing campaigns. Here are some easy tips to use as you work towards a forward-thinking planning process.
Keep organized – There are many components to any marketing plan. It could be challenging to track them all, especially when the plan involves several departments within your company. However, you don't need complicated software to stay organized. A simple shared planning spreadsheet works just as well. Here's a quick example from Smartsheet.
Build in contingency time – Life (or business) happens, and sometimes we are caught off guard: the more wiggle room you can give yourself when building your plan, the better. You will never be able to prepare for every random variable that might occur but having extra time will help.
Understand the importance of internal communication – A good marketing strategy is only successful when all stakeholders are on board. Share your planning spreadsheet with everyone involved, especially if tasks are assigned to them. Make sure to include all applicable leaders so they are aware of their direct reports' workload and can sign off on finished projects. There is no such thing as over-communication when building a successful marketing plan.
External communication is also critical – Your marketing suppliers also need to know the ins and outs of your marketing strategy. These suppliers are experts at what they do. Leverage that! Think of them not only as your vendors but also as your marketing consultants. Offer them a complete overview of your marketing plan, not just the parts for which they are responsible. This will help them understand your strategy and give them insights into your goals and objectives. In addition, they may be able to offer suggestions that you had not thought of. After all, they want you to be successful too!
Simplify your vendor pool – If you are really stretched for time and resources, keeping your vendor pool small can ease your workload. With fewer vendors, you will have less external coordination when implementing your marketing plan timelines and materials. Consider working with a full-service agency like Phase 3 that has everything you need including digital services, print production, and branded merchandise all under one roof.
Document your successes and failures – As you plan for the future, don't forget about the past. Each marketing campaign will give you fresh insights into your customers and how they perceive your products and services. These insights are gold and should be considered when planning future campaigns. Set up a tracking system within your campaign documentation to record all results and learnings so your team can refer to them as they plan the next campaign.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." Don't be that person this holiday season or any time of year. You may already be too late for some Q4 printed material projects. If you haven't started planning for the holidays or Q1 2023, call your expert strategic marketing partners at Phase 3 today.