Marketing 101

Recovering From a Failing Marketing Strategy

Do you feel like your marketing strategy is failing and pulling your business under?

Profound failure in business can come from anywhere. Most times, failure is brought by our own actions or inactions. Other times, failure descends on us like a falling HVAC unit from a window. You know it might come but you walk along the building anyway hoping that the unit will not fall and if it does, it will not crush you under it.

In 2006, Ford Company was at its lowest. Things were so bad that everyone expected it to fail spectacularly. There were rumors that the company was going to file for bankruptcy which would be a huge blow to everyone who relied on the company.

Things dod not pan out as expected, however. Ford never crumbled. In fact, it rose from a near-death situation to become a rather formidable company in the US.

What really changed within the car manufacturing company that helped it beat such odds?

The answer lies in their decision to bring in a new CEO. Alan Mullay was a champ. He was, in a span of 8 years, able to pull Ford out of the mud and place it on a highway to success.

We are not privy to the intricate details of the steps he took to save the company and bring it to the top. However, we are pretty sure that this was a last minute save and it helped the company survive.

Photo of failing business

Many businesses will end up facing such odds, but very few will come out stronger or come out at all. Most get pulled under by their marketing strategies and their leaders have very few ideas of getting out of such situations.

Do not let your marketing strategy kill your business and you with it.

Remember, marketing costs money. Companies spend millions of dollars to make themselves relevant to their customers. Such an effort should not go to waste. It is bad for the company, for your employees and for your heart. it is even worse for the economy.

The last thing you would want is to send all that money on a marketing strategy and end up with nothing to write home about.

So what do you do to recover from a failed marketing strategy?

Most business owners panic when their businesses start to fail. They make irrational decisions that eventually cause more harm than good. As a smart business owner, you will need to make very careful steps when saving your company if you want any chance of success.

Here are some of the steps that will save your marketing strategy and business as a whole.

  1. Slow down/ Do not Panic

When approaching a carnage with a speeding car, the best and most natural instinct is to hit the brakes. In business, slowing down gives you the time to take a breath and assess your strategy in order to make better decisions.

This is usually a hard thing to do because you are a business person who cares about their business deeply. You are, therefore, more likely to panic and do more of what you have been doing hoping to change things.

Panic Button
Panicking will only make things worse.

When things start heading south, slowing down gives you time to assess your failures, look at your game plan and make the necessary adjustments. This is also the time when you get to ask for advice when necessary.

A smart business person like you would also opt to include experts and consultants for fresh ideas.

  1. Touch Base With Your Team

This mostly applies to businesses with a marketing team. Make sure that everyone is on the same page. The last thing you want is to have sound plans but a team that does not know how to implement your plans.

Make sure that information flows up and down as easily as possible. One major mistakes business owners make is to have information pass through multiple avenues before getting to its intended audience.

Picture this for a moment. If John from marketing wants to tell you, the CEO, something crucial about your business but has to pass the information through two more supervisors before the information gets to you, you are never going to know what happens on the ground.

The information will be watered down, tweaked, and dismantled, so much such that it will offer no real value. The end result is an overworked and underappreciated marketing representative who thinks you never take anything they say seriously.

People looking over a problem together
Always touch base with your employees

Unless you have a specific model of communication that prevents information from changing as if changes hands before getting to you, being accessible to anyone who works for your business is a great way to make sure that you know what your team is doing.

It is also important to know who is working where and what they are doing. Keeping proper metrics on your employees helps you gauge their performance and measure the value they are adding to your business.

Getting rid of employees who do not share the same vision as you is not bad a bad idea either.

You don’t always have to fire your non-performing employees. You could find out what challenges they are facing and help them overcome them. Being a leader means understanding your employees and learning what makes them work. Sometimes taking an individual aside and helping them keep up with the rest of the team is the best remedy.

Looking at your team does not mean harassing them and blaming them for failing your business. If you have to do that then you are the problem.

By looking at your team, you will help them understand that they are not alone and that they can rely on you whenever they need you.

  1. Divide Your Marketing Strategies Into Parts And Test Each Part

I like to think of this as performing a surgery on your strategy. Sometimes we might have a great strategy but things won’t work. You need to sit down and examine your plans to see what you are doing wrong.

This is like testing an electrical system to find out where the fault lies. Dividing each part makes it easy for you to locate and fix the problem. The same case applies to your marketing strategy. You might be surprised by how much you can achieve by simply changing parts of your strategy.

For example,

Say part of your marketing strategy involves using social media. Within your social media marketing plan, you had included videos that will draw people to your business, but the videos are not getting the traction you need.

By dividing your strategy into parts you will identify that your videos need work, maybe by adding captions to make it easier for people to watch, or by improving the quality, maybe even making your videos shorter.

Boxes that represent strategies
Divide your strategy into parts for easier inspection

You could also opt to discard sections of the strategy that are of no value to your business. Always remember that not all your plans will work. As you move along, you will gain more knowledge of the market and learn how things are done. You might want to change a few things, discard others, add some, just to make sure that you reach your goal.


Breaking your strategy down gives you the time to better examine your plans and apply the necessary fixes. You will end up saving your business in the end.

  1. Recheck your data (metrics)

I mentioned that is it important to have a system to measure your progress. Say you have a website that requires plenty of traffic. It helps to have a system that lets you know how much traffic you are getting every day.

On a sales page, it helps to know how many people are making purchases, discarding carts, how many items are being sold in a day, and so forth. This way you, can break down your site visitors into groups and specify the kind of marketing content they get to help you increase sales and ultimately save your business.

Graph representing data
Recheck your data to examine the results

For example, if there is a high number of people who abandon their carts and you are sure that the issue is not with your price, you could create appropriate marketing that pushes people over that edge that makes them purchase your products and, or services.

You could be using tools that help you measure your data. It is important to look at each tool and determine its value to your business. Sometimes the tools you started with are no longer useful for your business. Discard them.

By the time your business is failing, you will have learned a few things about the tools you are using, which ones work and which ones do not. Considering that most of these tools cost money to maintain, it would help to cull out those that offer little or no value.

  1. Retarget

Sometimes, in the excitement of coming up with a marketing strategy, we miss some steps and end up targeting the wrong audience. This could be detrimental to your business. You could also be too focused on one section of the market and ignore a completely different yet relevant target group.

Say for example you have a business that sells high-end sneakers. Your initial target could be people who can easily get these sneakers off the shelves, people with money to spend. But as you move along, you will realize that they are not too many to keep your store open.

A little research will soon help you realize that there is a huge chunk of buyers who would do anything to buy these sneakers. For them, they are not just looking for sneakers, they are looking for something that makes them feel like they have made it in life.

Now this group is way bigger than your first target group. What’s even more, in a world where narcissists thrive, they will advertise your sneakers in every social media platform for free. Your marketing should also include them to make sure that they have access to your sneakers.

Target group
By retargeting your marketing strategy, you might encounter a completely different, yet profitable set of customers.

There are many ways you could retarget your marketing to save your business from failing. This includes identifying new focus groups that would not care about your products, raising curiosity and awareness for your products and eventually selling to them. This might take longer but it will work.

Steve Jobs said ‘people don’t know what they want until you give it to them.’ Sometimes that is all you need. Target a group, educate them and then start selling.

Retargeting does not mean getting rid of your initial target audience entirely. You could still retain the audience. After all, the more people you sell to the better,

  1. Add New Strategies

You could also add more strategies to your marketing campaign for better results. Sometimes, the reason you are failing is that you do not have enough plans. This way, you end up making half moves that end up hurting your business in the end.

Now, before you expand on your marketing strategies, you have to make sure that the current ones work. Coming up with more strategies when the current ones are failing is like pressing on the accelerator to try and evade an oncoming trailer.

Most times, bad things happen.

Sometimes coming up with new strategies also include enriching the ones you already have. For example, if one of your strategies is to use promotional materials such as branded T-shirts to increase brand awareness.

You might want to enrich this strategy by using better quality T-shirts, or more creative branding. There are many ways you could enhance your strategy and get the best results.

  1. Observe Your Competition

Sometimes saving your business is simply a matter of observing your competition and seeing what it is they do to make things work.

Remember, for most businesses, chances are that you have a competitor who is doing better than you. Observing them will let you understand what it is that makes them more appealing to the customers.

While this could help your business, in the end, make sure not to copy every move they make. This is a common problem with business owners who do not want to explore further than their business mind can see.

Observe your competition
Sometimes, observing your competition can open your mind o new ideas.

In a small town somewhere in Africa, a lady decided she wanted to open a beauty parlour where women could come, get their hair, faces and nails did. The lady set out to create a unique blend of colours that would draw in her female customers from far. Her colours were great, anyone looking at them from far could tell what that place was even without being told.

Around her were other beauty parlours as well, some were not doing so well, some were doing okay. When the owners saw the colours, each went ahead and got the same colours.

Now we have a whole block with beauty parlours, coffee shops, retail shops, a supermarket, a lawyer’s office, a real estate agent, a church, and a barber’s shop using the same colours.

Copying is not only isolated to colours, neither is it isolated to Africa. It is possible to copy ideas and strategies in an effort to get a piece of your competitor’s success. That only shows the world how uncreative a business person is.

By observing the competition, you are trying to get a better insight into the market, learning what they know and using the information to make the right decisions. This does not necessarily mean copying everything they do. It might backfire on you and cost you.

  1. Seek Customer Feedback

Sometimes the answer is as simple as finding out what your customers want. Whatever you are selling could be great, but if you do not know how to communicate with your customers, you will end up with a stockpile of unsold products that do little to help your businesses.

There are a number of ways you can learn from your customers

  • Ask them directly. Just step out of your office and ask questions. Or wait for them to come to you and have them answer simple questions that give you some insight into what they really expect from you. It has been done before and it can be done again. This method is tiresome, and you might not get conclusive answers. But if you are keen, you might learn a few things.
  • You could also perform online surveys. The good thing about online surveys is that they can get to more people over a short period of time. One hit of the button and you can have a million responses in a few hours or days. Done right, they will give you a better understanding of what the customer really wants.
  • You could also go through the various platforms and forums in your niche and observe what people want. Sometimes people will not come out and say what they want, it is up to you to study them and understand what they are saying without even having to say it.
  • Your family and friends could also give you good insight into what is needed in the market. You have to be careful with this group, however. They might tell you what they think you want to hear. There is no doubt that the people around you love you and there is nothing wrong about that. However, you want unbiased answers.
Customer feedback
Customer feedback is important in almost every aspect of your business.

You should not always implement everything you hear from your customers.

Yes, they could tell you what they need. However, as a business person, you have a bird’s view of the market. Use it to determine in all honesty what you can and cannot offer your customers.

So if one client tells you that they need a branch closer to them, rushing to open a branch closer to them might not be a great idea if the returns are going to be poor. Listen to what your customers have to say, go back to the drawing board, and come up with a solid plan.

Saving your business from imminent death is a daunting task. It is not for the faint-hearted and it might take many hours of work before you start seeing any semblance of normalcy.

It is, therefore, important that you make very careful moves with your marketing strategy during this period to ensure that your business is back to full health. Only then can you sit back and take a triumphant breath.

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