Why You Need To Review Your Marketing Failures Before 2019

Well, it’s that time of year again. The end, specifically.

Did 2018 fly by, or is it just us? Whether we’re alone in the sentiment or not, even the quickest glance at a calendar will confirm that, yes, 2019 is just around the corner.

At the end of the year, people often look to the future. “What will I accomplish next year? What are my goals, my resolutions, my plans for success to make next year my best year yet?”

Regardless of your industry, your marketing team probably has the same mentality. Because marketing teams tend to look at the future so they can adequately plan, it makes sense that they’d prioritize looking forward, rather than backward. They choose to minimize their failures and double down on their successes. They take their wins and create a blueprint for repeating those successes.

But as much as we want you to begin your 2019 with confidence, we have to burst your bubble: Resolutions don’t work.

The Problem with Focusing Only on Successes

When we exclusively focus on our marketing wins, we run too much risk of repeating our marketing failures—because we haven’t adequately analyzed them yet.

Now that you have new goals in mind, you’re actually in a better position than ever to get the most out of a recap of your marketing failures. This approach will help you pinpoint possible flaws in your marketing plans for 2019 and adjust before you fall into old habits without realizing it.

Here’s a few ways to use your direct response (or other) marketing failures to your advantage, so you can level up in the New Year!

Step 1: List Your Bottom Five

You remember your biggest successes. That off-the-charts email open rate, the landing page that doubled your signups, the ad that helped grow Q4 sales by 25%—those wins just stick.

But do you remember your worst performing social media campaign? What about your second-worst radio ad, the one that moved the needle exactly zero? And do you remember a couple reasons why these marketing messages missed, or do you mostly remember something along the lines of our targeting was too broad?

We thought not.

While your team may have had a meeting to recap on some of your individual campaign failures in 2018, chances are that several months later, you’ve forgotten some of the details. And that can run the risk of causing problems for you down the line.

To remind yourself of not just what went wrong—but why—make a list of your bottom five campaigns in 2018.

Step 2: Identify Why a Campaign Failed

Once you’ve listed your five biggest marketing failures—and for the record, depending on how many projects you’ve taken on, even a lukewarm success could make this list—you can start looking at why they failed.

The trick to really learning why a campaign was unsuccessful is to dig deeper, past the surface level results you may already know.

Here’s an example:

You developed a free downloadable guide to gain new subscribers to your email list. You developed some Facebook ads to drive users to your landing page on your company website, and you also placed the guide in multiple spots on your site. Your results were underwhelming—well under previous, similar campaigns.

Why did that happen? Well, a surface level analysis may suggest that your Facebook ads didn’t perform well. From here you may conclude that your targeting was off, or the caption on your ads needed to be punchier. Let’s dig a little bit deeper than that.

What else might have contributed to that poor ad performance? It could have been your targeting. Perhaps your usual ad targeting didn’t serve the content of your free resource as well as it usually does. Or perhaps, while the Facebook results were underwhelming, the call-to-action on the landing page wasn’t direct enough—or optimized for mobile, where most of your audience saw your ad.

The failure wasn’t just one of social media advertising, after all. With a little distance, you can finally see things that may have been in your blind spot earlier in the year!

Step 3: Review Your Marketing Plans for Next Year

Of course, this reflection isn’t any good unless you put it to good use. You had a plan for 2019 before, but now you have a comprehensive understanding of where—and why—things went wrong in 2018. With that in mind, now is the time to review the plans you made for 2019 with fresh eyes.

You’ll be surprised what might change. Perhaps it will change the way you develop your marketing resources and messages, or maybe it will just result in an extra subproject or week in a timeline.

Turn Your Losses into Wins

Either way, you’ll have incorporated the lessons you’ve learned into the year ahead. Success in direct response marketing, just like with New Year’s Goals, is a combination of looking forward and looking backward—taking new steps and adjusting your course as you go.

With that spirit in mind, we’re wishing you a happy new year! We’ve got a feeling it’ll be the best one yet.

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