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How to Learn From Your Past Marketing Mistakes

Small Business

Every business makes mistakes because sometimes you need to take risks and often those risks don’t pay off. It happens all the time in marketing.

But a smart business is one that admits a campaign didn’t meet the mark, analyses the results and puts strategies in place to lessen the risk of making the same mistake twice.

Using past marketing failures to inspire future success is simply a matter of analysing what worked and what didn’t:

  • Maybe it was a good idea but poorly executed?
  • Maybe a campaign would have worked if it were run at a different time of the year?
  • Maybe you send your email marketing campaign first thing on a Monday morning and it’s distracting for recipients?

 For small businesses, one of the biggest problems when trying to learn from past mistakes is knowing what to look for, and determining what lessons to keep and what to discard.

However, there are three things you can do to make this job easier:

  1. Keep a record of what you’re doing

You should have systems and processes to document exactly what happened with a campaign, so you can figure out what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved.

For example, a dental practice decides to run a series of advertisements in their local newspaper. But no one briefed the receptionist taking the bookings to ask what prompted the new customer to make an appointment, so there is little hard data to support an ongoing ad campaign. What effect changing the ad copy had on the number of new customers phoning up is also difficult to measure.

  1. Use marketing data analysis

You need to know enough about data analysis to ask the right questions. You can spend a lot of time trying to analyse the results of a marketing campaign yourself and not get anywhere. You need help to make sense of what matters and what can be safely ignored.

Finding data isn’t hard if you have your own marketing staff or work with a marketing agency, as they will likely have analytics dashboards. But finding specific data and insights into a failed marketing campaign is the challenge.

For example, if you send out a special offer to your normally responsive email list and you get less than 20% of people opening the email and no phone order, was the problem:

  • the timing of the email?
  • the subject line?
  • or the email content?

While it could be a combination of all three, in this instance I would look first at the subject line. The purpose of a subject line is to encourage the recipient to open the email. A poor subject line either didn’t engage, or worse turned off people and they hit delete before opening.

  1. Developing your own marketing expertise

Many small business owners don’t understand marketing and are quite happy to offload it to a third party. The problem with this approach is that the business doesn’t gain the immediate knowledge from trying different strategies.

Another problem with using a third party is when a business owner decides that they aren’t getting the returns they were hoping for and changes marketing suppliers. All the intellectual property that was built up leaves with the supplier and there is usually little to no retained knowledge within the business.

The best approach is not to rely on outsourcing resources to decipher your results but to develop your own marketing expertise. If you can analyse mistakes, adjust your strategy and learn from the past then your business is on the right path for long-term success.

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