What Went Wrong?: How to diagnose and recover from a failed marketing campaign

Did you swing for the fences and miss? Marketing campaigns are not easy to implement and when one doesn’t turn the results we expect the best action is to find out why. After all, you don’t want to make the same mistakes next time!

The specific nuances of each campaign are entirely unique; making it impossible to create a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all checklist or process for getting to the root cause of a failed campaign. However, at BPS we utilize a standard checking process that works with any campaign to get our investigations pointed in the right direction.


Is this thing on?

Was Everything Setup Correctly and Working as Expected?

Before diving in too deeply, check the basics to ensure that everything was setup the way you intended and worked as expected. This check includes verification of the following:

  1. URLs
  2. Tracking/Analytics
  3. Page Loading
  4. Performance
  5. Did the campaign stop working at a specific point?


Recheck the Numbers

Analysis Issues

Without good data and consistent tracking methods, it is impossible to assess how a campaign performed. Be sure that you are working with good data by asking:



  1. Are the data points consistent?
    1. Are the sales and revenue numbers in the house database consistent with those in Google Analytics?
  2. Are the tracking methods consistent?
    1. Are the data tracking methods used by the house database consistent with those used by Google Analytics
    2. Have discrepancies been noted and addressed?

What Went Wrong?

How to Diagnose and Recover from a Failed Marketing Campaign

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Do We Need Tech Support?

Technical/Product Issues

Sometimes the problem is not with the campaign or with analytics; sometimes what you really need is a little help from your friendly IT guy or gal. So grab some donuts on the way into the office and head over to the IT cave to find out:

  1. Did the website go down during any point of the campaign?
  2. Were any updates or new releases deployed during the campaign?
  3. Did the product or service change during the campaign?
    1. Was a new feature rolled-out?
    2. Did the pricing structure change?
  4. Did the platform perform as expected throughout the campaign?


Rain Delay?

Timing and Environmental Issues

Both weather and timing can play a tremendous role in the outcome of your marketing campaign. Some business needs are heavily dependent on the weather. In other cases, even the day of the week can have a significant impact on sales numbers. To be sure you have accounted for the influences of Mother Earth and Father Time, determine:

  1. Did the campaign run during any holiday periods?
    1. Check school calendars and holidays (globally) to ensure that results were not influenced by a holiday period.
  2. Was weather a factor?
    1. Depending on the product and the severity of the conditions, weather can influence the results of a campaign. For example, online retail shopping rates are typically higher on rainy days while B2B product sales may drop if offices were closed due to inclement weather conditions.
  3. What time did the campaign launch? What time did the campaign end?
    1. Depending on the length of time the campaign ran and the market, something as simple as a few hours can make a huge impact on the results of the effort.
  4. What day did the campaign launch? What day did the campaign end?
    1. In most cases, it is best to run campaigns in full weeks (inclusive of weekends) to avoid skewing results by missing specific days during the week or weekend.
  5. What month did the campaign launch?
    1. Does past data point to large discrepancies in sales or engagement month-to-month?


Is it Time to Pivot?

Marketing Issues

If everything else is correct, it is likely that the issues were born in the marketing department. The message may not have resonated with the selected audience segment or perhaps the campaign simply did not run long enough. To get to the root of the problem investigate the following:

  1. Did the targeted channels align with the ad creative when compared to similar campaigns or did specific data points fall outside of the target?
    1. Was the CPC high?
    2. Was the CTR low?
    3. Was engagement low?
  2. Check heatmaps and click maps to determine if the campaign lost steam between the ad creative and the landing page.
    1. Was the conversion rate low?
    2. Were bounce rates high?
  3. Was something wrong with this message and this audience?
    1. Check out the competition. Are they using similar messages? If so, the campaign may have targeted the wrong audience segment.
  4. How long did the campaign run?
    1. Was there enough time to fully test the campaign? Was the tactic over or under optimized?
  5. Solicit feedback from your team.
    1. What are your experts saying about the campaign? Do the results of this campaign trigger any memories of similar tactics deployed during other efforts? What contributed to those results and are there any comparisons to be drawn?


What Did the Analysis Reveal?

In most cases, running through this checklist quickly reveals issues that influenced the results of the campaign. When this is the case, the best course of action is to fix the issue and re-test the campaign. However, if the campaign’s performance was substantially less than the stated goal, it may be time to re-assess specific points of the tactic such as the targeted audience, the offer, the platform and the creative.

Let me know how this plan of attack works for you. Did you find something I missed? What did the analysis reveal about your campaign? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments!


What Went Wrong?

How to Diagnose and Recover from a Failed Marketing Campaign

100% Privacy. No BS. no games, no spam, When you signup.

we’ll keep you posted with a few emails per week

Joshua Bretag is a data-driven growth marketer that manages over 6 figures in advertising spend per day. He has a passion for data driven marketing and analytics that has taken him to working large multi-channel marketing campaigns.

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