True Confessions of a Marketing Campaign that Fell Off the Rails (Stay Lean with these Five Simple Tricks)

It’s the holidays, so all the “ladies” magazines are offering tips on staying lean in these tempting times. I’ll take my cue from them — let’s talk about being lean. But this has nothing to do with yummy, yummy egg nog. You don’t want to hear my advice about what to do if you see eggnog. (Drink it while toasting the demise of the patriarchal notions of lean!)

No, when I focus on being lean, I’m referring to your digital marketing strategy.

This topic is one that hits close to home for me, because, over the past several months, I’ve committed the ultimate sin of failing to heed my own advice. A few months ago, I had a brilliant idea of how to engage a new audience. My team and worked tirelessly on creating the perfect campaign that would be both compelling and persuasive. This campaign would be perfect.

Since you can’t see my drivers license at the moment, I want to point out that I came of age as a marketer in the world of traditional marketing, where ancient tools like printers reigned supreme. I’m proud of my background, and I think starting where I did taught me lessons I’d never had to have learned if I was starting out now. Lessons like: If you don’t proofread like a demon, you might misplace a crucial ‘L’ in the word public. If that happens, you’re gonna be at the printer aaaalll night, you are going to have dry fingers from applying expensive stickers to pamphlets, and costs are going to soar.

That lesson is important, because it demands high standards. But, in today’s age, we actually have much more freedom. We don’t need to make sure that everything is precisely perfect from the get-go. To the contrary, some of the most valuable insights we gain about our customers and potential customers comes from data we accrue as we execute a campaign.

You’ve heard the expression build the plane as you fly it? It’s straight out of Silicon Valley (and it’s a little bro-y), but it applies here. In the past your focus was on establishing a target audience, doing your best to aim your efforts at that audience, and pulling the trigger on a costly, durable, print campaign. The stakes were high, and you wouldn’t know if you’d succeeded until the whole thing was said and done. Learn a lesson? Apply it to the next campaign.

But now – oh ho! Now we have lean marketing. You can make tweaks while you’re in the midst of a campaign. A whole host of options exist to help you gauge the efficacy of your campaign – in real time. So if something is missing the mark, you can tweak it. And if you’re getting way more hits than you expected on a particular line of content, you can double down on it.

You know – you can build the plane as you fly it. My job now is to walk clients through this new, exciting, dynamic marketing landscape.

So back to that campaign… In developing this campaign, I found myself reverting back to the old days. The Ready… Aim… Aim… Aim days of yore. The Spring Insight team tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. We forgot to execute. No really – my tweaking and hemming and hawing took so long that, by the time we pulled the trigger, we’d already decided as a company to focus on another audience! (There may be some other soul-searching we need to do here, about whether this was ever the right audience, and if deep down that led to some foot-dragging. Armchair psychology post coming up!) The bottom line though, we spent thousands of dollars perfecting a campaign we never executed. (That is more than a little painful to admit.)

As usual, there’s no failure without an opportunity to learn some key lessons. Even if you know you’re going lean, it can be hard to pull the trigger on a campaign. After all, you’re putting your name on it! On the internet! You want it to be right. To avoid falling into the trap we fell into, master these five simple tricks:

1. Set tight deadlines. It can be easy to let deadlines pass, especially in your own company, and especially when it’s “just” marketing. Don’t. Set deadlines, for idea generation, pinpointing of target audiences, and establishing time sequences. Set a firm launch date, as well as dates for evaluation. Then stick to those deadlines.

2. Set measurable goals. Decide up front which metrics matter to you – what counts as success. Is it blog posts views, downloads, likes on Facebook? Define your call to action narrowly so you can easily measure it.

3. Measure your progress. Use a good tool to collect data about your campaign. I love Google Analytics and Interact, but every platform offers some analytics. We can help you figure out what’s best for you.

4. Periodically Reevaluate. Check in to see what’s working , and what isn’t. But don’t do this willy-nilly, some random Tuesday when you can’t sleep, and then reposition your whole strategy on a whim. Set timetables for when you’ll reevaluate, along with schedules for next steps.

5. Tweak Away. Use the data you’ve collected, along with critical thought by your marketing team, to figure out what’s going wrong and what’s working. Then ditch or improve the marketing channels that aren’t performing well, and invest more in channels that are out-performing.

Lather, rinse, repeat. At today’s prices, you can hone your marketing campaign for relatively low costs, and keep them going as long as they’re proving useful.

And that, dear friends, is how to stay lean during the holiday season and throughout the year. It really is just five simple tricks! And of course, if you’re interested in some guidance in executing those tricks, just give us a holler. We’ll talk over what’s right for your business. Perhaps discussing over eggnog?

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