How to Tell if Your Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

It’s a terrifying question for B2B marketers. But it’s one we all have to answer from time to time.

“What if my marketing strategy isn’t working?”

Even the simplest campaign requires days or weeks of planning. That means it’s hard to just … give up. But sometimes it’s necessary.

(And sometimes it’s not.)

We asked B2B marketing experts from around the world how they determine whether their strategy is effective.

The results pointed to the increasingly data-driven nature of the industry. Our panel called out the importance of establishing KPIs and running regular reports.

Another important theme: Don’t dwell on emotions. Marketing moves fast, and if something isn’t working, it’s time to let it go. This isn’t personal, after all.

Here’s what they had to say.

How to Tell If a Marketing Strategy Isn't Working

Be Alert to the Signs

Not every marketing tactic you use will work, and I’ve found that to be helpful. It forces you to constantly adapt your strategy to what your audience wants.

The signs of a marketing campaign that isn’t working are always there. You just have to stay alert and notice them.

Your email open and click rates will drop, and so will your social media engagement. If that lasts longer than a month, it’s a clear sign that your boat is sinking. Abort and switch to something else.

I have a “how can I be of help to people” mindset. So when something I do is clearly not helping, I don’t allow myself to dwell on disappointment. I’ve failed countless times, but that has only brought me closer to my goals.

Corina Leslie, ZeroBounce

Listen to the Data

If you’re not growing pipeline or ARR/MRR within six months, something is wrong with the channels or market you’re targeting.

The best thing to do is look at your data. If you put a plan into place and then the data says it’s not working, you need to adjust. You should constantly be testing. Look at your ROI per channel, and tweak as needed.

New emerging technologies have given marketers more data than they’ve ever had before. Use that data to make informed decisions about which marketing strategies are working, and which aren’t.

Tracy Sestili, SparkPost

Set Clear KPIs

Before starting out with a marketing strategy, it’s important to set your key performance indicators. For us, it’s the conversion rate on our top-performing website pages.

If you set a KPI and after 2-3 months, you can’t see any significant changes, it’s a sign that your marketing strategy isn’t working.

When things don’t work, it’s not always a sign that you did a poor job. In digital marketing, there are so many aspects that you need to get right that it’s easy to leave something out.

Adam Hempenstall, Better Proposals

Timely Check-ins Dictate Action

We always set up metrics to measure effectiveness, along with check-in dates to monitor progress.

If by the end of the time outlined you aren’t getting the results expected, it becomes a logical decision to move in another direction.

Brooks Flanagan, SCS Cloud

ROI Too Low? Try Something Else

The obvious sign that a marketing strategy is not working is when you’re not meeting your objectives and key results. However, there’s something even more important.

When the ROI of a marketing campaign is too low, that’s the real sign to give up and do something else.

When you give up depends on a variety of factors. For Facebook ads, you’ll know in a day if they’re not performing well. For SEO, it takes months to see the results.

Olga Mykhoparkina, Chanty

Start with the Goal in Mind

I judge our marketing strategy based on whether we have clear goals to work toward. When we define the goal and work backwards to the tactics that help us get there, we give ourselves something to work toward. This also simultaneously produces a measurement system for those goals.

I recommend you build the analytics systems and dashboards you need to track your ultimate KPIs. Without dashboards or reports to watch your progress over time, you won’t know if your marketing strategy isn’t working. And since marketing analytics software options don’t provide historic data from before you build a goal, you’ll want to set those tracking systems early.

By testing strategies on different personas, audiences, platforms, and content types, you get a wider range of data to help you make decisions.

In B2B marketing, it’s rare that we see immediate results from our efforts. If you’re looking for organic content marketing to make an impact, give yourself lead time of six months to a year before giving up on your strategy. If you’re hoping for more immediate traffic and user attention, you might consider supplementing with paid media.

If time is short and your budget is tight, choose similarly tight goals that force you to choose the tactics with the greatest ROI and iterate quickly.

With any new strategy, I suggest testing incremental changes rather than burning down the house to build a new system. By testing strategies on different personas, audiences, platforms, and content types, you get a wider range of data to help you make decisions. Killing off a test rather than an entire strategy can feel more manageable (and less depressing).

If you’re already neck-deep in a failing marketing strategy, consider what parts of that strategy have been successful, whether you can salvage any part of that, and how you might test pivoting away from your unsuccessful pieces.

And remember, marketing is always changing, so failure brings you one step closer to learning what will work tomorrow.

Tamara Scott, TechnologyAdvice

Pay Close Attention

Your marketing strategy is vital to the success of your business, so it’s important to keep an eye on it at all times. Run regular reports, and take special note if your numbers dip for more than a month or so.

If this happens, make some minor adjustments to the strategy that you already have in place. If that doesn’t produce results, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Get creative, and really shake things up!

Andrea Loubier, Mailbird

No Leads = A Marketing Strategy That Isn’t Working

The warning signs of an ineffective marketing strategy would be little to no new leads after weeks of running the campaign. You should only stick with it up until you realize it is not working.

Any emotional toll that comes from abandoning a campaign can be mitigated if you are documenting all lessons learned. This lets you continually improve future campaigns.

A wise marketer spends 80% of budget and resources on proven campaigns and 20% on new strategies and testing.

Boyd Norwood, Nozzle

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.