I encourage you to read this extensive post from Eric Gagnon: Sales Turnaround 101: What To Do When Your Marketing Program Hits The Wall. In it, he addresses the causes of marketing failure and suggests approaches to solving the problems.
Marketing failure diagnostics can sometimes be simple: You can tell why a campaign failed with minimal research. But often the failures are harder to assess because they are subtle or there could be causes outside of your direct control. And I think marketing failure in the AEC world is especially challenging because of the naturally long sales cycle for our services and the small sample sizes, which makes conventional statistical evaluation tools almost useless.
Still, we can tell soon enough if we are getting any traction; if our “hit rate” is sufficient to maintain and grow our business/practice, and if the sales we are achieving are from clients/for services that allow us reasonable profits. And then if things aren’t right, we need to figure out if the problem is our marketing methodologies, execution, or problems outside our control, such as our service being uncompetitive perhaps too far ahead of its time.
Gagnon concludes his post with a call to action; arguing as well that the best cure for many problems is to carry on and persevere — ultimately in life the person (or marketer) who holds out the longest wins the fight.
There is Always One More Thing You Can Do
Never forget that when something bad happens to you, your response to the event ultimately determines the final result, and reveals the solution, if one can be found.
Also, remember the words of Lt. General Harold G. (“Hal”) Moore (Ret.) who, as an American commander, successfully led his 395 men against 2,000 elite North Vietnamese Army troops during the battle of Ia Drang, the first major battle of the Vietnam War.
His advice to his men: “Don’t say ‘there’s nothing you can do.’ There’s always one more thing you can do.”
Next to a positive attitude, action is the antidote to any adverse major marketing factor you can’t control. Never give up.
If you realize that you are operating inside a negative environment and, after thoughtful analysis you conclude there is nothing wrong with either your product or your marketing program—change your environment.
Break your conception of your product, and think about new ways it can be sold. Do this by continually testing new markets, and making changes to your product to make it more attractive to prospects. Keep working all of your options, and thinking of new ones.
Even if you can’t find a solution to your crisis, the mere fact that you are taking action changes your environment, and this change creates a condition where solutions begin to reveal themselves.
Taking action always creates new options. And these new options often lead you to more effective ways to selling your company’s product: A quick test mailing to a totally new and different market or industry that generates sizeable interest and response; a cheaper spin-off of your product that makes its price point more affordable, tripling your sales volume overnight; an overnight change to your pricing, or adding a new distribution partner.
Keep blasting away and the breaks will come. In business, success often comes not to the luckiest, the richest, or the smartest, but to those who can hold on the longest.
Life, and business, is not a still life painting in an art gallery. It’s a constantly changing environment: Things change, for better as well as for worse. Dumb luck works just as well as good luck, but you’ll never find either one if you give up.
Taking action helps you—and your marketing program—survive to face another day, and the day after that. And every day, the mere fact that you are alive and “in the arena” with your marketing program is another day closer to the day that things break in your favor. You’ll only fail if you quit—so don’t quit!
There is always something you can do.
Mostly, I agree with Gagnon, in part because my biggest successes and achievements in life have come from multi-year perseverance, when I batted away one obstacle after another to overcome problems and ultimately resolve the issues. Any time I feel a bit down, I simply look back to the day in 1980 in Africa when I realized I had achieved my dream of succeeding as a journalistic foreign correspondent; and in 1993, when Vivian and I celebrated our marriage. Both took truly long and challenging journeys to achieve.
However, this sort of perseverance isn’t easy to maintain on many levels for more than a few really important things in your life; and so I’m not sure how many readers here will apply the effort to a business-to-business marketing challenge, except perhaps if it is for your own business.