Why Marketing Campaigns Fail with CoCommercial Founder Tara Gentile and Media Strategist Brigitte Lyons

Why Marketing Campaigns Fail with CoCommercial Founder Tara Gentile and Media Strategist Brigitte Lyons
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • What four big-picture reasons cause marketing campaigns to fail
  • Why it’s important to have a willingness to explore the reasons for failure
  • What are some of the common tactical points of failure

On this week’s episode on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast I tackle the question, “Why Marketing Campaigns Fail” with Brigitte Lyons, founder of B, a marketing and PR agency that works primarily with small organizations to hone their marketing message and market positioning. We discuss some of the main challenges business owners in this new economy face every time they go out and market a new product or service. There are so many predictable reasons why marketing campaigns fail and we examine these roadblocks in this discussion so you can avoid them in the future.

Four Big-Picture Reasons that Cause Marketing Campaigns to Fail

The marketing should be baked into the product that you’ve developed and that requires you starting with your audience.

– Tara Gentile

So often, businesses only want to focus on their successes and never want to look at the reasons something fails. In our opinion, this is a missed opportunity. All the answers you need about your marketing tactics should be answered in your marketing strategy. Too often business owners question if they are posting on social media enough (or too much) or if they should amp up their content marketing. This focus on tactical efforts is always a clear signal that a business hasn’t thought through the strategy of a marketing campaign or really put a road map into place.

The most common reasons that Brigitte and I see for marketing campaigns to fail include:

  1. You put your needs ahead of the needs of your audience.
  2. You don’t set crystal-clear expectations around what success is and don’t run the numbers around what that will take.
  3. You save marketing for last (but it should be first).
  4. You don’t use your failures as an amazing learning opportunity.

Be Willing to Explore the Reasons for Failure

Sometimes it requires a little creative thinking to match your needs with theirs.

– Brigitte Lyons

When you start feeling like you need to convince your customers or they are very excited about your message yet have a very big BUT that holds them back from purchasing, these are red flags that you have a problem. It might be a marketing, communication or messaging problem; perhaps you have a position, product or format problem. Whatever it is, you need to reach out to your customers, preferably in person or on the phone to uncover what they don’t like. It is important to get curious to explore what the underlying problem really is.

Common Tactical Points of Failure

Listen to the full podcast to learn the six common tactical points of failure for a marketing campaign that include relying on social media to sell your products or services and your follow-up (or not following up) and to hear all of our takeaways for why marketing campaigns fail and how you can avoid those issues.

Our discussion is a great intro to a class I will be doing on CreativeLive, “Create a Marketing Plan to Grow Your Standout Business.” If you tune in on August 1 and 2 you can watch and learn for free. RSVP today!

You can also find me {most} Mondays (and sometimes Brigitte joins in, too) on my CoCommercial Crowdcast channel where I talk about the ins and outs of growing a small company you love.

uncertainty, agility, failure, and the bets that will make you a success – or – how to have your art, analysis, & cake and eat it too.

I have often felt like a creative freak. I am not left-brained (metaphorical not physiological) enough to create detailed plans for ideation & exectuion. I am not right-brained enough to feel artsy fartsy and anything-goes-about creativity.

When it comes to my business, I am comfortable figuring out how things work, what you need from me, and when my strengths truly shine over time instead of all at once.

I am a Virgo but I’m not a traditional perfectionist.

I am analytical but not obsessive.

I am innovative but not overly imaginative.

Frankly, I’ve felt like I was doing everything wrong even when I was having great success.

Shhhhhh. Don’t tell. They’ll find out.

Which is why I’ve been stoked to find books on this very subject dropping in my lap over & over again recently. If you’ve been hiding a similar style because you thought it was “wrong” or it just didn’t fit with the paradigms on display, you’re in luck.

There are more of us than we thought, for sure!

I believe we all have a lot to learn from each others creative styles. But I also believe that this blend of art & analysis is an asset in the fast-paced, conceptual age we are currently navigating (and continuously designing).

Embrace uncertainty.

Settling on (or worse, waiting for) your “big” idea is a waste. Not even the venerable Mr. Jobs waited for his big idea. The big idea is a process – not an epiphany.

Which means that you need to get comfortable with “not knowing” more often than not. This is not about a lazy, post-modern denial of Truth. It’s about profound possibility. When you acknowledge that you don’t have the answers you’re more open to all the opportunities available to you.

Jonathan Fields just released the definitive book on this subject, aptly titled, Uncertainty:

The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations.

Achieve failure.

I recently shared with an interviewer that everything I do is a mistake. On purpose. Positively.

When you realize that every service you offer, every product you create is likely to have something that you will learn & grow from, you start to become comfortable with putting great value into the world in the form of mistakes. You can do it better next time and still be happy with the “great” you are creating today.

When you’re focused on perfection instead of value, you lose sight of what is important to the recipient of your product or service. You lose sight of what’s truly important to you.

And “failure” is becomes discouraging if not paralyzing.

When you’re focused on value, on understanding what constitutes money well spent or energy best transferred, failure is a bridge to greatness.

Eric Ries discusses this at length in The Lean Startup as it applies to business:

Even when experiments produce a negative result, those failures prove instructive and can influence the strategy.

Place your bets.

At each part of your creative process, you’re testing assumptions and [dis]proving hypotheses. You do this for yourself constantly. Yet, you probably try to avoid this when bringing ideas to market, presenting them to your audience.

But it’s placing your bets – publicly – that will truly tell you what to do next.

It’s not enough to make a thousand private mistakes. You need to put your ideas to the test with others: a list, a network, a mastermind, a focus group.

Keep your larger goals – the higher stakes – in mind and smaller mistakes will remain in context.

In Little Bets, Peter Sims dissects this strategy:

Experimental innovators must be persistent and willing to accept failure and setbacks as they work toward their goals.

Or if betting on the product of your creativity is a little too Vegas for you, think of them as proposals.

Proposals are new, sometimes radical, most often completely unproven. Roberto Verganti outlines this in his book Design-Driven Innovation:

These companies are instead making proposals, putting forward a vision. That is why I call this strategy design-driven: like radical innovation of technologies, it is a push strategy.

These proposals, however, are not dreams without a foundation. They end up being what people were waiting for, once they see them. They often love them much more than products that companies have developed by scrutinizing users’ needs. These proposals are wellsprings for the creation of sustainable profit.


When I think about agility, the image that comes immediately to mind is jumping back & forth over mid-line of a basketball court. Back & forth, back & forth.

Strength. Quickness. Reaction. Response.

Muscle movement happens fast & furious. But not without a thousand tiny course corrections happening even faster. Lest you fall over.

Agility is one of the most important physical skills of an athlete. It’s the rigorous combination of physical and mental performance.

Agility in business is the same. It’s shifting priorities. It’s responding to true urgency and not reacting to perceived urgency.

Agility is empathizing with customers and analyzing your numbers – then doing something about it.

You can achieve an environment of agility when you get cozy with uncertainty, embrace failure, and place bets.

That’s an environment for not only financial & entrepreneurial success but creative success. It’s self-fulfilling.

How are you creating an environment of agility in your business right now?

experiment or die

experiment or die

As you might have noticed, taragentile.com just got a makeover. Not just a new banner or color scheme but a whole new flavor & focus.

The “new” here is really a reflection of an evolution that’s been occurring in my business since March 2010. From January 2009 til March 2010, my business and my online presence was about experimenting with things I thought might “work.” But my definition of success was limited and my understanding of what I had to offer the world was in its infancy.

Experimenting is a brilliant way of finding your passion and your calling.

Businesses that truly thrive (not simply get by) are those that are willing to experiment. Non-profits that truly make a difference are those that are willing to try something new. People who stand out, get noticed, and help others are those who are willing to do something without the burden of perfection.

Francis Ford Coppola recently did an interview with the 99 percent. He marveled at the fact that he can still learn something every day that he works on his craft (film).

The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do.

The very idea of film, its culture, its language, its art happened only because people were willing to wing it. There was no manual. Even after thousands of years of theater and drama, this new medium required its artists to dig deep and try something that just might fail.

If you’ve gone to the movies lately, I’m sure you realize that even a hundred years later, artists are still failing every day.

Many of my ventures have failed as well. But with each failed experiment, I have come closer to expressing my art on its own terms. I have inched nearer to the goal of serving (and changing) the world with my passion.

Today, I launch this outward part of my evolution. I brand myself as an expert in DIY culture and lifestyle design. If I’m not, I don’t know who is. This is the fullest expression of my passion that I’ve achieved thus far. And if there is another step to this evolution (I’m sure there is), I welcome it with open arms.

This is how I choose to be present in the world. This is how I choose to serve you. This is how I choose to be seen by your eyes and heard with your ears.

What experiments are you willing to try to find your truth? Are you willing to fail to find what truly succeeds?