Marketing programs are what drives growth for a company.

A new email program or ad campaign that generates a low number of inquiries, or marketing programs that target the wrong prospects, or who sales message is not well received by your target market.

It has been said that failure is a better teacher than success. As a marketing manager, it’s certain you will experience failure in marketing programs.

For marketing managers, failure can reveal the insights that lead to a successful result in your next marketing effort. Not failing often means not doing.

This post covers the process of uncovering and assessing the causes of poor market test responses in startups and new product launches. Many of those techniques also apply to the problems faced by all marketing managers who must deal with poor results.

For example, not reaching your sales goals or your marketing objectives from your marketing strategy. This is important information because it can help you stage a turnaround in a failed marketing project.

There are different marketing programs and successful†marketing programs will depend on the types of†marketing programs you employ.

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Landing in the Grey Middle with Your Marketing Programs

Many times, the marketing projects you execute for your test marketing programs, or a marketing project for a new product launch falls way short of your expectations. Your email program, ad placements, sales support follow-up, and other marketing activities generate inquiries, but not up to the level of market response assumptions in your company’s business or marketing plan. You must move quickly to assess your marketing programs and take action to save it.

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Another common outcome is that some marketing activities, such as online advertising placements, generate far less response than others, such as test emailing to a selected email list, or a trade show appearance.

All in all, however, overall results fall about halfway between your projections and zero. This indicates a clear need for a change in your marketing programs, its product, its sales and distribution channels, or all of the above.

When the results of a new marketing task in the start-up indicate neither clear success outright failure, falling somewhere down the grey middle of sales performance, there will be many immediate reactions to the news. Most of them distracting in unconstructive.

Some members of your team will begin to panic, and othersóespecially founders in a start-up, for senior executives in your companyówill simply deny the clear fact before them.

These are indeed surprising responses to adversity since ambiguous sales response is the usual outcome of most market test.

As already stated, the reason the market test is done in the first place is to cover both the bad and the good aspects of a product’s marketing appeal and to make the necessary changes to the startups marketing programs. This Denver digital marketing agency works with marketing programs from concept, testing, and scaling.

When you consider the fact that most startups are introducing their products or services for the very first time, in a strange and completely untried market.

And products or services that may require potential customers to change their ways of doing business, it’s actually surprising that so many members of a startup team react in panic and denial to news of disappointing response to the company’s first market test. They should have expected it and should have been better prepared to face it.

There’s Always Something You Can Do to Fix Your Marketing Programs

Your first reaction as a marketing manager in a start-up, or in an established company facing subpar results from any marketing project, is to avoid the panic that follows bad news or to is influenced by the emotional responses of others around you.

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In my next post, I’ll show you how to identify the common marketing problems uncovered by marketing tasks in startups, or in any under-performing marketing project, and what you can do to correct them.

What Went Right with Your Marketing Programs?

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Before you examine the causes of a poor initial market test or any other marketing project, look for those areas where your marketing programs did well.

These positive indicators often become the key to showing you what you need to do to change your marketing program and dramatically improve your results, for example, by helping you change your marketing approach, the types of prospects you are targeting, or your marketing methods.

Here are the areas to examine in market test results: Sales generated by the testówho bought, and why?

What sales did your marketing programs generate? Why did these individuals buy, and is there anything about them, such as their job title or responsibility, that makes them different from the majority of prospects you targeted in your test?

Call some of these new customers on the phone and try to find the common threads that lead them to buy your company’s product or service. What factors motivated them to buy? Cost-savings?

Fear of becoming technologically obsolete, or being left behind in their business? Dissatisfaction with a similar product sold by a competitor? In these motivations be turned into better sales copy points for marketing deliverables used in follow on marketing efforts?

What benefits and features did these buyers find compelling about your company’s marketing deliverables (emails, brochures, sales presentations, advertising, etc.)?  

What did they find that was lacking, or that confuse them, in your marketing deliverables? Perhaps the marketing deliverables you used in your test succeeded with these few buyers in spite of major problems with their sales benefits and content.

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What kinds of companies bought your product?

If you are selling a business-to-business product, closely evaluate the companies who bought from your company during the test. Do they seem to be more, or less, technically innovative than other companies in their industry?

If your company is selling a high-tech product or service, such as computer software, hardware, or systems?

Even a few sales to a handful of smaller companies known to be early adopters of new technology in their industries can be a bright spot in a poor overall market test result. This may mean that if more sales effort is applied, and as your product proves itself in the field, other companies will follow.

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Are the companies who purchase your products smaller than the average company in your field?

If so, it’s a fact that smaller companies make purchasing decisions faster, and perhaps it’s only a matter of timeówith additional effort on the part of your company sales repsóbefore larger companies decide to buy.

Examine the niches these companies occupy in their fields.

Take a closer look at markets these companies serve, and the specific applications they provide to their own niche markets. What companies buy your product to address some very specific application, or to serve their own special market segments not served by all the other companies in your industry?

This may be an opportunity for you to promote certain aspects of your product specifically to the market niches, or sweet spots, and subsequent marketing programs.

Don’t say there’s nothing you can do. There’s always one more thing that you can do.

Your Mailing list

If you tested a variety of different email list for email test (e.g., A/B test) for a project, examine the results generated for each list you tested. It’s certain email lists do better than others?

If so, are these email list large enough to make your direct email campaign a viable part of your marketing programs, despite the poor performance of other less?

If you tested a few email list of subscribers to a few of the major trade publications in your industry, did one of these lists tests do any better than others? Did it do better by a considerable degree?

If so, perhaps you can improve your email results by improving the sales impact of your direct email piece and testing again. Even mildly positive result on your email campaign is a good sign.


As modern marketing professionals, you must ensure that sales and marketing are aligned and integrated.  Once this process is completed, the marketing manager can begin market research and develop the marketing plan.

Once a marketing plan has been created and distributed among top management and the sales team, the marketing manager can begin to explain that testing is required within the marketing programs.  

It’s at this time that the marketing manager can explain that during the testing period results will not be the final results once the programs are adjusted to perform better.

It’s important to set the expectation with the executive team before beginning any test. By doing this you are setting an expectation that can be managed appropriately.

Remember the biggest opportunity is in the digital marketing space and with marketing programs online. A marketing referral program and marketing affiliate program work well in the SaaS and eCommerce space.

Give us your best tip on how you fixed your marketing programs that hit a wall.

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General FAQ’s

What are marketing programs?

A†marketing program†is a coordinated and well-designed set of activities to achieve†marketing†objectives.†Marketing†objectives are strategic sales goals that fit the products’ strengths and are based on various characteristics of the product. One may follow different†marketing programs†according to the situation.

What are affiliate marketing programs?

Affiliate marketing†is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others, and receive a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.

What is loyalty marketing programs?

Loyalty Programs†are a structured approach to rewarding customer actions that include giving customers incentives for specific activities that benefit the company like discounts, rewards, free merchandise, or exclusive access.

What is a marketing program in business?

A†marketing program†is a coordinated, thoughtfully designed set of activities that help you achieve your†marketing†objectives. Your†marketing†objectives are strategic sales goals that fit your strengths and are an excellent way to stretch your†business†in its current situation.

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