Marketing Strategy

Examining Where Marketing Projects Go Wrong: Common Causes for Poor Marketing Response

Learn how to boost your marketing response by analyzing your marketing projects.

Are four major causes for subpar market response revealed by a market test, or in other marketing projects.

These include the following:

  • Marketing related problems
  • Product-related problems
  • Distribution and market size problems
  • Uncontrollable factors

The first three causes above can often be corrected by you and your marketing team. Other factors, such as lack of sufficient financing to adequately fund your startup’s marketing activities, or bad timing, also determine the success or failure of a new venture.

Even if they are not marketing or product related problems, per se. But even these factors can sometimes be reversed by better marketing methods.

Advertisers will spend $40 billion more on internet ads than on TV ads this year.

Marketing Related Problems

Many of the causes of poor marketing results are problems that are directly related to the marketing content, methods, deliverables, or execution of the test or marketing activity. In this post, I’ll cover the most common causes of poor marketing results, and how you can be corrected.

Marketing execution problems may exist in your lead generation, how you create content, social media programs, the type of content you produce, or among many things that can go wrong.

Copy and Deliverable Problems

Inadequate sales copy in poorly developed marketing deliverables is the leading cause of poor response in any marketing effort. This is the first place to look in the aftermath of a task that generates poor mix results.

  • The main benefit not understood by the prospect
  • The main benefit missing or is not recognized by the prospect
  • Sales copy and benefits poorly organized or not well presented
  • Prospects not told what to do next, or is not motivated enough to take the next step
  • Identifying and solving copy and deliverable problems

Market and Prospect Selection

If you have carefully examined the sales copy and marketing deliverables used in your prior test or other marketing projects, and you are confident they do an effective job of presenting and selling your startups product or service, then consider the choice you and your team have made on your market, and your prospect targeting in this market.

After poor marketing copy and deliverables, poor market targeting and prospect selection of the next leading cause of poor sales response.

Many times you will discover that your marketing to the wrong prospects, or trying to sell your product in what turns out to be the wrong market. This is often learned only after running a market test—which, of course, is the reason you are testing in the first place.

Many causes of poor market targeting and prospects election can be identified and corrected. The most common of these problems will be addressed here, for each of the common marketing activities in your marketing program.

Direct Mail

Prospects not identified by name, or names out of date, on an email list. nothing kills response more than an email campaign sent to an email list where the name of the individual at the company is missing from the mailing list record.

Another common problem with email list are incorrect, out-of-date company contact names, with records containing names of executives who are no longer with the company, or companies that are either no longer in business.

Sales Support

Many common causes of poor response for marketing programs, such as late or non-existent phone follow up with prospects, stem from poor planning and coordination with the companies sales development representative and outside sales force.

Once identified, however, these problems can often be easily corrected. Other causes of poor test results are revealed by the feedback your company sales reps receive from prospects as a result of the emails, ads and other marketing activities you’ve executed.

Here’s a list a common mistake we see in sales support:

  • The targeted prospect is not the best sales contact
  • No phone follow up/late telephone follow up

Print Advertising

In general, print advertising is the one marketing activity most often plagued by the poor sales response of any other marketing activity executed during a market test or ongoing marketing program.

Print advertising is also generally the most expensive marketing activity for most companies, and the riskiest, from the standpoint of generating profitable sales response.

Sales copy and presentation problems. This is the most common cause of poor sales response from ads and is often caused by the same types of sales copy and presentation problems found in poorly performing direct email campaigns and other marketing deliverables.

These problems are often magnified in print ads because, unlike a direct mail package, which has more space to sell the product, and more ways to do it through the envelope, cover letter, brochure, and reply coupon, a print advertisement has much less time to attract the reader’s attention. And far less space to sell the product.

Because of this, a print ad whose headline doesn’t grab the reader who sales copy doesn’t make the case for the product, and whose call the action is non-persuasive, often fails more spectacularly than any other marketing method.

This often happens when a startup runs its print advertising schedule to soon before it is learning the best ways to sell and present its products.

Marketing Execution

As a contributor to poor response in market test in a marketing project, problems and marketing execution is the easiest problem to identify, and the easiest to correct if you and your team can learn from experience and avoid repeating the same mistake a second time.

Here’s a list of common marketing execution problems with marketing projects.

  • Gross execution errors. These can be an almost unlimited combination of slip-ups, goofs, oversights, and production glitches occurring in marketing projects. Anyone which adversely affects sales response.
  • Poor execution due to seasonality. Failure to think through the timing of an ad’s placement, or when a mailing piece hits, can have a dramatic effect on the response you receive any marketing activity.
  • Uncontrollable events affecting execution. Of course, there will always be production and execution problems affecting response that are beyond your control.

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Solving Marketing Execution Problems in Your Marketing Projects

Well, there’s often nothing that can be done to reverse the effects of a botched email program, ad placement, or lack of coordination and sales follow-through, most experienced marketing managers will only make the same mistake once, having learned the hard lessons before marketing execution.

For marketing managers, the keys to solving marketing execution problems are awareness, respect for the process, and leadership.

Brand Awareness

As a marketing manager, you must not only manage all marketing activities, you must be aware of the individual execution tasks involved in every marketing activity performed by your team.

The things that can go wrong as each of these tasks are executed and as the task from one member of your team to the next in the process. Much of the material in our blog is devoted to helping you understand the many steps involved in marketing execution in these marketing activities.

Poor marketing execution, missed deadlines, and lack of accountability is often the tangible end result of the marketing managers who don’t know about the marking execution steps, is not engaged in the process of marketing execution, who doesn’t have respect for the work that must be done by the other members of his or her marketing team.

Respect for the Process

Another way to avoid marketing execution errors is to have respect for the production process. And an unnecessary delay in one step caused by you, or another member of your marketing team, create problems down the line for others on your team but were not responsible for the delay.

Respect for the production process also means having respect for the people who perform the tasks for your company.

A marketing project that becomes a fire drill for a vendor because of someone else’s poor time management, delay, not only shows a lack of personal respect for the vendor, it is often glad to leads to execution mistakes in the marketing project.

A marketing project that becomes a fire drill for a vendor because of someone else’s poor time management, delay, not only shows a lack of personal respect for the vendor, it is often glad to leads to execution mistakes in the marketing project.

A key to developing respect for the process is accepting the fact that all the members of your marketing team require a certain amount of time to complete any marketing project.


The final cure for marketing execution errors is leadership. Once you found problems and execution, admit the mistake, be the first to take responsibility for them, and do what you must correct the problem. Be a square shooter, and take the blame on behalf of your team, even if you, personally, we’re not to blame.

Someone else has responsibility for the execution are, and it’s clear to you that they are genuinely sorry about it and are making every effort to correct the problem, let the matter drop and get on with the program. Other members of your marketing team will respect the bigness they see in you, and you will be taken a big step toward building a strong, cohesive marketing team.

Wrap-Up for Marketing Projects

This post examined how marketing projects go wrong. More specifically how marketing-related problems can affect our marketing response.

You only fail if you quit—so don’t quit!

There’s always something you can do.

Give us your best tip to improve the marketing project.

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By George Schildge

As a digital marketing and conversion optimization expert, I work with startups, small and mid-sized businesses to help them develop processes to get predictable, scalable revenue growth. I work closely with management teams crafting marketing and sales strategies to promote the brand, generate more leads, and convert more leads into sales. I have a unique ability to balance rational, linear thinking and lateral creativity giving me a hard-nosed sense of operating reality, instrumental to a company’s growth.

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