When is it Time to Pull the Plug on Your Marketing Campaign?

June 16, 2017

By Chris Franks

We’re only human, and we crave instant gratification. I’ve found that this is excessively true when it comes to owners of companies in regards to their marketing budgets. You pump a certain percentage of revenue into getting your product into the world, so it’s understandable to want to see your money delivering something. Plenty of investors, business owners, and other stakeholders will demand immediate results from their marketing teams. Also, when something isn’t working right, they’ll demand the agility to switch tracks immediately.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about rapid iterations and tight marketing goals (it’s sort of how we do business here at CleverFunnel). For many companies, most notably those in their early startup days, simply do not have the time for slow ROIs. However, how fast is too fast to give up a marketing initiative?

Let’s look at this from another perspective: you’re a marketer, and you’ve undertaken a massive project for a client – say, designing a complex and well-researched AdWords campaign from the ground up. It’s running, and it’s returning decent results, but after a week, your client tells you to pull the plug. “We’re not seeing a decent enough ROI,” they might say. Understandable, because PPC campaigns can be incredibly expensive. But, is a week enough time to know that your campaign is busted? On the other hand, if you’ve been tinkering away at your AdWords, and after several months, you’re not seeing anything, when is it time to pull the plug?

Marketing Takes Time

Waiting for organic search traffic like:

To marketers, this one’s obvious. Marketing, especially inbound marketing should be compared to a marathon, and not a sprint. For inbound marketing efforts, plenty of agencies will estimate a minimum of 6-8 months to start seeing compounding growth in a company’s web traffic. I’ve seen agencies say it could take as long as 24 months – two years – to really see a substantial growth in traffic and frequency of MQLs. Now, I think that this estimate is a bit high, perhaps as a way for certain agencies to keep clients paying their retainers without seeing actual results. Now, that may be cynical of me, but in my opinion, to truly build presence and pipeline, it’ll take a minimum of three months to start seeing an uptick in web traffic, and as long as six or eight months to really see big returns.

PPC and the Instant Gratification Myth

At the heart of it, a robust PPC campaign on Google AdWords or Bing Ads might seem to break the scenario I set up above. Plenty of clients come to us and ask about setting up PPC campaigns, citing the need for “immediate results.” While yes, PPC campaigns can quickly generate clicks to your website, they take quite a bit of time to become highly profitable. Vertical Leap, a search marketing firm in the UK, outlined an eight-month process to a profitable PPC campaign. AdWords campaigns take time to set up, and they require an incredible amount of time devoted to testing, retesting, writing, rewriting, adjusting, and readjusting. Just like any of your other marketing efforts, switching directions too quickly, or toppling over strategies after a week of sluggish performance will not only slow you down in the short term, it will definitely affect how quickly you can build data sets to make informed decisions on your campaign. Having your marketing team switch around their PPC strategy monthly (or in some cases, weekly) is an incredible headache for them, and an incredible money suck for you.

Content is Still King

“Why won’t anyone read my blog?!”

Any inbound marketing strategy needs a content marketing strategy, pure and simple. The fact of the matter is, Google loves content, and if you have a lot of high-quality content, Google will like you better. However, even with content, it can take as long as 4-6 months to get 100 extra organic clicks. Nonetheless, blogging early and blogging often will most certainly shorten the aforementioned timetables, because more people will be finding your site organically.

Don’t have time to blog? I mean, it’s understandable. High-quality content takes time to produce and distribute (and there are absolutely no shortcuts to high-quality content). None the less, I strongly recommend finding a way to fill your site with content. Even if you commit to writing only, say, 5 pieces of original content a month, you’re going to be in a better place than with no content at all. Even when it feels like you’re wasting your time, because you have no organic search results yet, just give it time, and think about the ways you plan to distribute said content.

When Do I Know It’s Time To Kill A Campaign?

The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on what kind of marketing campaign we’re talking about. Also, before I go any further, allow me to make one quick clarification:

Tinkering with a campaign is not the same as killing a campaign, and you should always be tinkering.

Making adjustments to how a campaign is running, or changing your copy, or redesigning a landing page for inbound clicks are all constant efforts by non-lazy marketing professionals. But when do you know it’s time to say goodbye to ineffective marketing? Let’s lay it out by some big fields that people always ask about.

  • Content: You should always be writing content, but make sure that you’re writing content that is interesting, relevant, and useful to your prospect base. Consider researching relevant longtail keywords that match the ways your prospects are searching for your good or service. No, you won’t see a dramatic jump right away, but if you keep building your site’s content, your organic searches will get you (and your funnel) to a good place.
  • PPC: Here’s the thing about AdWords or Bing Ads, or any other PPC source you have running. You should constantly be trying to make these click-through-rates as high as possible. You should always be testing different ads, different copy, or even different graphics if you’re on the display network. But if you’re still not getting any progress after three or four months, consider pulling the plug here. When I say traction, I mean, how are your CTRs? What’s your cost per conversion like? If it’s way above what it should be, or just not performing at all, it might be too expensive a venture to continue on. Then again, if you’re being told that you’re not making enough from PPC in such a short amount of time, my guess is the company really couldn’t afford it in the first place.
  • Email: Marketing through email allows you to be relatively agile. This is because you can see very quickly to a very large audience whether your messaging resonates with your audience. If you find yourself in a situation where, over several months of testing different copy, and nothing seems to stick, consider how you’re segmenting your audiences. Is the right messaging really going to the right people? What does your workflow really look like, and what does it accomplish? Like content, email should generally always have a place in your marketing mix. It just takes a bit of time to tinker your way into the results you want.
  • Landing Pages/Web:  WYSIWYG editors on content management systems (like WordPress) have made the job of making changes to websites incredibly easy… almost too easy. Changing CTAs, colors, forms and just about anything else you can imagine is generally a painless process. While we’re big proponents of A/B testing, there is such a thing as too much tinkering. As with the other areas of marketing, you have to let a landing page or new web page have at least 30 days to generate enough traffic to make any determinations of its effectiveness. Before you make any changes, make sure you get a baseline of the current conversion rate so you can track the progress each week after launching. In addition to setting the normal statistics for web traffic (form fills/conversions, bounce rates, pages viewed, time on page, etc), we recommend implementing a heat map so you can see how visitors interact with your pages.
  • Social Media Marketing: We get asked all the time by clients how they can “start seeing results from social media marketing,” and our answer is always the same. What do you want to accomplish out of your social channels? If you want to get more likes, follows and comments, your social strategy needs to revolve around content that is shareable. That is, content that is amusing or informative. If you want more leads from social media, your posting needs to be more strategic, with most of your posts heading to content with forms for people to give you their contact information. Furthermore, make sure that you’re following the 5:3:2 rule as closely as possible. In six months or so, depending on your size and market penetration, you should start seeing consistent lead flow from your social channels. If not, you might not be writing the right content, or you might be turning people off of your brand. People are fickle, making social media marketing a tricky game.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any successful marketing strategy. Effective inbound strategies take several months, if not years, to cultivate, no matter how many leads you need today. While patience is a tough sell for a fledgling business with very little cash flow, just remember: good things take time, no matter how much that marketing bro tries to sell you on “growth hacking,” whatever the fuck that means.

Photo credit: Theupsstore.ca