It’s like a finger puzzle – as you start to panic, the act of pulling and jerking only tightens the grip of the thing you’re trying to get out of. I’m talking about a failed marketing campaign. The panic you can feel as the end comes near (and you’re not where you should be) can make people reign in, ease up, and basically stop everything they’re doing. This is almost always the worst thing you can do. Yet, it is a knee-jerk reaction that many of us have in that moment of panic.

The fear of failure

The impending weight is too heavy to bear so we begin giving up to soften the blow of the inevitable failure. Marketing isn’t a field devoid of failure. There are lots of campaigns that don’t make it, goals that never get achieved, and programs that never had lift off. But thinking about your marketing as a one-shot deal is really where your failure rests. Every time you engage with prospects and you fail – you learn something (or at least you should!) Then you should be taking that knowledge and applying it to make your next effort a success! I’m not saying to shoot for success or that it’s even required in order to succeed, but when it happens make sure it doesn’t happen in the same way again.

No guarantees

I’ve spoken to prospects that want guarantees of success without giving the commitment. That just isn’t possible. When you choose to ignore the advice of your marketing team and proceed out of caution and fear, no guarantees can be made other than you’re not going to get the results you want.

Follow the plan

Plans are made to help you measure and help keep you on track when you start to question things. If the plan needs changing, then it’s done with thought and not a gut reaction or fear. Stick to the plan as much as you can for as long as you can so that you have a solid history of what you did (both good and bad). If your marketing person did their job well, that plan should see you through to a successful end. The more often to do this the more faith you’ll have in the plan and those fears will be seen for what they really are

Pulling the plug

Ending a campaign because of an unsuccessful attempt should be done with several things in mind:

  1. Would the success of this campaign end in more business?
    • Maybe the plan needs tweaking to reach success?
    • Maybe the wrong person is managing it?
  2. Does this effect negatively on our brand? How?
    • Maybe what you think is negative is positive?
    • Can we impact the negativity?
  3. Should we try this again?
    • Knowing what we know now, could we do it better?
    • Does this offer lessons that can be applied elsewhere for less money?
    • Is this a repeatable event that you participate in anyways?

I would hope that all your marketing has garnered you some success. But don’t avoid the risk for fear of failure. Taking those risks can garner big rewards. But I’d encourage you to start small and roll those lessons learned (good and bad) into bigger and bigger campaigns. Good luck!


Carolyn is the founder and Director of WindWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn helps her clients avoid marketing fails and build strategic marketing campaigns that generate leads and build their business. Visit or email