90% of Your Marketing Efforts Will Fail and that’s OK. Here’s Why. - Circle Social Inc

90% of Your Marketing Efforts Will Fail and that’s OK. Here’s Why.

A lot of people think marketing is about persuading customers, which means it’s all about catchy slogans and appealing images. It’s not.

The real job of a marketer is testing, testing everything. Again and again and again. Most of your tests will fail to produce significant results.

Testing serves to identify product/market fit in terms of audience, messaging, and overall funnels. Of course, marketers don’t start testing blindly, they make informed decisions about all these pieces to form a baseline of data.

So where do you start?

Start with What You (Think) You Know

Good marketers don’t just blindly jump into advertising. They take the time to do some market research in order to understand their own company’s products, services, and overall capabilities as well as customers and their journey.

We can be quite certain that our client that sells art will best be served on Pinterest and Instagram, both very visual platforms.

But it’s still worth testing out other avenues because…

You May Be Wrong, So Stay Creative.


In an example, from yesterday actually, we boosted a post highlighting the directors of a therapy group. Nothing overly special about it, as you can see in the screenshot below, but with just a $1.84 in ad spend, we managed to get 912 impressions, 89% of that organic! (Notice we’re using Dennis Yu’s A Dollar a Day strategy here to start off with. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend checking it out.)

Circle Social Therapy - Screenshot 2017-02-09 13.36.31

That’s because of the large number of likes, already at 29. For a small, local business with just over 1,000 fans, that’s huge. But, again, you wouldn’t have guessed it before posting.

These are examples of the 10% that works.

Test, Then Spend Strategically

The majority of what you post, especially when just starting to market, will fail. While market research certainly helps, it’s only through extensive live testing that you can really determine what works and where to focus your spend.

When we start with a new account, we test everything, platform, messaging, audience, devices, locations, everything.

Most of it will gain little traction, but there will be that 10% that does. And then we know to drive money into that area as well as continue our marketing focus by developing related content to that audience.

For example, the therapy group post above didn’t get an ad spend to support it until we saw it already start to gain organic traction. When we saw a couple likes coming in, we knew it needed to get pushed out with paid support in order to capitalize on the reaction.

Below is a great visual example from a substance abuse treatment center we work with. You’ll notice that previous posts got very little traction, barely anything over 100. Then you see this tremendous jump at the top with the latest post at over 4,500 organic impressions!

Circle Social SALS - Screenshot 2016-12-29 09.43.00

The 80/20 Rule in Marketing

Just like in most facets of business and life, there seems to be this 80/20 rule. 20% of what you do will produce 80% of the results.

When you first start off, it will be more like 90/10 because you don’t have much to go on. But you can see that the one post with 4.5K organic reach is greater than the 11 previous posts combined!

Your goal in marketing is to find that breakaway content, the ideal product/market fit, and then drive it home with financial backing. If you’re a startup, this is where businesses first start to see success.

Seasoned businesses have already found their golden gooses. Maybe for them, it’s trade shows or taking people out to expensive lunches. In this famous story, Nathan Chan tested numerous platforms without gaining traction and then had runaway success with Instagram, gaining 10,000 followers in just 2 weeks.

Marketing Needs an R&D Department

A huge challenge in marketing is that nothing stays constant. Markets change, people get bored, products go out of style.

So, even though you may want to put all of your eggs into the 20% basket that’s really working, you have to keep innovating and trying new things.

Our recommendation is that at least 50% of your budget goes toward new marketing avenues and 50% goes towards what you already see working.

Think of it as R&D for your marketing. Just like the best companies invest heavily in R&D to stay ahead of the competition, you need to invest in research oriented marketing to find the next best thing.

If you can find multiple channels where you achieve that breakaway success, the return on investment is incredible.

The only way marketing doesn’t work is if you stop trying new things. Many companies fail in their marketing efforts, because they don’t see results right away and then they give up. If you understand that the majority of your efforts will fail, but that the results you achieve when it works are exponential, then you start to understand the power of constantly trying new things.

An Agile Marketing Philosophy

This is the beauty of digital marketing. In the past, you’d run a ridiculously expensive TV ad. But you didn’t have the option of testing multiple versions of the ad to different audiences and on different channels. It was simply too expensive. Plus there was no real good granular data.

However, with digital marketing, you can run quick iterations and split tests on a weekly basis. You know who’s responding down to income level, zip code, and even how many pets they own! It’s truly incredibly what we can do these days.

No longer do you have to pin all your hopes some big ad campaign. Now you can test numerous smalls ones to find what actually works and then put serious financial backing behind them.

Rather than all that money down the drain, like in the past, failed digital campaigns are simply part of the process in finding out what works and it’s done at a fraction of the cost of traditional channels.

So, as they say in the agile engineering and startup worlds, fail often and fail fast, then use that information to find out what works. This is how businesses are grown and succeed.

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About the Author

Nick Jaworski is the Chief Growth Officer of Circle Social Inc. Seeing a real need for innovative, ethical recovery center marketing and growth, he launched Circle Social to help the best addiction treatment centers connect with people who needed their help the most. He is also the proud father of the most beautiful girl in the world. You can most often find him sharing thoughts on digital marketing and cracking jokes on Twitter or Snapchat as @NBJaworski.