I had a call today with a prospective client that followed a theme I have heard at least one hundred times before. Essentially, he and his colleagues said they have "been burned" with their previous marketing efforts and are now "gun shy." He was understandably very reticent to do anything.
He summarized, "I spent a lot of money with two different firms, and I still have nothing to show for it."
I totally get it. Sadly, lots of people have been burned in their attempts to market before. But before you rush to the conclusion, "marketing doesn't work," hear me out.
1. Don't give up. Ever see a baby learning how to walk? It's brutal for them, but they keep at it. How would your life be if at two years old you simply sat on the floor and said to yourself, "I guess walking just isn't for me. I give up." Likewise, I don't know too many married people who never had to deal with a painful rejection or two prior to meeting their mate. (Except for me, of course.)
Same goes for marketing. All of my clients who are now aggressive, successful marketers failed countless times in the past, especially when they were first getting started. What's more, even today they still have failures, but they enjoy a lot more successes.
2. Mitigate risks. You can't avoid all risks, or else you'll stay permanently frozen on the sidelines. However, contrary to popular myth, successful people don't relish taking risks. Rather, they do everything they can to minimize risk, and then take smart, conservative action.
I advocate a "best practices" approach - in other words, you should use proven direct response principles in combination with lots of real-world experience and data.
Just like in surgery, outcomes usually cannot be guaranteed, but when you build upon the experience of countless others before you, your odds of success greatly improve. Similarly, when you violate best practices, your odds of success plummet to near zero.
3. Understand that there are many kinds of marketers. Many doctors and corporate executives really have no understanding about the marketing world at all. Oftentimes they will spend a lot of money with someone who is great at creating pretty branded materials, clever ads or lots of Facebook followers. While those are all good things, that is not the same thing as delivering return on investment. If your marketing company is talking about advertising awards, creativity or branding, just be aware that they usually are not focused on generating revenue. Heck, a lot of marketing people don't even talk about getting quantifiable results, let alone deliver them.
So what are you going to do now?
While luck can help, you would be foolish to rely on it. (Do you want your surgeon to rely on luck?)
You'll need guts, a budget, clear objectives and hiring smarts. You should definitely hire a company with a track record of getting results, preferably with a direct response background. (Simplistically, direct response marketing is designed to get people to call you now, while the more common "general advertising" is about being creative to build awareness and your brand.)
So, yes, marketing failures hurt.
But if you are ever going to get where you want to go, you'll need to at least start taking "baby steps" again.