Ever had a marketing campaign go awry? Careful, I’ll call shenanigans on anyone who says no to that question. If you answered honestly by saying yes, don’t worry it’s more common than you think. In today’s world, marketing technology allows us to quickly spin up campaigns and get to market fast. So speedy, it’s even become a strategy called “fail fast,” or as my old boss more colorfully stated, “learning from your f—kups.” Whichever way you choose to describe it, it’s important to note that failure can’t be taken lightly.

Yes, there will be marketing flops – for sure, but no one should ever set out to fail. The key really shouldn't be to embrace failure, but to embrace resilience and your ability to bounce back. My point is you never want to glorify mistakes and errors, but you must cultivate the ability to adapt and learn from them. To do that, you must be Data Smart, but that’s sometimes easier said than done.

If you’re still wrestling with where measurement and data fails within your marketing strategy, you’re probably experiencing a lot of emotions like: denial, anger, rationalization, despair, and acceptance. Okay, so you see I’m borrowing from the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, and these are also common stages of marketing grief as well, but only if you fail to make data a key part of your online marketing strategy.

Stage 1: Denial

Yes, denial is your mind’s first defense against the brutal reality that your website, digital advertising, marketing automation (or whatever online campaign) was a miss. In this phase, you may refuse to accept that your marketing was a flop, use creative descriptions that make results sound better than they really are, even make excuses up based on uninformed opinions on why you’re not seeing an ROI on your recent efforts.

Note: Having a statistical analysis of your digital data is an easy way to avoid the first stage of denial along with the following phases of marketing grief.

Stage 2: Anger

Anger is a natural reaction of not being able to measure your marketing campaigns. It starts by co-workers asking you questions about attribution. What starts as bitterness can fester into fits of rage. Warning, if you hang on to this powerful and negative emotion for too long it can become a stumbling block further impeding future marketing campaigns. If you’re in this stage of grief, don’t worry, there are some positive ways you can release these emotions. Try taking a walk, or taking several deep breaths.

Note: Google analytics collects data, yes. However, it (and other measurement platforms) don’t really tell you what data you should track or why it’s important to your business goals. Including a Digital Marketing and Measurement Model in your campaign strategy is an easy and effective way to avoid anger and other stages of marketing grief.

Stage 3: Bargaining

In the bargaining stage is where marketers can become delusional, even desperate. You’ll often do anything to diminish failure, in your own mind and the minds of your stakeholders. This stage can be the most dangerous and often includes feelings of remorse. Rather than realizing you have a lack of data or poor marketing execution, you quickly turn to discounting prices and providing terms that reduce the value of your products or services. Careful, this can become a serious disorder that is not an easy rebound.   

Note: Testing is another useful strategy to collect data and insights about your audience. Develop a proactive plan for A/B Testing - that way, you can discern whether you have an ineffective campaign or a poor product.

Stage 4: Despair

In the despair stage, you give into the dread, which is often not pleasant to confront. You recognize it’s not just your website. You’re unable to measure results from your paid media campaigns, your email marketing, factor your cost per conversion or even the lifetime value of your customers. If you’ve been successful before, you’re now vulnerable. You don’t know what efforts lead to customer purchases in the past or how you can make informed decisions about new campaigns to get them back. Despair continues by noticing that you’ve been underserving valuable segments your customers by failing to create segments in the first place. Then you realize that failing to market to your audience on a personal level has you lagging miles behind your competitors.

Note: You should collect data from every point possible. Analytics stretches well beyond online activity and into journey analytics that aims to connect the dots between offline and online behavior. 

Stage 5: Acceptance

In this final stage of acceptance, marketers begin to come to grips with their inability to measure their online marketing campaigns. It’s important to note that acceptance doesn’t mean the marketer feels good about their failure. In fact, some will never truly feel okay. However, it’s about seeing the new reality that your performance marketing campaigns can be optimized, but only if you know what needs to be corrected.

Note: There are two very import things to note with acceptance: 1. It does not mean forgetfulness. In fact, it’s important to remember your previous errors so you may learn from them and not repeat them. And, 2. Some marketers will advance through the stages of marketing grief faster than others. While it may not be easy, it’s important to note how quick you come to terms with the errors in your campaigns, the faster you’ll be able to react, resolve and get back to a positive ROI.

How to Avoid Marketing Grief Altogether  

To avoid future grief, digital data must be at the forefront of your campaign planning. Our measurement and analytics scans frequently uncover that brands, even BIG brands treat measurement and analytics as an afterthought. Three Deep is a performance marketing agency, established on the fact you always know precisely how your digital campaigns are performing based on our ability to track your online campaigns well beyond pageviews and clicks and into conversions and sales, so you can speak to your C-Level in dollars and cents. Better yet, if you start here, you’re far more likely to avoid marketing grief than if you don’t.