Watching a Client's Campaign Death Spiral - Fine Point: Anchorage Alaska Advertising Agency

Watching a Client’s Campaign Death Spiral

Earlier this year I had something of a “perfect storm” of problems send one of my client’s campaigns into a death spiral. The scary part?  This was 100% true and could happen to anybody.

In the interest of educating both other marketers and business owners everywhere, here’s what went wrong, what I learned — and what you should be careful of when navigating your ad campaigns in the future.

In the Beginning …

I had this client for two years. They had multiple locations throughout the state and we were the first marketing agency they had engaged. We were doing a great job of tracking their marketing and worked out that a specific Facebook “call to action” campaign was their best performer.

They were getting a 12-15x return on investment through this method — that’s crazy.

Then the first problem occurred.

Lack of Trust

If you’re a business owner and you employ the services of a marketing agency, you must trust them to know how to do their job. This is something you should work out before you ever sign a single piece of paper. Have you seen their prior results? Case studies? Do you believe they can deliver on their promises?

Once you realize you do trust these people, it’s important to let them do their jobs. It’s their expertise. That’s why you’ve hired them.

Unfortunately, that stopped happening for this client.  They felt they wanted something “new” despite the high returns. They took away the ad creative for the Facebook campaign from us and started doing it themselves. They wanted to move away from the “call to action” campaign to focus more on advertising the quality of their service.

It’s certainly an admirable goal, but the numbers simply didn’t back it up. Everyone tries to sell themselves on the quality of their work. It’s not a unique or engaging message for most people. We backed this up with data from split testing which clearly showed that the “call to action” campaign was still the one that was going to produce the better results.

Despite our warnings and our data, they insisted, and we had little choice but to comply.

As we predicted, the campaign stopped producing the same results.

Platform Changes

If the lack of trust wasn’t bad enough, about a month later we noticed something horrifying; all of our Facebook ad campaigns were flagging. Even ones that were tried and tested and true were beginning to produce shockingly poor results.

We still don’t know why, either. Whether it was an algorithm change or simply the economy, for whatever reason that entire month was basically a write-off, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

Such is the nature of digital platforms, particularly with things like Google and Facebook where they use algorithms that nobody knows how they work. One day you’re king of the world, the next your hard work is going to waste.

Fortunately for us, our clients were still seeing an excellent return on investment from their other platforms. Google Adwords was still killing it, for example.

Unfortunately …

Not Listening to the Data

While we’d backed up our assertions that the client’s desired Facebook campaign wouldn’t work with data, we made the same mistake the following month.

Despite everything pointing out to Facebook simply not delivering the results for anyone like it used to, we persisted in trying to use the platform by doubling down. We tried a variety of campaigns and ad types, and never got anywhere with any of them for the entire month.

Alas, this was the final straw. The first client who’d stopped trusting us ultimately cancelled their account with us, and we respectfully parted ways. Fortunately, our other clients were still happy and the month after Facebook seemed to bottom out, their Facebook campaigns started working properly again.

Lessons Learned

So having seen this client’s campaign death spiral, what did we learn?

For marketers:

Stand your ground even at the risk of frustrating your clients. It’s your job to ensure a successful campaign, and if the client starts to take crucial work out of your hands then you can no longer guarantee them the results they’re paying for.

Things can change beyond your control; it’s crucial to listen to the data and adapt. If a platform stops performing, either abandon it, or at least tone it down until you start seeing better results. Don’t get stubborn and double down just because history says the platform should perform.

 For business owners:

Trust your marketing team. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

If you have a problem with your campaign, or aren’t happy with the results, describe the problem, don’t prescribe the solution. Your marketing team may have experienced these issues before and have solutions that work better than what you’re suggesting. That’s what you’re paying them for — to know how to do their jobs and help you achieve your goals.

About the Author

Ross Johnston holds an MBA from the AGSM, ranked as the #3 global business school by Forbes Magazine and a BBA in Marketing from the College of William and Mary.

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