When results are not going to plan, uncertainty about your marketing will usually affect your business but not in a good way.

When results aren't going as you hoped and planned there is a temptation to try something new.

  • "We need to change our approach."
  • "We need to be more innovative."

These phrases are often heard when things are uncertain.

If things aren't going as you'd like you will have to make changes but maybe not by jumping onto the next shiny "marketing" tactic.

The first thing you need to change is your approach to testing and measurement.

The certainty that you seek comes from knowing why things aren't working. Basing marketing decisions on feelings rather than facts will only increase uncertainty and confusion about what's working and what's not.

So what do you test?

Pretty much everything starting with the core aspects of your plan. The very heart of your marketing is based on assumptions about your ideal client profile. Those assumptions need to be tested. For instance; are the people that your business thinks are its ideal clients really so? If this sounds too simplistic and obvious it isn't.

If your response rates to email or Adwords are dropping, if visits to your website are falling there will be a reason.

Usually, it's because of a disconnect. This happens when your marketing messages aren't resonating with your target audience. Revisiting the profiling of your chosen market is vitally important and note that I say your "chosen market."  Over time, your chosen market may shift. When a business starts-up there is usually a clear and defined audience it has been designed to serve. Marketing messages tend to be sharp and focused because they are written for people "you know." You know their job titles, their reading habits, the pressures that are affecting them. If a new business survives and gets through 2-3 years of trading it's because to some degree the marketing is working. It's resonating with that chosen or defined group of people. That's why it's important to go back and re-visit your assumptions about the core audience because like everything else in life, it never stays exactly the same. Audit your recent order list. Check the job titles, the male/female split, the average spend of the people that are coming to your business as new enquiries.

What are these stats this telling you?

When you have tested assumptions about your core market when you are clear on who "your people" really are, you can then look at the depth or detail of your messaging.

Why is this important?

If response rates to emails are falling for instance, how deeply are you covering the subject your business specialises in? 

  • Are you testing the subject headlines that work best?
  • Are long or short copy emails working better?
  • How are your landing pages performing?

Those performance stats will improve once you fix your core propositions. That's why the going back to basics work on your core market is so important. Launching into some new form of marketing like online advertising, public relations or SEO won't work well if you are in any way unsure about who it is you should be marketing to and what those people need to hear about. That's the path to continued uncertainty and frustration over lack of results. And yet, that's what many businesses do when they are keen or desperate to arrest a decline in sales or new leads coming into the business. They jump to the next new thing. Don't do that yet...

Work your way around your website.

Look at your analytics. Visits to your site are at the surface. Which are your best and worst performing pages?

  • Are visitors leaving your landing pages quickly?
  • How are your calls to action working on those pages?
  • Which offers or incentives have pulled best and most consistently?
  • Which subjects on your blog are the most interesting to visitors?
  • How long are people staying on your site?
  • What can you do to encourage sign-ups to your newsletter?

Look for the patterns and for opportunities to go deep. Depth of coverage and consistency in your messaging are winning traits. It's refreshing when you do this testing and fine-tuning to see results change and move forwards even slightly. Keep in mind that altering direction won't usually happen immediately. That's where the need for consistency and patience comes in.

Consistency I've mentioned already. Patience is about making the time to study what's really happening and allowing time to fine-tune or sharpen your updated positioning.

Not to keep blundering on.

With your core proposition and audience defined you can test the performance of each of your existing marketing channels. Tighten each channel up and sharpen its effectiveness before you move onto the next marketing tactic. Apply the same testing approach to the new channel before committing large resources. Working this way will kill uncertainty and improve your results. That's the path to a less stressful and more productive way to market your business.

David O’Beirne
The Exhibition Agency Ltd
63 Vera Avenue, London N21 1RJ  
T. 0203 633 4665
M. 07858 374 051


The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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