Why Most Marketing Campaigns Fail Within 3 Months


Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work with companies of all sizes… from startups to fortune 500 companies. The reason they typically hire me or other consultants is because their internal marketing campaigns are failing.

No matter what size the company is, within three months they cut their new internal marketing initiatives because they feel the initiatives aren’t working.

Sadly, it doesn’t just apply to someone else’s company… your marketing campaigns are likely to fail too.

Here’s why:

You plan your budgets quarterly

Marketing isn’t always a quarterly expense. Some things like SEO can’t be turned on and off like a light switch. You have to continually do them even when you are losing money in the short run in hopes that you will make money in the long run.

Depending on the type of marketing campaign you are planning, budget it correctly. Don’t look to do something for a few months and then renew it if it is working and cut it if it isn’t. I doubt you’ll get an ROI from your inbound marketing efforts within three months.

Granted, if you are doing a pay-per-click campaign, you can stop it within a few months if you are not getting an ROI, but most marketing campaigns don’t work this way. Generally, you should plan your marketing spend on a yearly basis, not quarterly.

You’re copying your competitors

I used to make this mistake a lot when I first started my entrepreneurial career. Instead of being creative, I just looked at what my competitors were doing and copied it.

What works for your competitors won’t always work for you. They may have been doing pay-per-click advertising for years, and because their quality score is so high, their cost per click is low. But if you decide to copy their campaigns, your quality score won’t be as high when you are just starting out, which means you will have to pay more money per click than your competitors.

Don’t look to copy other people because most marketing channels are saturated and expensive. Start thinking outside the box and consider testing new means that aren’t as easy to copy.

A good example of this is content marketing. For example, KISSmetrics has a ton of competitors, but we will always generate more traffic than they will because we are better at content marketing. And even though many of our competitors have more cash than we do, content marketing is a difficult thing to copy even if they threw a million bucks at it.

We used a creative marketing tactic to succeed versus spending thousands of dollars on the typical channels that our competitors are using.

Don’t let money be your excuse because there are always ways to acquire users even when you don’t have a lot of cash.

Your marketing efforts aren’t funding themselves

It’s not easy to create a positive ROI in the short run, but it is possible. The way you should be thinking about marketing is to split up your campaigns in two buckets. The first one is campaigns that will provide an ROI within a few months, and the second group is campaigns that will provide an ROI in the long run.

Campaigns like pay-per-click advertising or remarketing can provide a return within 30 to 60 days. SEO, social media marketing and content marketing are campaigns that are more likely to provide an ROI in the long run.

Before you start any of your marketing campaigns, you should ideally tackle a few methods that will provide a quick return. The reason you have to employ a few tactics versus one is because some won’t work out the way you wanted.

Once you start making some money from your current campaigns, you can start investing in long-term campaigns. This way you won’t be losing too much cash because your marketing campaigns are starting to fund themselves.

You are not maximizing your profit

Chances are you are tracking in-session ROI and not your lifetime value of your customers.

An example of tracking in-session ROI is spending $500 on your pay-per-click campaigns and generating $1,000 in revenue. Usually, you would consider that a successful campaign.

What you should also be tracking, however, is your lifetime value per customer. If you learn that a customer is worth $1,000 in the first year, but $5,000 over the course of three years, you can hypothetically spend up to $4,999 on marketing in the short run assuming you have no other expenses. Granted, you wouldn’t want to spend that much to acquire a customer, but if you increase your pay-per-click spend to $1,000, you may realize that you’ll be able to get five times more customers compared to only spending $500.

In the short run you may not make any money, but in the long run you will make a lot more.

You shouldn’t optimize your marketing campaigns for in-session revenue. Instead, you should ideally be optimizing them using lifetime value metrics as that will allow you to acquire more customers and make more profit.

You’re only focusing on traffic, not conversions

If you ask any marketer what his/her marketing plan for you may be, the marketer will usually talk about how he/she can increase your traffic. But traffic doesn’t always equate to more revenue.

Marketers shouldn’t only be driving you traffic, but they should also be driving you customers. Part of their job is to make sure people are converting. That means they need to monitor spend on irrelevant traffic, and they will have to figure out how to modify web page elements and copy to boost conversion rates.

A/B testing isn’t something that is optional! You have to include it in your marketing arsenal. If you can double of triple your conversion rate, that means the cost to acquire a customer will go down by half or even three times.

If you don’t think A/B testing is valuable, just read this case study on how we were able to boost our conversion rate by 363%. That had a huge impact on our bottom line.


Strategy is just as important as the marketing tactics themselves. Before you start any marketing campaign, you should figure out what your goals are and find the most efficient ways of achieving them.

Without strategy, even the greatest marketers can fail. If you don’t think things through, you will just waste time and money.

What are some other reasons that cause marketing campaigns to fail?


  1. Hey Neil –

    Great post. I fell into a common trap when I first started marketing. I was so focused on getting as many “impressions” and traffic as possible that I forgot about building relationships with people.

    What advice would you give small business owners to help us make sure that our marketing is designed to build relationships and add value vs. just shuffling people through the door in hopes that they buy?

    I think ROI would soar on any marketing campaign if we could do that.

    • Eddy, great points. Sorry you had to go through that, but at least now you know ROI is king!

    • Inspiring Citizen Rafi :

      Hi Eddy,

      As a small business owner I always give more value than what I offer initially.

      For example :-

      I am trainer in Neuro Linguistic Program. I charger $75 for my 2 day training program. However, when participants come for the program I give them surprises like body massage, free yoga sessions, meditation sessions and many such stuff.

      This will definitely increase my popularity through word of mouth. You can also offer some of your services to a marketing firm for free of cost and in return ask them to spread a word about your small business.

      I strongly believe, Neil would be able to add more value to this by writing a post in the future.


    • Great post Neil! Constantly building free-for-all links and not having a content marketing strategy which can help earn lot of quality and relevant links from authoritative sources is a FAIL. Gaining users trust, having an impact on their decision making and building a great community around the niche is very important to build a great brand online.

  2. Mahaveer Verma :

    For every beginner including me traffic was the factor to decide success rates. But now I know that conversions are more important than just traffic.

    Because even 100 visitors can turn into 60-90 potential customers with the right marketing skills whereas even 1000s of visitors can turn into just 10s of customers with the wrong one.

    I have been reading your blog from much time now and have learned a lot of things. Thanks for another informative post!

  3. Hi Neil,

    I think it’s ok to copy your competition sometimes. For example, I am sure you and other subscription based companies have tested the 30 free trial in every which way imaginable. That’s why we now give a free 30 day trial away to everyone who signs up.

    I think Picasso said it best…

    “Good artists borrow, great artsist steal.”

    Have a great day,

    • Marvin, great points. I like that last quote 🙂

      You are right in which you can learn things from your competitors, but you should still be creative.

  4. Yassin Madwin :

    “Marketing isn’t always a quarterly expense. Some things like SEO can’t be turned on and off like a light switch. You have to continually do them, even when you are losing money in the short run, in hopes that you will make money in the long run.”

    That is exactly my strategy. I spend 1k dollars on SEO for the first 3 months without trying to rank any specific keywords then i ambush my competitors by ranking all influencing keywords in the 4th month.

    unlike many who suffer with traffic i nail SEO (90% of traffic is organic) but I’m suffering with conversions..

    • Yassin, sounds like an interesting play on things. If you are generating conversions that should be good enough. I think you should tweak some of your strategies.

  5. True, I saw many of clients who concentrate on budget, they want traffic but not conversions in real world. They say the conversions will automatically happen when you get traffic. I don’t understand this strategy of getting leads from traffic to convert.

    Anyhow, awesome article to read neil. Thank you for the info! Ill share with my team.


  6. Venchito Tampon :

    Another mistake most marketers make is not building relationships with their target audience and just focus on getting traffic.

    Conversation marketing is one of the trending topics nowadays and has been a forgotten tactic for some marketers…

    The key to a successful marketing campaign is targeting the right audience and satisfying their needs and wants.

    Thanks Neil for your great post!

  7. Kelechi Ibe :

    Neil you hit so many points that are really important.

    Some of the mistakes I made in the past is doing PPC campaigns like my competitors (other marketers did). But i soon realized that they had bigger budgets than myself so they could take on some risk of losing money for the time being.

    I on the other hand was paying high CPC because my budget was so low and i didn’t get good conversions as a result.

    Also the long term strategies like content marketing is tricky in the sense that it requires a lot of patience and consistency. I was, but lost track somewhere.

    So I think just like you said, planning and strategizing in advance is critical and coming up with a unique way of marketing that isn’t already being copied by a lot of people (i.e. saturated) is VERY essential in today’s marketing space.

    Your thoughts will be appreciated.

    • It does come down to planning and strategizing because even with low PPC budgets, you can usually make it work and get your cost per conversion down.

      Same with content marketing… it is one of the cheapest forms of marketing that I know. You just have to plan it out as it is hard to see results in the short run.

  8. Neil,

    Thanks for the post. Do you know of any tracking tools that are good for tracking Life Time Value of a customer or are you just manually doing that in your own internal CRM?


    • Joe, right now I do it manually because I really like to see what is going on. There should be some out there though.

  9. Great Article, I have Learned Many Things!


  10. Sheheryar Khan :

    Excellent one Neil I think these are things every marketeer must have seen atleast once in his life & I’ve seen it many times so I know that how long these things work. Infact if you goto some freelance sites there are still thousands of projects who wants 1st page google ranking in a month otherwise they won’t pay you.. 😀 So I am glad atleast you’ve written about it in a real good manner.

  11. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the great post. I am just starting out in SEO and everything you write seems to speak to me in one way or another. I will certainly try to heed your advice and look at ROI on SEO as a long-term venture.

    Thanks again,

  12. The Window Guys of Florida :

    Clear communication and setting expectations at the beginning of a marketing campaign are huge. This article points out a few great techniques that I’ll be able to use to improve communication and marketing expectations.

  13. Bill Freedman :

    Timely article with fantastic advice. Thanks Neil.

    It makes me think of another interesting topic: when do you know your marketing strategy is baked enough to begin ramping up the awareness machine and tapping the marketing budget reserves. I’m certainly interested in your thoughts on this topic.

    • Usually when your company’s product hits product market fit. Startup-marketing.com blogs about that concept.

  14. Oh yes Neil it always come down to the ROI, and conversions are what increase the ROI – not traffic. Excellent point as many go for the greatest # of traffic and overlooking the conversion rates.

  15. Maegan Anderson :

    The most basic and early stage mistake you can make is failing to set timelines or goals for your campaign. Whenever you plan a campaign, establish set deadlines for when you plan on accomplishing every component of the campaign.Thanks for the info Neil!

    • Maegan, great tips. Having a defined timeline can really do a lot to push the needle and drive more sales.

  16. richa khatri :

    seriously neal, The biggest problem i faced while working with client is no defined objective..everybody want to be amazon….

    • Richa, this is often a huge problem. You really have to sit back and create your own persona to be a success.

  17. Ajeeta Banerjee :

    Wow, Neil your Post are always fun to read, as you provide the major insights of a problem. Waiting to read more from u……..

  18. jennifer richard :

    great Blog, we should learn from marketing strategy of another company. we don’t’ make copy paste and then prepare constructive planning for our business. it is more important that traffic conversion should be high.

  19. Great article. But when you start out doing SEO and marketing organic results is something you need to work towards and is a long time goal.

    Focusing on social media, social bookmarking, blogging, writing on page and off page blogs, content writing etc focus on 1 keyword per page in the aim for organic results.

    While these things can take time you then at the same time need to create relationships and give out your business cards, email people, call people and build bridges. I look more at the long term and keeping relationships at a good level.

    • Andrew, these are some terrific extra points. Thanks for sharing. I think networking is a lost art that needs to be utilized to promote a healthy business.

  20. Neil, great post, thank you very much. I learned a lot. It is a common mistake to confuse the strategy and tactics 🙂 I really liked your example of using content marketing as this is what I am doing as well and experiencing the same benefit of being ahead of competition regardless of overall size/money. Money by itself does not replace the value provided by useful content 🙂 It is one of the core skills that provides not being able to copied one-to-one 🙂

    • Masoz, glad you found the post helpful. You bring up some great points. Content is always going to be the best channel to promote your ideas.

  21. Digital Deepak :

    I do digital marketing consultancy for a few clients here in India and I see them making the same mistakes again and again. They don’t want to invest in a 2-3 year marketing plan.

    And one of the main reasons for this is that I am not talking with the CEO of the company. Mostly it is with the digital marketing manager or VP of marketing and they want instant results. They want a quick fix. They want to spend x and get back 2x. So that they can show it to their management.

    It is hard to explain. And if I am bringing out empirical proof (or say “long sales copy”), they don’t even want to look at it because they are afraid I may prove them wrong 🙁

    Neil, you have done a lot more consulting than anyone I know. How do you deal a situation like this?

    • Deepak, it sounds like you are using the right strategy now. It is often times best to go to the top of the chain to get results. CEOs will often have the most clout. Just keep doing what you are doing and you will get to the right people.

  22. And I was always thinking that attract the traffic and rest will be the business, thanks for breaking the myth Neil.

    • Robinsh, glad I could help. It is all about converting that traffic into business (that’s the hard part 😉 )

  23. Some times its time and error.

  24. Britt McCrimmon :

    Thanks for this post. I should print this off and hand it out to potential clients when giving a presentation. The small business owners I talk to want results yesterday with SEO.

    How do you show them the value in SEO in the long run?

    • Britt, Glad you found the blog post helpful. In the long run it is best to keep up to date with all the strategies as they change often.

  25. The same mistake i made too like copying what my visitors are doing in terms of marketing of my blog.but it does work the same way for all.need to be creative .Thanks for sharing sir.i am fan of your blog every time i come here and learn new things.

  26. Sherman Coinneach :

    Reading this article made me realize the terrible mistakes I’ve made with past campaigns. I’ve been in more than one situations where I’m dealing with heavy traffic and low conversion. Fine-tuning the campaigns usually lead to frustrations.

    It would be interesting to design a marketing campaign around conversion from the ground up. Thank you so much for this lovely sight.

    • Sherman, sometimes starting from scratch can make a big difference. However, we all don’t have that luxury so often times you just have to break things down into their component parts.

  27. Bad Credit Loans :

    Hey Neil, You are a highly informative man. It seems like I went wrong in planning the budgets and focusing on traffic alone. May be, I need to implement a new marketing strategy based on your points.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Try it out let me know how it works. Sometimes switching things up can go a long way towards improving your bottom line.

  28. Aqib Shahzad :

    True, I saw many of clients who concentrate on budget, they want traffic but not conversions in real world. They say the conversions will automatically happen when you get traffic. I don’t understand this strategy of getting leads from traffic to convert.

    This article helped me to know about that, surely i will share this coo information with my team mates

    • Aqib, you are correct. Traffic is nothing if you can’t get a sale or conversion out of it. People need to understand this point to have longterm success!

  29. Very useful and informative article. Thanks so much for sharing these great post. Thanks

  30. “Strategy is just as important as the marketing tactics themselves.” That’s true Neil..

    • Marke, great point. It’s all about getting the right strategy in place before moving forward with anything!

  31. Raheel Mushtaq :

    Sometimes you do this mistake of copying others and it doesn’t give you good conversion that’s why marketing campaigns fail if the plan is according to your product only then it can be successful each campaign needs to be unique with a new idea and long term plan to succeed

  32. Thanks for the info Neil. Whenever you plan a campaign, establish set deadlines for when you plan on accomplishing every component of the campaign.

    • John, great point. I think planning a solid strategy can really go a long way towards continued success!

  33. Great article, there is so much to learn in this. I’m glad I found your site, I’ll be back!

  34. Love the post Neil! I think one of the biggest reasons for failed campaigns is marketers not managing the C-level managers’ expectations effectively. Some of these efforts are really long term, but C-level types have the ‘want it now’ syndrome, so as marketers, if we don’t manage expectations correctly, approval/budget for continued efforts can go south quickly. Nowadays, emphasizing the strategy and long term benefits is how I start my presentations for new campaigns – without long-term buy-in from the top, you’re simply setting yourself up for failure.

    • Ken, sounds like a solid strategy. If you work quickly and provide results you really can attain those high level budgets you want. Best of luck!

  35. Clearsix Chris :

    Brilliant post as always Neil especially point number two. It’s an easy trap to fall into, watching what your competitors are doing and copying what they do well. The problem is what works for them rarely works for other brands in the same space.

    I think a huge reason people fail at marketing is bringing an inferior product to the market in the first place. It’s hard to position and sell something that isn’t unique, great or truly valuable.

    It doesn’t apply directly to the internet but one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject is The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing by Al Ries. All the guys and girls on here should definitely check it out.

    Thanks for the inspiration Neil.

    • Chris, you bring up great points. Competitive analysis is all about making sure your product provides a better solution than the rest. Thanks for reading!

  36. I. C. Daniel :

    First time investment was a total loss. No dime back. What a fool I was.

    Best regards from I. C. Daniel

  37. Alex M. @ Toner cartridges HP :

    “Your marketing is naff” is also a possibility. Out-and-out plagiarism is always a problem; a very successful form of advertising was with the Innocent smoothie brand. So many firms have stolen this way to promote their products it’s ridiculous. I was always surpirsed by the success of Moon Pig over in the UK – seemingly throwing togther two arbitrary words and making a strange little ditty can work wonders for your marketing plans.

    Great points though, thank you Neil.

    • Alex, yeah that can be a problem sometimes. It’s all about creating original and quality content. Thanks for reading 🙂

  38. jamie Leger :

    Good points Neil, creative and sophisticated strategy will always beat me-too marketing.

  39. David-Africa's Opportunities :

    This is a very helpful post. I always like being reminded of the customer lifetime value as opposed to measuring marketing spend against the singular initial purchase.
    Neil your always a big help for me.

    • David, the customer lifetime score will always be one of the most accurate indicators of how well you are doing.

  40. Thank you. These are very useful advices.

  41. Hats off to your article Niel. Being unique is one of the main reason why businesses get favorable outcome, may be that could be in form of product and services which could satisfy audience needs. It is something that they market with their heart. Sometimes the problem with the marketer is that they are just sell and sell to earn fast cash. But they did not establish connections. Remember that what is important most is the relationships of both parties to maintain the business at it’s firm.

    • Jayden, great points. It is really vital to create lasting relationships that really drive conversations related to your product. Money isn’t always the aim.

  42. Great post Neil, really helpful for learners and frankly give idea about how to maake marketing more effective

  43. appreciate your writeup Neil i too agree instead of copying the effort make your effort count in you work will definitely give you a result ..every business have different targets and it cant be achieved by just copying

  44. Great tips, Neil!

    We prefer to measure performance on a monthly basis and utilize three, six & 12 month check-ins to gauge long-term progress of our clients marketing efforts.

    This is beneficial because we work with many SaaS clients; they’re able to understand how valuable signing up 1 paying customer is because that individual is generating revenue for months/years down the line!

    • Mike,
      Great points. the SaaS model is geared towards growth over the years. Signing one big client can mean ALOT of money down the line.

  45. SEOinstitute :

    Great point you have explained. I really liked it. Thanks

  46. Hannah Hamilton :

    Thanks for sharing this great writeup Neil, Most campaigns fail within three months, I think because they also fail to provide quality services for some clients. Yet, Suffocating them with overflowing information without understanding their perspective is as good as failure.

    • Hannah, great point. It’s very important to provide people with quality content. That way you build a relationship built on trust with them.

  47. Karen Walters :

    Great reasons for failure of marketing compaigns. It’s a great research result. Some common reasons for failure is like Not knowing your target customers , Not using media (or technology) to the fullest and Putting all eggs in one basket (no media mix). Because the world’s best marketers know how to sell not only products, but also emotions and even lifestyles.

    • Karen, great point. The best marketers are good at selling an ideal. It is that ideal that really pushes conversions and conversations.

  48. I like visiting this blog cos of the wonderful articles I read each time I visit

  49. hi niel

    the information is really useful for me. thanks for sharing such an useful information

  50. hi nei the information is really useful for me. thanks for sharing such an useful information

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