Kapost: Lessons Learned From 3 Key Failures

By Anne Murphy
August 15, 2016

Recently, I came across a greeting card with lovely cursive letters on the front, surrounded by…


Recently, I came across a greeting card with lovely cursive letters on the front
, surrounded by drawings of blossoming flowers. It said, “The secret to happiness is low expectations.” I laughed, particularly since I found it in the wedding card section. But it also got me thinking about the marketing profession.

Today’s marketing professionals don’t have the luxury of low expectations—we’re held accountable for real results and revenue. What’s more, the majority of the customer journey occurs digitally, allowing marketing technology to track, react and customize experiences accordingly. This forces CMOs to be held accountable for quantitative, data-centric metrics and strategies. They have to answer for revenue and prove the value of marketing initiatives, or risk getting the boot. After all, the average tenure of a CMO is a mere 42 months.
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As new digital channels emerge, technology improves and buyer expectations skyrocket. These changes force marketers to regularly test, iterate and execute new strategies and tactics. Inevitably, there are flops. Yet, because of this changing landscape, modern marketers have an opportunity to learn quickly from our mistakes, dissecting them to understand where we missed the mark.

Failure isn’t fun, and while working at Kapost, I’ve experienced my fair share of missteps. However, whether tactical or strategic, our failures have informed our plans, building an even stronger foundation for our current marketing operation and helping us reach our goals.

Failures can be powerful catalysts for figuring out what doesn’t work, but also for determining what does. Here are three key failures that taught us invaluable lessons about successful B2B marketing.

Tactical Fail

It was one of our largest investments for the year.

Marketing automation software can be a powerful tool; you can’t scale modern marketing without it. But you also need the right content to feed it, to target specific audiences successfully, to drive action.

This is particularly poignant during event season. Events are still one of the largest line items for marketers, often consuming 20 to 25 percent of a company’s marketing budget. Eighty-one percent of B2B marketers incorporate in-person events into their marketing strategies, and, according to Content Marketing Institute, they have ranked as the most effective tactic every year for the past six years.

Driving buzz, booth visits and revenue during events requires a full-scale strategy, in addition to a significant investment. So, when we accidentally sent nearly 10,000 of our high-priority prospects an outdated email promoting a month-old conference, instead of driving RSVPs to the high-end private event we planned at an upcoming and expensive conference, we weren’t too pleased. However, when the panic settled, we regrouped, reevaluated and moved forward with these lessons learned.

Slow down.

Planning should take the majority of your time. A well-thought-out plan will eventually save time, making execution seamless instead of cumbersome. At the time of our snafu, the marketing operations team was working at breakneck speed. We hadn’t adequately planned for the peak of event season and the volume of emails that needed to move through our marketing automation platform. The lack of an overarching, big-picture strategy led to fire drills. We weren’t prepared, and because we moved so quickly, we missed key steps in the process of building out campaigns.

Own up.

There’s a silver lining to this cloud. Our marketing operations team acted fast. As soon as we realized our mistake, it was all hands on deck. Collaboration was fast, approvals were immediate and within the hour, we sent an apology email. We made sure the copy was relevant and genuine.

As it turns out, we not only solved the problem, we turned it into an opportunity to engage with prospects in an authentic way. The call to action in the apology email, offering to buy recipients a cocktail, delivered 50 RSVPs to our happy hour. While that may not seem like a huge number, the cheeky, humble email also elicited personal responses from 25 prospects who shared their own marketing errors.

Respond to those responding to you.

Remember, these are people on the other side of your communications. Everyone who responded—either letting us know of the error or replying to our apology—received an email back from our marketing operations specialist. The sentiment was overwhelmingly positive. This campaign led to genuine, active engagement with our audience to the level that some even thought we did it on purpose. We did not (and will not) purposefully deploy an outdated campaign, but the lessons learned helped us recover and pay close attention to the way we plan our initiatives in the future.

Strategic Fail

It should have been a traffic-driving sensation.

Not every idea needs to be a full-scale initiative, and this failure from May 2014 proves it. The marketing team conceptualized a Star Wars vs. Star Trek-themed marketing campaign. We’d ask marketers, “Is your content more like Star Wars or is it more like Star Trek?” Both Trekkies and Star Wars fans are well known, vocal and dedicated to their causes on the interwebs, we reasoned. Star Wars movies have grossed more than $4.5B over 39 years and inspired a number of events, conferences, movies, toys and books. The 13 Star Trek movies have drawn more than $1.9B worldwide, and their
fans go all out when it comes to their love for the series and
the movies.

While fun in theory, our failure rested in a flawed strategy, built on an idea that our team loved but that didn’t resonate with our audience. Additionally, we dedicated weeks of work time to this initiative, using developer and content resources to design and build an interactive quiz, something new and extremely time-intensive for our team.

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About the Authors

  • Anne Murphy is the director of content marketing at Kapost, the leading content platform for B2B marketers. Anne and her team are responsible for fueling Kapost's marketing channels with relevant, high-quality content that drives revenue. She lives and works in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Connect with Anne on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/annelmurphy.

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