3 Crucial Steps You MUST Take When a Client Campaign Fails

The thing I love MOST about marketing is when a campaign takes off. Celebrating successes with clients is the kind of satisfying high that draws people into the industry in a constant stream. The HARDEST thing about working in this field, though, is when an advertising campaign or initiative completely flops.


Looking a client in the face (thanks to our friend video chat) and telling them you won’t be hitting your numbers after spending their hard-earned dollars is what keeps folks like us up at night. It’s the reason for that little voice of doubt in the back of every freelancer's mind telling them they’ll hit “publish” on their campaigns and hear crickets. Telling them that they don’t have what it takes to make it in this space.


But alas, it happens to us all. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads, we at TCG have racked up our share of “wins” for sure, but we’ve also been forced to pick our flailing campaigns up off the floor, re-strategize, and have those tough meetings with clients.


Luckily, there are ways to make the whole “strategizing” process a LOT easier, and ways to keep your clients happy even after falling short of your goals. Remember, you truly don’t FAIL until you give up.


In the world of digital marketing, specifically digital advertising, there is more information and data available than ever before. This comes in handy when analyzing results and also removes the ability to hide behind a shield of “unknown variables” when one of your campaigns doesn’t live up to client expectations.


Gone are the days when the bulk of your job is done at the front-end of the campaign. In the days where TV and Radio were the primary avenues of advertising, a marketer would launch a campaign, cross their fingers, and simply shrug if there wasn’t an uptick in business.


In modern advertising, launching a digital campaign is the EASY part. As soon as it’s launched, there are hundreds of data points to interpret, budgets to optimize, and modifications to be made. If you aren’t agile in your campaigns or if you lack the ability to discern why a campaign is underperforming OR the aptitude to turn it around, you’ll quickly fail in the industry.


Client expectations are at an all-time high thanks to podcasters and course creators all selling their paved paths to achieving six-figure sales. Don’t let this scare you, though. These numbers can also highlight an ad’s successes like never before. Profits can be linked directly to your efforts, allowing us marketers to clearly showcase our value and therefore command higher prices for our work.


Whether you’re a freelancer, a small business owner, or you work at an agency- chances are you know how frustrating it can be to put your best work out into the world- only to find that your ideal customers don’t connect with it (or, you haven’t been able to quite reach your ideal customers).

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When a campaign DOES fall short, here’s what I’ve found it’s best to do:

1) Face the Music (and the Numbers)

One of my favorite quotes about fear was written by author Chuck Palahniuk.(Yep, the guy who also wrote Fight Club.) He said, “Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.” Usually when a campaign is tanking, advertisers are afraid to look at the actual numbers. The “amount spent” can add up quickly and cause a cold-sweat when the leads, purchases, or clicks are trailing WAY behind.


However, I’m telling you that you HAVE to immerse yourself in this data. Set up daily reports or utilize automatic rules that shut campaigns off if they fail to maintain a certain level of profitability. Do anything you can to avoid logging into the ad account and panicking because you haven’t been monitoring as closely as you should have, since by then things likely have gotten way out of hand.

Provide these daily reports to clients, as well. It’s easier for them to digest this information in small bits than during your weekly or biweekly touch-points. In this industry, communication is key. Even if your campaigns are underperforming, showing your client that you are on top of it and being honest about what’s happening behind the scenes will cause you both many headaches.

So, don’t cancel or avoid that meeting. Face your client with your head up and let them know what’s going on inside their business, and provide them clear and mapped out steps (more about that below) so they feel comfortable continuing to leave their success in your hands.


The WORST thing you can do is hide, or provide less-than-thorough reporting. Clients will begin to feel frustrated when all they really desire is to be seen, heard, and understood. As long as you ingrain them as part of your process and keep them in the loop, the trust will build and will be strong enough to weather a few bad days or weeks.

2) Success Leaves Clues. Become a Detective!

Ever heard of “funnel-hacking?” This term, coined by Russell Brunson of Clickfunnels, is a way advertisers reverse-engineer the sales funnels of their competitors in an attempt to get a clear picture of the path their customers take-- from the first interaction they have with them (like opting into a freebie, clicking on their website, or watching a live video) all the way through purchasing, up-selling, and repeat buying.

If there is someone in your client’s field that is doing well, try and reverse-engineer their process. Opt-in to their content, read their emails and attend their webinars and training. See how they interact with their followers and what kind of content (video, PDF, etc.) they prefer.

I recently worked with a client in a medical field that was producing videos as his main form of content. They were performing well, but once we began launching blog posts and PDF content for download, his audience really began to pay attention, converting onto his list and eventually into patients. You see, his concepts were a bit complex, and were hard to digest in video form. Plus, his audience was primarily older (55+), so the technology barrier affected the videos’ performance.



I’m not saying to copy your competitors. Simply find at least 3 things they are doing really successfully (live videos, youtube, free content, etc.) that you have yet to try, or yet to try with any real effort. Showing your client this initiative and research will provide them with some comfort and remind them that you care about their business and success.


Then, of course, go try those 3 things you mentioned. (Implementation is key!)


3) Provide a Clear Path of Next Steps

Once you’ve already faced the numbers and became a detective, it’s time to get your plan down on paper. This may feel like an over-communication since you likely already verbalized these steps to your client, but trust me, it’s not.

To reiterate, clients want to feel in-the-loop, and like they’re not being kept in the dark. After you meet with your client and get them on board with your ideas, set a schedule. Let them visualize exactly which tasks are getting done when and by whom. Our team uses Asana for this because tasks can be dependent on one another, and the visual nature of the schedule is easy for clients to understand. The client can also see what progress has been made and make comments if necessary. This will reduce the amount of time you’ll find yourself going back-and-forth with your client because they have been ingrained as part of the process.



I’ve found that when campaigns are soaring, clients back off and let us handle the details. However, when a campaign is crashing quickly, they will be constantly clamoring for information and reassurance from your team. Showcasing your plan will save both time and effort, both of which you’ll need to turn what you’re working on around and end with a win.



Remember: Always set clear expectations from the start. (But more about that later.

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