7 Reasons Why Marketing Plans Fail - Webnames Blog

7 Reasons Why Marketing Plans Fail

Marketing expert discusses marketing strategy with small business owner in front of whiteboard

Picture this—the year is 2005. It’s summer, I’m 9 years old, and I really want to make some money to buy myself a new Xbox. I’ve attempted to strike a deal with my parents, offering to do more chores around the house—and failed spectacularly. I tried to get a job, but shockingly fast-food restaurants don’t trust 9-year-olds with vegetable oil. So, I did what any enterprising pre-teen does, I opened my very own lemonade stand. 

Long story short, I didn’t make enough money to buy myself an Xbox. In fact, I didn’t really make any money. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t the lemonade, it wasn’t the location, and it certainly wasn’t the price. While I’m sure there was a laundry list of reasons why my lemonade business didn’t take off, like most 9-year-old lemonade stand owners, I didn’t have a plan for selling my product. 

Creating a marketing plan isn’t easy, let alone for a 9-year-old. I’m sure if given the opportunity to draft one, mine it wouldn’t have amounted to much more than just “sell lemonade”.  There’s a tremendous amount of thought that goes into a marketing plan, and several different ways a plan can fall apart. So, in the spirit of reflection and improvement, let’s discuss the most common mistakes committed by businesses when developing a marketing plan. 

#1) A lack of detail 

Every business is different and unique. As such, the specifics of how a plan is executed will vary from business to business.  However, a plan can ensure that a marketing strategy stays on track, particularly when it comes to ownership and execution of deliverables.”   

#2) Inadequate understanding of a business situation and environment 

To understand where a business is going, it must understand where it currently stands, and where it has been. Marketing plans can often fail because a business doesn’t recognize its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as they relate to the environment in which the business exists. While a SWOT analysis isn’t the only means of performing a situational analysis, it’s a great place to start—and often overlooked, or not updated to reflect a changing business environment. 

#3) Unrealistic & Unmeasurable goals 

Close up of a person's hand holding blue pen, reading marketing reports.

Establishing SMART goals is an elementary concept but failing to do so can have serious consequences for a business. Most commonly, business make the mistake of setting unrealistic and unmeasurable goals. 

Unrealistic goals often result from a lack of understanding of a business’ situation. By setting unrealistic goals it can be quite easy for a business to over-project success or under-project its capabilities—both of which can result in a financial loss.  

Similarly, a business may fail to set measurable goals. Being able to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing is one of the most critical components of a marketing strategy. According to HubSpot’ Not Another State of Marketing Report for 2020 , nearly 54% of marketers say they’re able to measure customer acquisition costs; moreover, attributing revenue to social media posts, blog posts, and content marketing efforts are other well-established challenges for many marketers. It’s important to remember that measurement cannot happen in a vacuum. A business needs to be able to invest in the right technology and tools to get the job done.  

#4) Failing to understand the purpose of your marketing 

It’s very common for businesses to engage in marketing activities because they’re considered “best practices”. Using email addresses that reference your domain name instead of a free provider sounds like a good idea, but do you know why? Why does your business choose to advertise on Facebook as opposed to television? Like any aspect of a business, your marketing decisions need to be justified and should have a clear objective. 

If a business doesn’t know why it markets the way it does, it risks putting a lot of time and money towards ineffective marketing. It’s not enough to understand what the 4Ps of marketing” are, but why the 4Ps are what they are. Taking price for example, why are products priced the way that they are? What are the reasons behind pricing decisions? 

#5) Tracking the wrong data 

Marketing analytic reports

Just because something is measurable, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring. Marketing plans can fail when a business uses the wrong data to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing. Much of this has to do with understanding the purpose of marketing. Failing to understand purpose, makes it more difficult to figure out what to evaluate. It’s important that when you choose a metric, not to lose sight of what decision it is intended to help you make.  

For example, when a person within a business works a specific number of hours on social media, it’s important to know why. Why are they spending the time that they are, and more importantly—what are they hoping to accomplish?  For example, if you’re social media goal is to drive new visitor traffic to a website and product page, measuring follows and likes are not going to cut it. 

#6) Misunderstanding the target market & your value proposition 

Every successful marketing plan has a clear understanding of the target audience. According to Laura Aveledo, an expert in International Marketing, far too many businesses make the mistake of claiming “everyone” is their target market. Failing to accurately decide a target audience can lead to a whole lot of wasted marketing. A business may have a product it believes in, but no matter how popular or how useful a product is, only a select few commit to purchasing. 

In addition, while a product will fulfill the same need for everyone who purchases it, what motivates an individual to buy will differ from person to person. Understanding who purchases a product, and what motivates individuals to purchase, makes it easier to capture the interest of similar buyers in the future. 

#7) Inconsistent voice/tone/messaging across different marketing channels 

Every marketing channel fulfills a different purpose. Naturally, a business should strategically frame messages based on the differences between those channels. For example, the way a message is presented on Twitter may differ significantly than how it is presented on Instagram or in a marketing email. But the differences of messaging should be limited to the medium of delivery. 

A business’ messaging, voice, and tone plays a significant role in establishing a brand. Being inconsistent in this respect can make it much more difficult for a potential customer to understand what your brand is, leading to a lack of trust that impacts buying decisions 


The foundation of every successful business is built upon commitment and strategic planning. That extends to all aspects of a business, including marketing. Marketing plans can vary in terms of execution from business to business, but whether your business is big or small, each of the above considerations, from market understanding to identifying the right data to track, are critical to constructing and executing a successful marketing plan. Whether you’re looking to reevaluate your marketing activities or building a strategy for the first time—take your time and remember to be thorough. 

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