As marketers, we’ve probably all faced one or more of these situations:

  • We’re not converting Web traffic to sales
  • No one’s subscribing to our email list
  • Our free download just sits there with no suitors, like a wallflower at the high school dance
  • We’re getting no takers on our offer of a free consult
  • No one’s coming to our in-person events or attending our webinars
  • Our new video view counter is stuck at 1

What do we do? Do we stubbornly try again with the same marketing message and deploy it using the same methods that didn’t work the first time—an ad here, a social media post there, and of course updating our trusty old blog or Web site? Maybe, we figure, our target audience just didn’t see the first attempt; maybe they will this time. After all, this approach has worked in the past, it should work again . . . shouldn’t it?

According to Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is the definition of insanity. Similarly, I have seen situations where marketers do the same thing over and over and expect the same results, which can be equally insane.

The life of your business—your livelihood and the livelihoods of those you employ—depends on the success of your marketing efforts. Luckily, we have data and analytics to help us determine what is and isn’t working. From Web site traffic analyses, conversion data, click through rates, subscriber counts, survey feedback, and more, these days we have a wealth of information and real-time data to help us make informed decisions. Gone are the days of gut reactions and wishful thinking.

For example, if your message isn’t converting to sales or traffic or subscribers the way you want, you can examine your analytics and customer feedback and change your message and/or the way it’s delivered. Think of it this way: if you were planting a garden, you wouldn’t keep watering seeds you knew were rotten, would you? That would be pointless. To make the garden grow, you’d get new seeds and plant them differently to get different results. Marketing is the same way.

What happens, then, if you are getting the results you want—what if your “garden” is growing just fine? When your analytics tell you something is working well, knowing when to stick with the tried-and-true is just as important as knowing when to change things up.

That said, you’d be surprised at the number of folks I encounter whose marketing and communications efforts are working just fine—they’ve got plenty of customers and plenty of prospects in the pipeline—but they feel bored with their Web sites and sales materials and how they look. They haven’t been updated in several years, and quite frankly even the company logo feels a bit stale to them. They wonder, “Isn’t it time for a change?”

To the extent someone has the “blahs” about their company and how they feel is impacting sales and marketing, then some sort of change is probably a good thing to keep things fresh and interesting. But to change just because you’re feeling bored with what’s been working, probably isn’t the wisest course. After all, you are most likely the ONLY person exposed to your brand day-in and day-out. (We’d all like to think consumers are watching our every move and reading our every post, but that’s rarely the case. What might feel stale to us likely feels fresh and new to our customers and prospects.)

Marketing 101 tells us we need to reach out to our target clients 3 to 8 times just to make an impression. So what if your marketing feels a bit repetitive to you? Being consistent with your messaging and branding, and communicating frequently is critical. As long as it’s working, let it continue working.

That said, a change in tactics is appropriate when what you’ve been doing—that annual ad campaign or open house or sponsorship, or whatever—simply stops working and your results start to falter. In such situations, marketers can’t afford to be complacent. They need to consider fresh ideas and fresh approaches. Flexibility, creative thinking, a bit of fearlessness, and the willingness to try something new are all hallmarks of successful marketers.

Market conditions may also force your hand, whether you want to change or not (don’t forget what happened in 2008). Sometimes lack of resources will force you to switch up tactics. Similarly, sometimes a booming economy may force you to ramp up your efforts. Monitoring market trends is critical.

New competitors and/or new approaches by old competitors can force you to revisit the way you market your products and services. For example, when DISH came along and started offering free equipment to new customers, DirecTV had to follow suit. In this new reality, they couldn’t keep doing the same old-same old and expect the same results, neither can you. Keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to is critical, too.

New methods of communication may force you to connect with your customers in new ways. Just 10 years ago, there was no Twitter or Facebook, and LinkedIn was just a toddler. Now “tweets,” “shares,” and “connections” are part of our daily lexicon. Even blogging didn’t really kick in until the late 1990s. Now virtually all businesses use social media and the Web to some extent to market their services.

As marketers, our creed should be “Stick with what works, change what doesn’t.”

Do you routinely measure your marketing effectiveness? Could you tell someone right now what’s working or not working with your marketing? Have you changed your marketing approaches in recent years? If so, why? If not, why not?

Share your experiences here.