7 Reasons You’re Failing To Hit Your Marketing Goals

There’s an old piece of Prussian military wisdom that’s always guided me – “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” put another way, plans don’t always work out as, well, planned. As marketers, sometimes we get hung up on the planning. So much so we spend less time doing. I’m a firm believer in progress over perfection. Let your plan get contact with the enemy so you can see what’s working and what’s not – refine and adjust. This mantra of failing up so we can improve quickly is a pillar of ours here at Lake One. But when the rubber hits the road, what are some reasons you might be failing to hit your marketing goals laid out in your plan? Here are a few of the common causes we see often.

Marketing and sales goals were unclear


No matter how large or efficient your organization, goals need to be crystal clear so everyone marches the same direction. Setting sales and marketing objectives that are abstract or open to interpretation leaves your organization at risk of running in too many directions. I remember as a young marketer working in a startup. The organization had a company-wide goal to develop an “enviable reputation.” But what that meant and how we supported that goal varied greatly across the organization. For me in marketing, it was about elevating our brand and thought leadership to a global stage. In product and development – it was about having a stable platform. At the end of the quarter, both things happened but did we really, measurably achieve the company’s goal? I still don’t know.

Takeaway: make sure that your goals are clear and measurable. Everyone should know exactly what output is desired in terms of timing and the deliverable. Consider the SMART Goal Framework. Check out our free SMART Goal Template to get started.

Goals were unrealistic


Part of setting SMART goals is making sure they are realistic. Moonshot goals are awesome – they inspire people to believe in something bigger than themselves. Think JFK landing a man on the moon. It was audacious – at the time was it realistic? Maybe, maybe not, but it was inspirational none the less.

When it comes to sales and marketing goals you want less moonshot more cowbell.

What I mean is imagine you have a bell that gets rung every time a goal is crushed. You want that bell ringing a lot – to encourage your team to keep achieving. Setting attainable goals means that bell has a higher probability of getting rung. The American Psychological Association points to setting attainable goals as a key factor in building resilience. Sales and marketing folks face many challenges – being resilient in the face of those challenges only means you will stand to be more successful in the future.

You lost sight of your buyer


Somewhere along the way, the buyer went out of focus. Blogs became more we focused and less they focused. We started talking about the things we thought mattered. This is one of the most common areas we see marketing fall off the rails. You spend all this time developing a customer-centric plan – only to toss the insights and data to create a program on what you want to write about, grounded in no research or feedback from customers or prospects.

When marketing stops being buyer focused, prospects stop engaging because your marketing isn’t relevant anymore. Therefore, – you don’t stand a chance at reaching your goals.

You were distracted


There are a million things we can try. But time is finite. If you have $38 and you go to a casino and place a $1 bet on every pocket at the roulette wheel you mitigate your risk but neuter your upside.

You have to pick a few things to focus on – find your path of the least resistance and optimize these areas while adding to your marketing capacity over time. Unless, you are an organization with endless resources – finding marketing tracking takes focus. PS: Great read on this here.

You forfeited the long term for the short term


In a healthy organization, sales focuses on the short-term and marketing focuses on the long term. When marketing gets pushed into short-term tactics (like buying email lists and spamming people – don’t do that) your output fails.

Yes, marketing takes time to build a brand and demand. I’m saying it again.

But building a strong relationship with a healthy pipeline pays dividends. A database filled with people who love you and your content is far more valuable than a bunch of unsuspecting saps who are going to be frustrated by your irrelevant and unsolicited emails. 

As countries around the world change the way they view privacy, data and spam – marketing needs to focus on being kind and build high-value relationships.

You yielded to the Hippo

The HIPPO is the highest paid person’s opinion and they can be disastrous for a marketing program. Often, they make decisions with little regard for data. They tend to micromanage the creative process and make it difficult to iterate quickly through a campaign to get to the performance and review portion of a campaign.

They almost are always, are not marketers.



You were impatient

We launched a blog yesterday. We don’t have new customers today. Therefore, the whole plan is not working – we should throw it out.

Data is a tricky thing. We have ready access to gobs and gobs and gobs of data points. But data for data sake – ain’t nobody got time for that.



Looking at your marketing activity at a micro level and making sweeping decisions is risky. It takes time to build a brand. It takes time to build demand. Even the big “growth-hacking” successes you hear about where a company unlocks massive growth channels comes after dozens of failures and weeks and weeks of testing and efforts building over time.

Be thoughtful about your performance – for sure. But trust the process and make sure the trend is heading the right way.

Final word

Of course, there are myriad reasons we can fail to hit our goals. Our friends over at Authentic Brand point out a few more reasons why your marketing muscle might be weak. From budget to message misalignment there are a lot of places for marketing to miss the mark and goal hitting to suffer. What common trends do you see in missed marks? Leave us a reply.

Smart Goals Worksheet Template