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When Your Marketing Is Working, but Your Product or Service Isn’t Selling

It’s quite a time to be in marketing. Just think: ten years ago, social media was barely a concern for most businesses. Optimizing marketing campaigns for mobile would have sounded irrelevant, at best. And the ability to integrate campaigns across a variety of digital platforms was barely a marketing daydream.

Today, of course, times have changed. The world of social media shapes our real lives. The development of mobile platforms affords marketers opportunities to reach consumers on more relevant levels than ever before. And marketing integration is a staple of successful campaigns.

Clearly, marketing has changed to meet the new needs of consumers.

Sometimes, though, the products and services being marketed haven’t.

When Your Marketing Is Working, but Your Product or Service Isn’t Selling

As a marketer, you likely have a pretty good handle on whether or not your efforts are working. You create your campaigns with the intent to generate clicks and bring crowds of visitors to your site – so if your marketing is doing that, clearly something is going right.

What if, though, your efforts are successful at bringing people in, but those people aren’t converting? If that’s the case, you have a problem that needs to be diagnosed. Admittedly, this can be tricky. What’s the obstacle to conversion? When visitors get to your page, why are they saying, “Nope, not for me”?

As marketers, we’re often quick to judge user actions through the lens of our profession – which means that the answer is usually “better marketing”. If visitors aren’t converting, then the marketing needs to be optimized so that they do.

In reality, though, marketing is just one possible reason for a low conversion rate. Another possibility? Maybe the product or service itself isn’t inspiring visitors to convert.

Identifying the Problem

How can you tell if marketing or product is to blame for low conversion? Well, once you eliminate the impossible, so the saying goes, whatever remains must be the truth. In our case, that means that if your marketing is working and you still have low conversion rates, then the problem must lie with your product or service.

So, how can you tell if your marketing is working? Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • Are you doing a good job of expressing the value proposition?
  • Is the value proposition true?
  • Are you providing meaningful incentives to inspire conversion?
  • Does the design reflect the brand accurately—and more importantly—inspire trust?
  • Are you making it easy, seamless, and painless for consumers to complete the desired actions – or is there friction (unnecessary length or difficulty to the action)?

If the answer to all of these questions is positive, then you’re probably doing a good job of marketing. And that means that there’s likely a problem with the product or service.

If this is the case, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself and your company. Failing to recognize a product problem pushes marketing into serving a role that it should never have to play – the role of convincing. Marketing should communicate in a way that’s clear and appealing, but it shouldn’t be pushy. That’s not a sustainable marketing strategy.

A consumer shouldn’t need to be swayed to buy something. If they have a genuine need or want that your product or service truly satisfies, there’s a good chance they’ll buy it.

Why Have Things Changed? Looking for Disruption

For many historically successful companies, the suggestion of a product problem is greeted with the confident refrain: “Well, our product/service has always succeeded before.”

Even for the sales team, it’s easy to chalk up poor results to the winds of fate or to an unpredictable “down period”. This is completely fair, and sometimes a period of poor sales is, in fact, a fluke. If this is the case, sales will ramp back up, and the issue will dissolve into thin air.

Don’t assume this will happen, though. If you’re in the midst of a slump, take the time to reflect on your product or service, and on your environment. What factors may be causing a decline in conversions and sales?

Your product hasn’t changed, but your environment may have.

It’s time to look for disruption.

There are countless examples of industries being disrupted, but let’s take the movie rental business as an easy illustration. Remember Blockbuster? They thrived as a rental store for decades with a business model that fit the times. Choose a movie in-store, rent it for a few days (on VHS – oh, the memories) and return it a few days later.

Then Netflix happened. Not only could consumers rent movies (now on DVD) through the mail, but they were also easy to return, and cheaper than visiting a physical store. Then RedBox further disrupted the space with kiosks in grocery stores and pharmacies everywhere.

Blockbuster was slow to adapt. Only after a prolonged decline did they finally start iterating on their service, experimenting with a short-lived mail order program, a failed kiosk program, and an on-demand service that never took off.

Here’s the thing: Blockbuster’s marketing was not the problem. Even today, if you show the familiar blue and gold logo to anyone who was alive during the 90s, they’ll instantly recognize it. Instead, the company’s product was the problem. When the environment and consumer demand changed, they ignored the disruption. In fact, they had the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million in 2000, and passed.


Instead of iterating, they allowed the value of their service to evaporate. Their marketing, regardless of its quality, couldn’t compensate for their product failure.

What Now?

If you’re experiencing a period of slow conversions and sales, and you’re confident that your marketing is not the problem, it’s time to take a step back and look around.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are there new competitors in my marketplace?
  • Are there new products or services from competitors that may indirectly affect me?
  • What are the new technologies in my industry?
  • What are the new trends?
  • Is the audience in my industry changing?
  • Is another industry meeting the needs of my audience?

For marketers, this process can be difficult. You may even feel helpless – after all, you market the product or service. You don’t produce it.

Don’t be discouraged, though. You’re in a unique position, because you have some of the first directional data that will be needed to make a decision. You’re the canary in the coal mine.

What you need to do is gather your data and start the conversation.

Marketing Plays a Role in Innovation

At Immersion Active, we’ve seen that marketing and innovation are knit tightly together.

Marketing data can inform strategy, and can be key to innovation. We’ve helped clients with everything from changing the value proposition in their recruitment of new employees, to changing the way that their service was offered.

If you know that your marketing is working but your product isn’t selling, get in touch with us. We’d love to start a conversation about how innovation could help give your value proposition back its shine.

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