Categories ManagementThe 9 Triangles

The hidden, but most obvious reason your campaigns are failing

Most people will guess it’s for a lack of goals, not having sufficient time/expertise, or having a crappy product.
The creatives will say it’s for poor content– weak landing pages and lame creatives.
The numbers geeks will say it’s conversion rate, quality score, insufficient budget, or some metric that’s off.

These are all good things to optimize, but there’s something even more fundamental than that.

I’m going to let you in on the “secret” that I use to get campaigns unstuck.
It works nearly all the time, and when it does, people often pretend it wasn’t so embarrassingly simple.

You ready?  Here it is.

Lack of iteration.

It’s that simple– not enough shots on goal.

That’s not the same as Herculean effort, slaving nonstop in building massive campaigns.
In fact, it’s the opposite– many small steps daily, like working out a little daily instead of a monster workout each month.

Social advertising allows us to take hundreds of shots on goal for a few dollars each.
There is so little risk in trying a different target or creative out– worst case you lose a few dollars.

If you could guarantee the success of your business or client by making a single freethrow shot, would you do it?
What if I told you that you had an hour to shoot as many freethrows as you like with no penalty for misses?
You need only make one shot.


  • You’re self-conscious about your shooting technique.
  • There are other people watching.
  • You’re too busy with something else.
  • The basketball isn’t inflated the way you like it.
  • You need to get permission from someone else.
  • You’re feeling sick today.
  • You heard someone else say that it’s impossible to make freethrows.

Underlying all this is fear, which most people, no matter the age, fail to recognize.

When most people go about campaigns, they get stuck in a particular step.
Usually that reason is not a stopper– it’s one you can easily work around, like a speedbump in the road.

I’ve run online campaigns for 20 years now and lack of iteration is still the number one challenge to get past.


We have a simple tool to cut right through the excuses and fear to determine if iteration is actually happening.
It’s called MAA for Metrics > Analysis > Action.

You don’t need a fancy template or spreadsheet to do it– just 3 minutes to go through this logical sequence.

Metrics: Here’s a couple stats on our campaign performance that have gone up or down (usually CPC and conversion rate).
Analysis: Here’s why I think they’ve gone up or down (look for “because”).
Action: Therefore, this is what we can test next (look for the next action).

What you’re looking for is not how deep the analyst goes into the explanation or how many pages the report is.
You’re looking to see how many iteration cycles they have.


Cycle #1: Our overall CPA is too high but our remarketing is going well. Need to increase remarketing pools by mid-funnel traffic.
Cycle #2: Landing Page A is doing better than the others probably because it relevant to Audience B. Therefore, let’s drive more variants of Audience B to Landing Page A.
Cycle #3: Our Quality Scores are low in broad match terms. Why? Because we don’t have enough negatives or exact match. Therefore, add negatives and report again in a couple days.
And so forth.

How many iterations have you done on your business or client in the last week?

Odds are you have just one, corresponding to the frequency you have to report results.
The “final exam” procrastation mentality causes people to wait until the last second to make a tweak.

But if no time elapses between taking action, observing, and subsequent follow-up, there’s no iteration.
And then you don’t touch things for another week, when it’s time to make that report or attend that meeting.


A smart “test and learn” (trial and error) optimizer runs a few “experiments” at the same time.
While it’s easy to say that, to actually get change, you have to reason with your campaign folks so they aren’t paralyzed by fear or habit.

Here are some examples:

“I’m too busy”

This is the most common excuse by far.
You help them break through this mindset by teaching them how to do an iteration cycle in 5 minutes (see below).

“I’m waiting on person X to do something”

There is always some other action we can take to get around this or something else to test.
Perfect is the enemy of good. Done is better than perfect.

“We need more creatives”

This happens in larger companies where multiple agencies are involved.

Use the same image, but tweak multiple versions of the headline and body for each target.

“Not enough data/budget to be statistically significant”

Look at earlier indicators instead of waiting to get X conversions: CPC instead of conversion rate or CTR instead of CPC
If they say they need to wait weeks to let the test run, note that it’s how much data you gather, not the time elapsed, that matters.

“I already did X and it didn’t work”

They perhaps ran one ad to one target but didn’t go any further in testing.
Have them break down quantitatively what didn’t work, isolating if it’s the creative or the targeting, since an ad is the combo of these two.

The net result is that you want your folks to be done with an iteration cycle in 5 minutes and move on to the next project.

If you work out at the gym, you know there are people who spend 2 hours there but get in only 5 or 6 sets.
They spend so much time between cycles resting, getting water, chit chatting with others, admiring their muscles in the mirror, and so forth.
But folks who are efficient can get in and out in 30 minutes by working aonther muscle set while one is resting.
Maybe they alterate bench with lat pulldowns or quads with abs.

I learned this from Paul Sokol, by the way, who is the top mind in automation (not just campaign building), in my opinion.

It’s how many sets you do; not how long you’re in the gym, or in Paul’s own words:

“Time does NOT equal value and most people miss this. Especially when building and iterating their marketing! Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are ROI producing campaigns. Once version 1 is out the door, that’s the hardest part. From there, if you focus on measuring the right metrics, you can progressively make tiny, informed non-time-consuming tweaks and build toward something amazing!”


Let’s break down MAA a bit further into the mechanics to show how a set can take 5 minutes instead of 5 hours.


Sort by total spend in the last week by spend descending, clicks descending, and conversions descending
Look at the top 5 each time or top 10 if you have more time– we call this Top N.


Why are certain keywords/targets or creatives/pages performing well or not?
Look at metrics in pairs since there is always a counterbalance– CPC vs conversion rate, CTR vs average position, audience size vs performance, etc…


What’s the one thing to tweak which is most likely to address the WHY of analysis?
In increasing order of impact, but also effort are these tweaks: bidding, targeting, ad creative, landing page, strategy.

When people are getting used to iterating quickly, they might take 30 minutes at first, but that’s okay.
The more “corporate” mindsets are conditioned to believe that everything hapepns in chunks of hours.
Might be a one hour meeting or 8 hours to build a campaign.

Break them of that habit.


Your company is only as good as the various folks you have iterating (optimizing) together.
Besides the basics of project management (tracking tasks according to project plans, following up on meeting action items, etc), use CID.

CID is Communicate > Iterate > Delegate.

Communication is the foundation of CID, that people are reliably responding.
When a thread drops, you have a “weakest link” problem, causing a sequence to break and project to fail.

As basic as reliable response is, this is the most fundamental and common issue in organizations.
People feel overloaded, ignore messages, and don’t have general organization skills.

We use boomerang, which is a Gmail plugin to make sure we don’t drop things or lose cycles chasing people.

The RACI project management model is also a powerful tool to ensure not everyone is copied on everything.
Role clarity ensures the right people are in the right conversations– so we don’t have either overflow or blockage.

We use basecamp for project management, as well Slack and Skype for communication.
Every team member must update the internal team roster with their contact info and add other team members at the start of any project.

Every iteration step requires communication– that way the chain isn’t broken.
Then it’s easy for anyone to tell where projects are– there is no hiding.
But more than a monitoring tool to catch slackers, iteration/communication eliminates wasteful status meetings.
Use the meetings to make decisions, not read updates to one another.

When communication and iteration are solid, then delegation can take place.
It’s the logical “next step” from the Action of MAA, where that action requires someone else to assist.

So when CID breaks, you generate company politics.

We define politics as the withholding of communication, intentional or not.

People get cut out of the loop, parasites can hide, good people don’t get rewarded, team members aren’t sure who’s doing what, and confusion ensues.

Take the advice of Geoff Woods, who coaches people on finding their mentors and entrepreneurship:

At the end of the day, you will have questions implementing these strategies.  The question is, what are you going to do about it?  Will you be like most people who just give up, or will you do what the most successful people do? Reach out to those who have done it before and ask for help!
You are not alone in this journey. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and ask for help. After all, in today’s market competition is dead. Collaboration is the new way of doing business.

When CID and MAA are working in sync, then you’re resolving dependencies directly– not needing meetings to discuss each time.
You’ve got the optimization engine of MAA in tune with the project organization cycle of CID to drive your company.

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Dennis Yu :Dennis Yu is the CEO of Blitzmetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics, his blog, or on Facebook.

View Comments (4)

  • It is so true that it is better to work steadily and consistently rather than once in a while when we feel like it. It makes such a big difference in the long run.

  • Outstanding article and advice Dennis. Continuous campaign monitoring, tweaking, and testing is the success formula. The wonderful thing about online marketing is that you can test many different campaigns on a small and very affordable scale. It is better to test 20 small campaigns for $2/day than one big campaign for $40/day. By testing the 20 campaigns on a small scale you have a much better chance of hitting on something that works than if you were to only test 1 campaign on a larger scale.

  • i like and agree about the iteration of metrics, analysis, and action. Basically these are the steps for success for anything. Metrics take in all the info/data. Analysis will find out the reasons for the info and data. Action will be how to improve from all these. With repetition this process is a perfect way to achieve success.