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Small Business Fail: What I Realized A Day After A Failed Marketing Campaign

As a small business owner, there isn’t a greater feeling than running a successful campaign that results in sales. It starts with having a good quality product and ends with the acknowledgement that your efforts weren’t for not. As a blogger I hope that a post goes viral and my team does a happy dance when our landing pages convert to sales. But what do you do when you plan and execute with precision, there are no glitches or issues with driving traffic, the buzz is palpable and in the end the sales conversion is a flat-line? A complete failure. What do you do?

You cry. Seriously. As an entrepreneur you cry. And then you try to figure out what the hell happened.

And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do today – figure out what the hell happened on Friday. I am sitting here looking at the analytics with tears streaming down my cheeks because I am beyond frustrated. Scratch that I’m sad and baffled when it comes to sales for one of my resources. Since it’s launch in 2014 my book for military spouses titled Right Side Up hasn’t ever gotten much traction – a fact that has both myself and my publisher – as she put it – puzzled. Last Friday the book was featured for their Fabulous Friday campaign. For a full day anyone could get a copy for only $5.

We had a campaign that generated thousands of impressions, high click thru rates and lots of buzz. And when all was said and done we sold 1 (no that isn’t a typo) 1 book. The numbers just don’t measure up and it isn’t translating with respect to feedback or how other resources of ours do. Which as an entrepreneur can be VERY frustrating.

Here is where my business head goes:

  • People asked for the product, but don’t purchase the product.
  • I regularly receive emails about how much the tips and strategies within the book help military spouses.
  • I’m told over and over again that dealing with the emotional side of military life is something people in our community are looking for.
  • And when I speak and the guests receive the book as a gift – the reviews are phenomenal and pour in for weeks.
  • But bottom line if there isn’t a sale there is a problem either with the sales process or the product itself.

The entrepreneur in me isn’t attached to this reality. It’s like a calculus problem begging to be solved. So I dig in, analyze the data and ask questions like:

  • Is it the title?
  • Is it the cover?
  • Is it the message?
  • Why when I do a similar campaign for Warning Signs it works, but with Right Side UP it doesn’t?
  • How can I do a better job of showing them how the book can improve their life?
  • Is it a subject/product that people are willing to pay for?

But the human part of me, the insecure part that cries real tears and questions if owning a small business is worth the stress wonders:

  • Why is it that no one really wants the book enough to buy it?
  • Is my message just not resonating with the military spouse community.
  • Maybe I’m not cut out to swim in this niche
  • Is it true when my mother says I’m not really much of a writer?
  • Perhaps it’s time to move over and let the new and younger spouses do their thing.
  • What am I doing wrong?

The hardest part about being a small business owner in the military community is that so much of the products I create and the services I offer have pieces of me in them. In other business ventures it wasn’t the case making it was easier to analyze, evaluate and focus without the emotional attachment. But the mission is different and I long to understand what is going on – but I know in my heart what it is. And I don’t like the answer.

I can’t help but realize that I’ve also forgotten the small business rule I share with anyone I coach.

You can’t build a small business on what people need,
you build it on what they will pay for and then give them what they need.

[Tweet “Success Tip: Build your #smallbiz on what people will pay for & give them what they need”]

For me Friday’s dismal results were the reminder I needed to look at my business without taking things so personally. Passion and heart are only a piece of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. It begins there, but it also will blind you to the realities that present themselves.

In business there isn’t room for hurt feelings. In business we measure progress and success by numbers that tell a story and bring a message. A message that we can choose to listen to, ignore or fight with. If we listen to the message without emotional attachment we will know what actions to take that will bring success and profitability.

The message I’m being told by our efforts for Right Side Up is one of two things –

  1. Either I’m selling the right product to the wrong market or
  2. I’m selling the wrong product to the right market

No matter which is true, both provide valuable feedback that will direct our next steps to moving our business forward. Every day as a solo-preneur my goal is to help others, but ultimately I can’t do that unless I win the end game which is to create AND sell quality products and services that keep the doors open and support my family. But not every campaign unfolds with the kind of results you predicted. And that’s ok.

What matters is what we do with the results and whether or not we let the numbers mess with our drive and passion. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who use the information rather than let it consume them and hold them back from their passion.


~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up  and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Risk are go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at

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