What To Do When Your Ads Aren't Working

12 root causes of bad campaign performance

Happy Saturday to the 9,181 builders, marketers and unicorns reading this newsletter.

Imagine this:

You're running growth for a startup and the founder keeps asking you:"Why aren't we scaling on Facebook?

"Why are our TikTok campaigns unprofitable?"

I've been there.

Growing a company through paid acquisition can involve a lot of tests and money. It took us at SmartAsset over a year to figure out how to run some channels profitably, but now they're among our biggest.

But there's a better way.

Today I'm going to share all the reasons why your ads aren't working, and what you can do about it.

This will help you diagnose your problem and find profitability faster instead of fumbling around and throwing shit at the wall.

Time to read: 4 minutes

Growth stage: Any

Difficulty level: varies (sorry)

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"Hey, Marketing team? Why aren't we crushing it on [insert marketing channel of the day] yet?

- Every founder/CEO ever

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12 Reasons Your Marketing Campaigns Fail

To win online you need a deliberate approach. A system for running campaigns and diagnostics for when things aren't going well.

Here's an extensive list of issues that can affect marketing campaigns and keep you from scaling profitably.

Keep this handy as a checklist the next time you're running paid campaigns:

  1. Creative issues

  2. Ad targeting issues

  3. Bidding and budget issues

  4. Platform-specific issues

  5. Landing page issues

  6. Monetization issues

  7. Tracking and analytics issues

  8. Technical issues

  9. Insufficient testing and optimization

  10. Product or service and platform mismatch

  11. Seasonality or timing

  12. External / macro factors

Now let's dive into some causes and solutions for each of them.

Creative Issues:

Your ads aren't generating sales or conversions.


  • Your ads are not getting people's attention

  • People find your ads low quality or unappealing

  • Your messaging isn't resonating

  • Your value prop isn't compelling


  • Test different designs, formats and ad styles

  • Use visually disruptive elements

  • Test different messaging and positioning

  • Try new, original ad angles

  • Rotate or refresh creatives regularly

Ad Targeting Issues:

Your ads are not being shown to the right people.


  • You don't know who your target customers are

  • You aren't reaching the people you want to

  • You made a mistake and actually targeted the wrong geo or demographic


  • Review and refine target audience

  • Conduct audience research and segmentation

  • Evaluate geographic performance data

  • Refocus marketing efforts on better-performing regions

Bidding and Budget Issues:

Optimizing for clicks on FB? Good luck getting conversions. Using the wrong bid strategy is a great way to burn cash.


  • Using the wrong bid strategy

  • Insufficient budget


  • A/B test different bidding strategies

  • Optimize bids based on performance

  • Allocate more budget to channel

Platform-Specific Issues:

Digital platforms are complex. It's easy to get lost when setting up a campaign or not understand how to use the algo properly.


  • You don't understand the platform features well

  • The platform is inundated with similar competitors


  • Training on how to use the platform effectively

  • Research documentation and best practices

  • Analyze your competition

  • Develop a unique value prop to stand out

Landing Page Issues:

Small details can have a big impact. How persuasive is your page?


  • Poorly designed or non-optimized landing pages

  • Inconsistent messaging between ads and landing pages


  • Align ad copy and landing page content

  • A/B test different landing page designs

  • Improve user experience and optimize for conversions

  • Test different combinations of ads and landing pages

Monetization Issues:

Your funnel metrics are okay but you're just not making enough revenue per visit.


  • Insufficient monetization or LTV

  • Low purchase value

  • Low retention


  • Analyze customer lifetime value and revenue streams

  • Develop strategies to increase LTV and improve monetization

  • Identify and address bottlenecks in the conversion funnel

  • Implement conversion rate optimization techniques

  • Cross-sell and upsell

Tracking and Analytics Issues:

You're not getting good data into how users are responding to your ads.


  • Inadequate tracking and analytics setup

  • Incomplete data collection


  • Use conversion events and pixels

  • Audit data sources and data collection methods

  • Review and update tracking configurations

  • Use a proper attribution model (utms, etc.)

  • Ensure data accuracy through regular quality checks

Insufficient Testing and Optimization:

It's easy to get cold feet when you're losing a lot of money. You'll end up pausing tests too quickly to learn anything of statistical significance.


  • Limited testing of campaign elements

  • Inadequate optimization efforts


  • Implement a structured testing plan

  • Test key variables methodically (ad creatives, targeting, and bidding)

  • Regularly review campaign performance data

  • Optimize campaigns based on data-driven insights

  • Check for statistical significance

Technical Issues:

The platform or your website just isn't working properly. These issues often go unnoticed.


  • Broken website or landing page

  • Ad platform technical issues


  • Audit website for technical issues

  • Set up automated website load time / uptime alerts

  • Fix technical issues and improve site performance

  • Report issues to ad platform support

  • Monitor platform updates and known issues

Product or Service and Platform Mismatch:

Ever run ads on Reddit? This one's for you.


  • Platform not suitable for promoting the product or service

  • Ineffective ad formats for the product or service


  • Research and identify more suitable platforms

  • Adjust marketing strategies to better fit the platform

  • Tailor ad creatives to better suit the platform's ad formats

  • Experiment with different ad formats

Seasonality or Timing Issues:

Ad prices can skyrocket in Q4. Be mindful of demand and prices by time of year.


  • Holidays or time of year impacting consumer demand or ad prices


  • Analyze historical trends

  • Adjust campaign based on seasonal insights

  • Test different timeframes to launch

External / Macro Factors:

If you were running ads during the 2020 presidential election or early COVID, you know what we're talking about:


  • Economic factors

  • Political factors

  • Social factors


  • Monitor economic trends and adjust marketing strategies

  • Diversify marketing channels to mitigate risk

  • Stay informed about political developments

  • Adapt marketing strategies to comply with regulations

  • Monitor social trends and adjust messaging accordingly

In summary: holy shit that's a lot that can go wrong!

In reality, the biggest culprits will usually be your ad, landing page or offer. And for an algo-driven platform like Facebook, your bidding strategy.

But it's important to check everything because you may have an issue you don't even know about.

✨ That's it for today.

As you can see, a lot can go wrong with an ad campaign.

When you're burning money and not seeing profits, it's easy to get scared and give up.

Take a methodical approach to figure out what's really going on.

I hope these insights help you in your growth journey.

-Brian 🦄

PS - I want you to win. Don't forget to pre-order lifetime access to our upcoming SEO tools.

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