It’s easier to declare that a marketing tactic doesn’t work than to admit you’ve executed poorly.

In almost all cases, failed marketing tactics have one or all of the following characteristics, they lack an overall strategy, they are executed sporadically, they are done “on the cheap,” and they are boring and indistinguishable from other marketing hitting the prospect’s radar.

1. No strategy

Failed marketing usually involves no clear set goals, definitions, and identification of who you truly want to market to (to the exclusion of all other contacts). Typically a large list is bought (under the mistaken notion that there is safety in numbers), the marketing net is cast wide, due to the large pool of contacts the message is directed at the lowest common denominator and is diluted, and no leads are generated.

The strategy behind your marketing starts with realistic goals and mapping the amount of revenue you wish to generate. Ask yourself these questions: What needs to happen for your marketing to be successful? If you get a qualified opportunity, what is your close rate – 20 percent, 50 percent? What is the average sales price on a close? By knowing these two metrics and what your revenue goals are for the year, you can zero in on the number of leads to generate in order to get the needed opportunities and conversions. Your limited marketing dollars can go further the more you segment and target your list.

Now that you have a clearer idea of what your marketing needs to accomplish, you can focus on defining your ideal prospect and limiting your outreach to those who truly need and value your products and services and are willing and able to pay for them. It is far more productive to market to 100 contacts 10 times than 1,000 contacts once. Also, the more narrow the profile of your list, the more compelling your message will be.

Once you’ve solidified your focus, the selection of which marketing tactics to use is based on your audience (list) and how they prefer to receive and consume information. Your mix may include a social media, developing white papers for your blog and LinkedIn ads. Or, if your audience is not a group that spends a lot of time online, your mix might include speaking at local events, direct mail and webinars. The selection of tactics requires an understanding of your audience and knowing where they go to find information.

2. The one-off

The one-off attempt at marketing is the equivalent of putting money through a shredder. Think about it, how many times have you been motivated to buy based on a one-time receipt of a message from an organization you’ve never heard of before?

Often times the one-off begins with all good intentions – you don’t mean for it to be a one-and-done but other responsibilities of the business get in the way and months go by without follow-up campaigns to the list. Other times, because the one-off didn’t generate any leads, a business owner will come to the conclusion that the tactic didn’t work. But the truth is, all of us need to hear a message several times before it registers any mind share – and we need to hear it, read it, see it, in regular intervals.

To combat falling victim to the one-off, develop the entire plan, including the content, in one sitting and put it on the calendar. When the time comes to launch the next step, review the messaging and refine as needed. You will find that it is much easier to touch up the message than to start again from scratch and face a blank screen.

3. Marketing dollars spread too thin

Sometimes, businesses are marketing frequently, using a variety of tactics but are not achieving optimum results because they are spreading their marketing dollars too thin. They are spending money on direct mail, on Google ad, on pay-per-click, on email, on conference – and because there is no strategy behind the flurry of activity, the results are anemic.

This is remedied by returning to the strategy and based on the preferences of your key audiences, orchestrating your marketing mix to appeal to that audience.

If you are spending money on a variety of tactics, but overall you are not seeing an uptick in prospect interest, you are probably spread too thin. Back up and look at doing three tactics well and then build on that foundation in a controlled and premeditated way.

4. Boring and indistinguishable

If you are truly committed to improving your marketing – pull out some of your old pieces and give them a critical review. How inspiring are the pieces? How crisp and specific is the language? Does it create a clear picture of the business challenges your prospects face? Does it jump off the page?

Another revealing exercise is to compare your images and messaging to that of your competitors. Is it the same dull drone? Is it packaged in such a way that you and your competitor could exchange content and headlines and it would still represent both businesses accurately?

One of the rules of a referral strategy is; no one talks about boring businesses. Most marketing messages are in dire need of resuscitation and makeover. What do you do that delights your customers? What problems have you solved for your customers that have meant the difference between profitability and further reduction? What have you done for the individuals within the company using your products and services that have allowed them to become more effective agents for the business? Your message must tell a story and motivate.