Whenever a business implements a marketing strategy, it is always taking a risk. No initiative is guaranteed to perform well, regardless of the amount of market research and time that have been spent on the project before it launches. While it’s great to hope for the best, it’s also necessary to prepare for the worst.

Unexpected events can significantly throw off a new or ongoing marketing campaign. Whether it’s regulatory changes or technological updates that throw a wrench in carefully-laid plans or a strategy was merely received poorly by the public, there’s always the possibility of a disruption. This makes it essential for entrepreneurs who are launching any marketing campaign to be prepared to adapt to any changes or respond to any problems.

Unexpected Changes Pose a Challenge
Canada’s recent regulatory decision (CASL) to implement anti-spam legislation has significantly disrupted businesses who rely on email marketing campaigns. While put in place to protect individuals against identity theft, phishing scams, malware, and spyware, the legislation requires that any business marketing products via email ensure that prospective clients or customers opt-in to receive them. Technological updates can also pose plenty of problems for marketing teams, especially because they seem to come unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient times. But since advancements are now made so rapidly, it’s essential for business owners to be able to adapt their strategies to take these updates into account.

While updates to commonly-used gadgets can mix-up a strategy, so can changes to platforms people rely on daily, such as email applications or social media websites. Alterations of this sort can have serious repercussions for businesses, particularly if they are unannounced beforehand.

Gmail recently made significant changes, altering the set up of user accounts to automatically filter emails into separate “Primary”, “Social” and “Promotional” inbox’s, meaning consumers no longer see all emails immediately upon signing in.

Google claimed the redesign would help account holders better manage the plethora of emails they receive, but companies believe users will neglect to see the new “Promotions” tab and never open emails featuring new deals, sales or services. Some enterprises are working hard to ensure their subscribers don’t miss out on future emails – The Wall Street Journal reported some businesses have sent out notices to their clients, asking them to remember to check the folder to stay up to date on the latest news. These firms may not have been prepared with a backup plan, but they managed to create a system that will ensure interested recipients continue to see their emails.

Misunderstood Campaigns Can Lead to Controversy
While a company’s leadership team may think it has a great idea for a marketing campaign, the public may not always agree. Marketing ideas may seem amusing or clever to one person, but inappropriate or offensive to another, making it essential for teams to have an idea on how to proceed if a strategy isn’t received as well as intended.

Daily deal giant Groupon learned this lesson the hard way when it aired a Super Bowl commercial in 2011 that enraged many viewers. The ad seemed to exploit the suffering experienced by those living in Tibet for the benefit of Groupon users’ to save money on Tibetan food – a commercial many people didn’t understand or thought trivialized the struggles the country has been through.

In instances like this, companies need to be ready to pull promotions that aren’t received well by the public, have explanations ready and be able to replace them with safe, less controversial ones immediately. Failing to pull the spot or assuming people will “get it” after a while can only lead to more backlash aimed at a business and damage its reputation, especially if people begin to view it as insensitive or unresponsive to the public.

Good Intentions Are Ill-Received
Sometimes, a brand may develop a strong marketing strategy and launch it with high expectations, only to find it goes downhill quickly. It only takes a few riled up people to derail an entire campaign and create negative exposure.

Fast food restaurant McDonald’s experienced this very situation when it launched a campaign with the Twitter hashtag #McDStories. While the company may have assumed it was accommodating consumers who like to connect via social media and get onboard with new channels of communication, it didn’t take long for the plan to go south. Rather than posting positive stories, Twitter users posted tales of becoming ill after eating at McDonald’s or finding inedible objects in their food. Within hours of starting the strategy, the brand stopped using the hashtag due to the overwhelming number of negative responses. The problem with hashtags is you may decide to stop using them, but once you put them out there, your audience decides where to take them. 

In a changing marketplace, it is important to carefully consider new campaigns and be prepared to adapt based on the response of your clients, customers and audience. If you are experimenting with new initiatives, carefully consider what you are publishing and monitor the level of engagement to improve your metrics over time.