The Anti-Case Study: Our Biggest Learning Experience

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In the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, every campaign offers a unique set of challenges and learning opportunities. Many years ago, at the onset of our agency, we eagerly signed one of our first clients. We learned a lot. 

This case study delves into our journey with a distinguished provider of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training. While the specifics of their identity remain confidential, their mission to foster inclusive environments across various sectors stands out as a testament to their commitment.

Our collaboration aimed to amplify their message and expand their reach. However, as with many ambitious endeavors, we encountered a series of challenges that tested our strategies and adaptability. The purpose of this case study is not just to highlight these challenges, but more importantly, to dissect them, understand their roots, and extract valuable lessons. By sharing our experiences, we hope to provide insights that can guide future marketing campaigns, ensuring they are both effective and reflective of the client’s vision.


  • A candid exploration of marketing challenges faced during a campaign with a DEI training provider.
  • Key issues included bypassing marketing fundamentals, inconsistent strategy commitment, and adapting to the client’s evolving vision.
  • The case study emphasizes lessons learned, leading to significant agency improvements and refined processes over the years.


When we first partnered with our client, their objective was straightforward: to deliver high-quality Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training to universities. Their goal was to enhance inclusivity within academic settings, preparing a new generation of students to value and champion diversity.

However, as the collaboration progressed, the client’s strategy began to evolve. Initially focused on universities, they expanded their services to cater to businesses. Shortly after, they targeted the startup ecosystem. Each strategic shift represented a broader audience and a new market segment. Unfortunately, we had not yet solidified a growth plan for a segment before moving onto the next. In just 6 months, our client’s go-to-market strategy changed three times. The most significant change occurred when they decided to transition their offering into a consumer-facing app.

Adapting to different market segments is a common business strategy, but it’s not without its challenges. With each pivot, the clarity and focus of the original vision seemed to diminish. This evolving strategy, while indicative of the client’s ambition, hinted at the upcoming challenges we would face in our marketing efforts.

Challenges Faced

Bypassing Marketing Fundamentals

Our Role:

In our eagerness to deliver results, we admittedly bypassed some essential marketing fundamentals. Instead of laying a solid groundwork, we moved quickly into execution mode. We recognize that a well-thought-out strategy is paramount before diving into specific tactics, and this oversight was a misstep on our part.

Client Context:

While we were quick to execute, it’s essential to understand that our actions were often in response to the client’s urgency to see immediate results. This created a cycle where both parties prioritized speed over strategy.

Lack of Target Audience Research

Our Role:

One of the foundational elements of marketing is understanding the target audience, and we faltered here. Without comprehensive research, our campaigns lacked the precision and relevance needed to resonate with the intended audience.

Client Context:

The client’s evolving focus on different market segments added complexity to our audience research efforts. Each pivot required a fresh understanding, and the rapid shifts made it challenging to keep pace.

Inconsistent Strategy Commitment

Our Role:

We acknowledge that we often shifted strategies without giving them adequate time to mature or show results. This inconsistency hindered our ability to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts accurately.

Client Context:

Our frequent strategy changes were, in part, a reaction to the client’s changing priorities. Their desire to see quick wins sometimes led to impatience, prompting us to change course prematurely.

Imbalance Between Rapid Growth and Brand Building

Our Role:

In our pursuit of rapid growth, we overlooked the importance of brand building. By focusing heavily on immediate sales, we missed out on opportunities to nurture leads and establish a strong brand presence.

Client Context:

The client’s emphasis on immediate growth and tangible results influenced our approach. While our focus on sales was a direct response to their needs, it came at the expense of long-term brand development.

Shifting Business Models

Our Role:

Adapting to the client’s evolving vision was a significant challenge. As they transitioned from one business model to another, we struggled to maintain a consistent marketing message and effectively target the appropriate audience.

Client Context:

The client’s frequent pivots, while indicative of their adaptability and ambition, introduced volatility into the marketing landscape. Each change required us to recalibrate our approach, making it challenging to establish and maintain momentum.

In reflecting on these challenges, it’s clear that both our agency and the client faced distinct issues. While we take full accountability for our actions and decisions, it’s also essential to understand the broader context in which these challenges arose. This analysis helps us to ensure we serve our future clients better.

Lessons Learned

  1. The Importance of Foundations

Building a Comprehensive Brief:

Before any campaign, create a detailed brief that outlines the client’s goals, target audience, and unique selling points. This document should be revisited and updated regularly.

Ongoing Market Analysis:

Set up monthly reviews of market trends, competitor activities, and audience behavior. Use tools like Google Analytics, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to gather data and insights.

2. Patience and Persistence

Commitment to a Time Frame:

For each strategy implemented, commit to a minimum time frame (e.g., three months) before evaluating its effectiveness. This ensures that tactics have ample time to gain traction.

Quarterly Review of KPIs:

Instead of frequent shifts, set quarterly reviews to evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and adjust strategies based on these metrics.

3. Balancing Growth Ambitions with Brand Development

Integrated Campaigns:

Design campaigns that not only drive sales but also enhance brand visibility. For instance, while PPC campaigns might drive immediate sales, content marketing can establish brand authority.

Customer Touchpoint Analysis:

Map out every touchpoint a customer interacts with, from social media ads to post-purchase support, ensuring a consistent and nurturing experience.

4. Adapting to Client Evolution

Strategy Playbook:

Develop a playbook for each of the client’s potential directions. If they pivot, having a pre-established guide can streamline the transition.

Feedback Loops:

Establish monthly feedback sessions with the client to understand their evolving vision and ensure the marketing strategy aligns.

5. Setting Clear Boundaries and Expectations

Detailed Scope of Work:

At the outset, provide a detailed scope of work, outlining deliverables, timelines, and any dependencies. This document can prevent scope creep and misaligned expectations.

Milestone Check-ins:

Establish clear milestones for the project and schedule check-ins around these. This ensures both parties are aligned throughout the campaign’s duration.

6. Feedback and Regular Check-ins

Client Satisfaction Surveys:

After major campaign phases, send out brief satisfaction surveys to gauge the client’s perspective and gather feedback.

Iterative Adjustments:

Based on feedback, make iterative adjustments to the campaign. This proactive approach can preempt major issues.

7. Educating the Client

Monthly Workshops:

Host monthly workshops or webinars on marketing best practices, tailored to the client’s industry. This educates them and sets realistic expectations.

Case Study Demonstrations:

Showcase past campaigns, both successes and failures, to illustrate the importance of patience, research, and consistency.

8. Procedural Improvements

Project Management Tools:

Utilize tools like Trello, Asana, or to keep campaigns organized, ensuring all stakeholders have visibility into progress and tasks.

Campaign Documentation Templates:

Create standardized templates for campaign planning, execution, and review. This ensures consistency and clarity across all projects.


Reflecting on our journey with the DEI training provider, it’s evident that challenges, while often daunting, serve as invaluable learning opportunities. This case study, set against the backdrop of years gone by, stands as a testament to our commitment to growth, adaptation, and excellence. It serves as a candid reminder of the importance of aligning our service offerings with the ever-evolving needs of our clients.

While the challenges we faced were multifaceted, they provided us with a clearer perspective on the intricacies of client-agency collaboration. We’ve taken these lessons to heart, acknowledging our missteps and emphasizing the insights gained. This introspection has been instrumental in shaping our approach, ensuring that we’re better equipped to navigate the complexities of the digital marketing landscape.

Since the time of this case study, we’ve implemented dozens of changes, refining our processes, enhancing our communication channels, and bolstering our research methodologies. These improvements are not just reactive but are part of our proactive commitment to excellence.

As we move forward, this case study remains a cornerstone in our agency’s narrative, reminding us of the importance of continuous learning. We are unwavering in our commitment to apply these lessons, ensuring that each campaign we undertake is not only successful but also reflective of our client’s vision and goals. Our journey with the DEI training provider, though set in the past, continues to inspire our present and shape our future, driving us to deliver unparalleled service to every client we partner with.

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