At its base, marketing failure can be attributed to one of two factors: the wrong strategy or the wrong people implementing that strategy. More often than not, we spend time trying to fix the wrong problem. Many firms can begin to solve marketing issues by first determining which of these two is causing the problem. For instance, if you do a lot of public seminars but lack sales results, you may want to stop doing them.

I received a call from a financial advisor early last month with a “strategy” issue regarding workshops he had been hosting. Many people attended his workshops, he received high evaluations on his presentations, and 75 percent of attendees said they would like more information or a meeting. But very few ever turned into an appointment or sale. He became convinced that the wrong people were attending his seminars.

A brief interview with his staff revealed the problem, which was right in front of him. The two staff people responsible for scheduling appointments after workshops were swamped with day-to-day duties and hadn’t been calling to schedule appointments until a week or more after the event. By that time, interest had waned. Conclusion: people problem.

In another case, an advisor had been sending out a regular email newsletter. For six months, it had gone out like clockwork and had been well written. But nothing was happening — no comments, calls or appointments. After he examined the analytics, it became clear that very few people were even opening his newsletter, entitled “Retirement Talk.”

The majority of his email list was made up of business owners and executives. It was determined that these individuals did not see themselves as being retired, so they weren’t even opening his email. When he renamed his newsletter “Financial Smarts for Entrepreneurs and Professionals,” his open rate doubled and has continued to climb. Conclusion: strategy problem.

You might think these issues are so simple and obvious that anyone should have known what was wrong. But they happen all the time! If you have a marketing problem, try breaking it down into its most basic parts. The answer is often right there in front of you.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.