Today’s top marketers make their jobs look easy. With clear planning and direction, they’re able to build massive growth engines for their organizations. Take the interviews and success stories from GrowthHacker.tv as an example. These marketing leaders are great at what they do. They’re so good that they almost seem super-human.
It’s very easy — as an up-and-coming marketer — to feel like what you’re doing isn’t good enough, or that you’re doing something wrong. The fact is that marketing is a field that was created by humans for humans.
Casual observers (and non-marketers) often don’t see the extent of experimentation happening behind the scenes. Marketers are often losing hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars before they find a healthy, sustainable revenue stream. But what we see are the success stories — not the wobbly steps that marketers took to get there.
As a blogger, I’m often asked to write about success stories in marketing. In this post, I’ll take a slightly different approach and help you see why failed marketing campaigns are a crucial step in the right direction. Frustrated that your marketing strategies aren’t working? Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Stop Treating Failure as Failure
When you’re building a new marketing campaign from scratch, you are very often throwing darts in the dark. The odds are stacked against you, even if you have a really strong hypothesis and a clear game plan for what you want to achieve.
A failed experiment isn’t a failure. It’s an opportunity to learn about what doesn’t work so that you can very quickly shift gears to focus on what does. But many marketers can’t see the forest for the trees. That’s because they’re bound to strict budgets and aggressive growth goals, with very little wiggle room to experiment and learn. A healthy marketing strategy, however, needs this buffer to spend, learn and grow.
Step 2: Start Small and Fail Fast
The big reason why companies don’t embrace failure? Because they don’t want to waste money. Healthy businesses aren’t run on experiments — they’re driven by sustainable revenue streams.
As a marketer, you’re probably well aware that when you’re testing a new channel, you need to start with the smallest possible budget. As soon as you see results you can scale your program.
If you aren’t seeing progress, you need to cut the cord immediately. You need to move on — every day that you spend dwelling over a failed marketing campaign is a day you should be spending doing something else.
As a marketer, you need to minimize your opportunity costs. When you’re stuck in the mud with a failed campaign, you simply can’t move forward. As much as you hate to admit defeat — and as much as you want to succeed — you can’t let your perfectionism sabotage you.
Always be prepared to call it quits.
Step 3: Share Learnings With the Rest of the Team
This step is crucial, especially if you’re part of a larger organization. Growth marketers are often tempted to just go, go, go in order to meet revenue goals, but here’s what happens:
As teams start to grow, failures tend to be forgotten. Mistakes will repeat themselves and very quickly become a financial drain on your company’s bottom line.
When your marketing campaigns fail, make sure that your entire team knows why. Also keep a record of your learnings on an internal wiki or other team documentation.
Every marketing experiment should be an investment back into your business — with learning milestones as the ultimate asset.
Be fearless and flexible. Failure is a healthy, unavoidable part of the marketing process. The more freedom your team has to experiment, the better off you’ll be over the long haul.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Evergage Blog here.