Spend five minutes on the internet, and you’re bound to come across an article about the value of failure. Failure has been put on a pedestal in recent years, with everyone from CEOs and billionaires to authors and talking heads proclaiming the benefits of leaning into mistakes. You might feel inundated with the same counterintuitive message, but here’s the thing: they’re absolutely right. However, it’s not just the failing that matters; it’s the end-to-end experience and all that it teaches you. Here’s our take on why failure, even in marketing, is one of the best business lessons you can learn.
Reframe the Definition
One of the most successful entrepreneurs today is Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, who is notorious for sharing how she gained the courage to try in the business world. She said her father would ask her and her brother to talk about their failures each night at the dinner table while growing up. Afterward, he would celebrate their efforts. “What it did was reframe my definition of failure,” Blakely said. “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome.”
This is the most essential part of the failure conversation that many people miss: it’s not about loving failure for failure’s sake. It’s about acknowledging the fact that the more you try, the more you put yourself out there and act with courage, the more you’re bound to fail. But failing has meant you tried – which means you can try again, with a little more information than the previous time. It’s really the only way to continue to improve and grow.
Consider The Impact On Your Customers
Internal failures should be openly discussed, celebrated, and learned from. But what about the mistakes that happen publicly, like in marketing failures? These can be harder to work through because they often hurt the people who matter most to you: your customers. Still, they’re every bit as important and can even provide a window into the hearts of the people you’re trying to reach.
Take, for instance, a careless post that the DiGiorno pizza company had put out years ago. Always eager to jump on trending hashtags, they created a post that said “You had pizza” along with the trending hashtag “#WhyIStayed.” The hashtag was actually in reference to domestic violence and was being used by women to talk through some of their traumatic experiences in violent relationships.
The backlash was fast and furious, and something like that could have sunk them from a PR perspective. But, DiGiorno’s team acted fast and with humility. They appeared to be sincere in their effort to understand why people were so upset, and then apologized swiftly – not just a blanket “we’re sorry” post, but an individual response to each and every Twitter user who expressed outrage and upset.
The point is, mistakes do happen, often unintentionally. They can lead to true failure and even the loss of a business if they’re repeated or handled poorly. But if they’re approached with a genuine desire to learn the “why” behind them, and continuously grow, they can be the catalyst for great progress.
Identify Patterns Behind Failings
Finally, this last point is important. When you experience mistakes frequently, or your team members do, failure isn’t a fluke; it’s a habit. This is different from a one-off error that someone copped to, learned from, and strived to avoid ever again. If failures are being repeated, you need to take a deep, hard look at what’s fanning their flames. Odds are good that, after evaluating a number of failings, you can extract out commonalities.
Are all of the recent issues related to sloppiness? Maybe you’re moving too fast. Are the failings about oversights, and missing important pieces of larger projects? Perhaps the person to blame has been tasked with too much and needs to learn to delegate. Did an employee conduct a video interview with an important client, but forget to record it? They might need encouragement to ask questions and avoid making assumptions about technology they’ve never been trained to use.
By figuring out the patterns behind recurring failures, you can start to zero in on the main reason they keep happening. It’s not fun to drill down and have to accept responsibility, but it can help you learn and prevent the same mistakes from happening again… and again.
Need help preventing your own marketing failures – or learning from ones that have already taken place? We’d love to help!