Failure is an option

By: Kim McWatt

Failure can be a scary thing. It can put your personal reputation and your business at risk. But a world without failure would be a world without innovation. Elon Musk, co-founder, CEO and product architect at Tesla Motors as well as founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, alludes to this quite directly:

If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.

Marketing today is all about responsiveness, capitalizing on ideas and opportunities as they arise. Because of this, striving for absolute perfection right out of the gate in your message, user experience or outreach channels can be unrealistic. Of course, “not being perfect” doesn’t mean your campaigns are riddled with spelling, grammar or branding issues – those are still table stakes. But what it does mean is that you have the opportunity to innovate, execute quickly and make tweaks as you go.

That’s why planned failure is an essential part of digital marketing. Without failure, how do you know if your campaigns are driving optimal results? Failing (constructively) lets you learn what works and what doesn’t – and this is especially important in today’s reality of 24/7, always-on, results-driven marketing efforts.

Consider up front where possible failures can happen and plan for ways to tweak and optimize on the fly. This can only happen with ongoing campaign data monitoring to pinpoint possible failure points so you can determine if you’ve:

  • used the ideal mix of digital media tactics (e.g. Social Media vs. AdWords);
  • selected the best combination of keywords for search or digital ad campaigns;
  • included the right content in your emails and landing pages; or
  • created the ideal user experience.

Some things to consider as you plan for constructive failure:

  • Let the results speak for themselves. Setting campaign goals and key metrics up front helps you stay focused. The numbers tell the story, so be willing to listen to what they’re saying. Unless there’s a broader issue with your campaign that requires deeper research, your key metrics will give you the insight you need to get started.
  • There’s never a bad time to course correct. Issues can happen at any time, which is why it’s important to gauge response and keep a close eye on the data right from the start of your campaign. No one wants to hear “well, that didn’t work” after the campaign ended and nothing was done to course correct earlier.
  • Don’t boil the ocean. When making your updates, resist the urge to change multiple items at once, as this won’t help you pinpoint the actual issue. Instead, make changes to one thing at a time based on what the data is telling you, what is most important or what is easiest to dismiss first.

Don’t be afraid to take chances and be innovative in your digital marketing because failure is definitely an option! Remember, be sure to:

  • plan how you’ll take advantage of those failure points;
  • be prepared to make course corrections quickly and nimbly;
  • constantly review the data to confirm if the changes made a difference;
  • check your results against your agreed upon success measures and goals; and most importantly
  • apply what you’ve learned to future campaigns.

Have fun, fail often, and learn lots!