35 Things Marketers Can Learn from My 35 Years of Failure
I turn 35 this week and, yes, I feel old. But not the “I’m washed up and the game has passed me by” type of old, but rather the “I’m crafty like a seasoned veteran now so I can play at a high level for another decade” kind of old.
I feel this way because I’ve finally learned to view my mistakes as learning opportunities and not events I should bury deep inside. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I came to this realization, but I do know my recent obsession with books played a major part in me flipping the enlightenment switch. Every self-improvement book I’ve read recommends, in some form, thinking about your failures as data points.
So in celebration of me entering my last year on the “right side” of my thirties, I want to share with you 35 things I’ve done “wrong” and how marketers can apply these life lessons to their work.
Failure #1: I posted some cringe-worthy social media posts back in the day.
Lesson: Don’t post anything that doesn’t positively influence your brand or provide value. The last thing prospects need is more noise in their life, or whatever pretentious point I was trying to make here:
Failure #2: I confidently tried out for a club basketball team, but was quickly relegated to the the B-Squad.
Lesson: Identify your place in the market and what specific value you can provide. Then, go out dominate that niche.
I eventually found a club that fit my skill set and ended up making their starting line-up…and hitting the game-winning shot against my former team. Don’t believe me?
Failure #3: I’ve failed to implement so many ideas I have a “creative graveyard” document.
Lesson: Your idea may suck or you might just be ahead of the game. Document everything in preparation for whenever your team has the right resources to turn your ideas into reality.
Failure #4: I once purchased a $250 laptop that was nothing more than a gigantic paperweight.
Lesson: Perform your due diligence. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Failure #5: I accidentally texted my boss that I was playing hooky.
Lesson: Always double-check your audience targeting settings before you publish an ad or send an email. The only thing worse than sharing something generally irrelevant to your customers is sharing something specifically irrelevant to them.
Failure #6: My senior year of track was an absolute disaster.
Lesson: If your heart isn’t in it, don’t run that campaign or jump on that project. Your lack of investment will show in your work.
Failure #7: I rocked a flat top haircut for a good chunk of my life.
Lesson: Keep things balanced. See what I did there? But for real, diversify your marketing mix and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Just because a channel or tactic is hot right now, doesn’t mean it always will be.
Failure #8: Someone I just met offered me shots I didn’t like, but I drank them anyway. A few hours later I threw up in his car.
Lesson: Impressing people is a huge part of marketing, but don’t do things that are out of character and that expose your brand to unnecessary risks.
Failure #9: Speaking of cars, I once entered the wrong vehicle because I thought it was my mom picking me up from school.
Lesson: Approach lookalike audiences with caution.
Failure #10: I pronounced inertia as “inner teeya” multiple times during one of my sixth grade science presentations.
Lesson: It’s painfully clear when you only have surface-level knowledge of a topic, so chat with subject matter experts during your research process to uncover nuances and avoid sounding like Brands Saying Bae.
Failure #11: I once crashed my car into a pile of rocks because of a dare.
Lesson: If following the rules of “the game” will cause your brand harm, play a different game. What works for one company or industry may not fit your situation, so turn those best practices into something that’s relevant to your needs.
P.S. I hate you Luke, Rocky, and Anthony for this.
Failure #12: I fell victim to the “Freshman 50” in college. No, that is not a typo.
Lesson: Just because you have creative freedom, it doesn’t mean you should abuse it. We all want to be creative, but in the end, work doesn’t count as “creative” unless it drives positive action.
Failure #13: I failed to think of 35 shortcomings that I could make relevant to the premise of this article.
Lesson: Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, or something like that. Don’t force yourself into a content strategy you can’t fulfill or set campaign expectations you’re unsure you’ll meet. And, for the love of God, don’t stretch what should be a five-point listicle into an eleven-point one just because that’s the best practice. Provide value as concisely as you can.