The Very Best Thing Marketers Can Do is Fail — Fast

Devon-McDonald by

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve seen a title like this.

But I have a feeling that it maybe hasn’t sunk in for most marketers at the expansion stage. To be honest, I need a reminder of this every so often, myself. We all do.

Fortunately, I have OpenView’s founder Scott Maxwell reminding me often: “If you are not failing, you are not succeeding. Just fail fast and learn from it.”

No doubt about it: The feeling of failure sucks. No one likes to be “in the red.” No one likes to perform poorly. But the fact of the matter is, if you are not failing, you are not learning value business lessons. The path to figuring out what does work requires marketers to figure out what doesn’t work first. Very, very few people nail it first time around.

One marketer’s failure/success is not equivalent to your failure/success.

Here’ one question I get all the time from marketers inside and outside of the portfolio: “Devon, what marketing strategies have you seen your other companies doing that we should be doing, too?”

While I appreciate the curiosity, this question makes me worry that many marketers I talk to believe what works for another company will work for their company, too.

It doesn’t work like that. You need to consider that other companies have different segments they are selling into and different buyers they are trying to engage with.

The key to figuring out the messaging, tactics, and channels that are going to work best for your business, really comes down to controlled experimentation, failing fast, and iterating.

Knowing when to give up and accept failure.

Another question I get a lot is, “Okay, I get it. I need to fail. But how long do I continue to experiment with something before I call it quits and move on?”

This is a tougher one. And I’m not sure I’ve got the perfect answer you are looking for. What I can say is that I recently met with Ellie Mirman, the Head of Inbound Marketing at Hubspot, and she explained to me that at Hubspot one month is a long enough time period to test something and determine whether it was a failure or a success. According to Ellie, they operate on a monthly planning rhythm, so if any new tactic doesn’t seem to yield positive results after that time, they cut it from the upcoming month.

Use this post as validation.

It’s one thing for you as a marketer to understand that failure is actually a positive thing (provided it is controlled and measured.) It’s another thing for your boss, or CEO to accept this. I urge you to share this post. Let’s create an awareness that failure (as long as it’s measured, controlled, and resolved quickly), is the BEST thing that can possibly happen to your expansion-stage marketing team.

Does your boss/CEO allow for failure? Share their reactions below.