As a business leader, or a Marketing lead, if you decide to stand back up after a major failure, that’s good for you.
You know what else you can do? When failing, learn to fail gracefully and in a way, successfully.
In Marketing, where you have to rely on both intuition and data to formulate the right strategy, it is very easy to overlook a key factor, or make wrong predictions and end up with the wrong solution.
It matters not that you made a mistake; what matters is how you handled the mistake and how you made a comeback.
Let’s be clear on the fact that when I say fail gracefully, I don’t mean covering up the failure or acting like it doesn’t exist.
On the contrary, here is what I suggest.
Surely move on from the failure, but not before you have discovered the reason.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
Initially at Hiver, we once failed badly at a campaign because we followed only our instincts, our lessons from previous success stories, and didn’t use analytics at all. Our failure helped us in a way – we learnt a lesson and came up with a strong marketing strategy that aimed to reach well defined quantitative results. Analytics has been a crucial part of our marketing ever since.
Here are some things for you to keep in mind:
- Use analytics and data points to find out anomalies.
- If you can’t use analytics, then revisit every small step, micro-inspect, speak to your team, try to get feedbacks or hire a consultancy to help you out.
- Also, be clear on what caused the failure; is it due to bad strategy or is it due to unavoidable external circumstances like market fluctuations?
Handle (instead of avoiding) the pressure from the team and the boss
Once you make a mistake as a marketer, there is a lot of pressure besides the guilt and stress you are inflicting on yourself.
There will be pressure from your gloomy team and your livid boss. It is important to keep your head clear and handle this so as to not let the failure affect the future work.
For example, your boss may be considering withdrawing the future projects assigned to your team in the light of these new issues. It comes down to you to take charge and show that you are taking counter steps to prevent anything like that from happening again and explain to him what really went wrong.
Here are some ways you can handle the pressure:
- Fill in your team on what exactly went wrong and appreciate them for what they did right. (Basically cheer them up, but at the same time let them feel the gravity of the issue).
- Ask them to be an active part of coming up with a remedy.
- If possible, readjust the current strategy to strengthen it and propose it to your boss.
- Identify the weak areas of the team, and go with solutions to strengthen the team to your boss.
Don’t take too long to recognise the failure – know when to cut off the arm.
Trust me when I say that a lot of times people heighten the impact of a failure by not recognizing it or not accepting it and there is nothing that says gracefully less than not accepting and hanging on to a losing strategy.
Blackberry’s failure is a demonstration of what being ignorant to failure for too long can cost you. The company was still producing keypad phones when it was very apparent that customers prefered touchscreens. Of course, this was only one of many reasons why Blackberry failed.
Here are a few things to remember:
- When implementing a new strategy, walk in fully aware that it can fail.
- Eye the results you are bringing in like a hawk.
- Investigate any abnormalities in numbers/results/feedbacks promptly. Ignorance can be fatal.
Reach out to your audience/target market.
In India, ecommerce giant Flipkart ran a 1 day sale marathon where you could get products like electronic goods, appliances etc for just half the price and sometimes even less. The customers logged in to see that every product was out of stock within the first 30 mins! Of course everyone was livid and called it a scam.
Maybe it was, but how Flipkart reacted to all this is worth learning from. All the customers got an email from the CEO admitting that Flipkart didn’t do a good job at running the sale and that they weren’t prepared for the magnitude of the sale, and they apologized for it.
This is one great example of failing gracefully in front of the public.
Here’s what you can do if you made a blunder that affected your customers.
- Clarify mistrust issues by telling them clearly and exactly what happened.
- Ask them for their input.
- Apologize, if an apology is in order.
- Inform them of your plans to remedy.
But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated – Ernest Hemingway
Think of it this way – If you can find a way forward in your failure, then it really isn’t a failure in the grand scheme of things, is it?