“It’s not failure, it’s data”

A teapoot with a fortune cookie wrapper coming out of it that reads "do not fear failture"
“Do not fear failure” by Tomasz Stasiuk is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“It’s not failure, it’s data,” Elizabeth Lombardo wrote in my most recent edition of Health Magazine. She was talking about what to do after you’ve swayed from your diet/eating plan, but this quote is also very relevant to marketing.

Too often, I hear stories from marketing colleagues who are in work environments where failures are punished severely (mine is not that type of environment, thankfully). The result? They don’t innovate or take risks. They stick to what they’ve always done, and it seems to be working ok.

But that’s the problem, it’s just working ok. Those organizations are standing still while communication patterns change and other companies innovate. To really excel, you have to try new things, and that most likely means some successes (Chick-fil-a billboards) and some failures (remember Pepsi Clear?).

A marketing Vice President I interned with at the Kellogg Company told me to think of marketing more like a panel of knobs. You turn one and see what happens. If things go badly, you turn it back and turn another knob. If things go well, you turn it more or turn another knob.

“It’s not failure, it’s data.”

So how should your organization encourage stepping out of the comfort zone while also minimizing critical errors? For this answer, I turn to the “Mistakes” part of my old employee handbook from Adams Outdoor Advertising:

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Be sure to screw up wildly, creatively, and originally. So long as you have a good rationale for the chances you take and the mistakes that result, and you spend more time being right than wrong, you are doing your job.

Honest mistakes are welcome. But if you make a mistake due to laziness or stupidity and try to use this section as a defense, you’re going to be fired.

Further reading:

Avoiding the copycat “Us too” style of marketing

 

Photo: “Do not fear failure” by Tomasz Stasiuk is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Lessons from sales series: Three-legged stool, leg #1, you have to love people

Two young men holding signs that say "free hugs"
From Flickr: loudestnoise

When I was working at Adams Outdoor Advertising, they brought in Dr. George Pransky of Pransky and Associates to talk about what would make us successful.  One of the things he talked about was a three-legged stool. The three legs were: You have to love people, love your product, and be resilient.

Does loving people mean you have to go around hugging everyone? No.

Does it mean you have to love every person you encounter? No.

But, to me, it does mean that you have to like people in general.  You have to enjoy being around people, you have to love getting to know people, and you have to enjoy working with people.

So what if people aren’t acting so lovable? Well, that happens a lot, especially if you are in sales. You get doors slammed in your face, you get yelled at, people don’t return your calls, and people lie to you. In those moments, I remember two things:

  1. If someone is acting meanly, it’s more than likely not about you. Maybe someone just cut them off in traffic, or maybe they just had a fight with their spouse and you look a bit like them…you just don’t know. But, it’s more than likely not you.
  2. I once asked a boss, who worked with a set of professional people who lied a lot to his face, how he was able to take it so well. “You’ve got to view it as humorous, Nicole,” he told me. “It’s not worth calling them on their lie. So instead, laugh that you know the truth and move on. It’s not worth the energy and don’t take it personally that they lied to you. They like a lot. It’s not a personal thing.”  He was a big lover of people.

If you are working in sales, communications, or marketing, you’ve got to love people, whether they treat you well or not.

Lessons from sales series: Three-legged stool, leg #3, you have to be resilient

When I was working at Adams Outdoor Advertising, they brought in Dr. George Pransky of Pransky and Associates to talk about what would make us successful.  One of the things he talked about was a three-legged stool. The three legs were: You have to love people, love your product, and be resilient.

#3 on the three-legged sales stool is today’s topic:resiliency

Business woman looking isolated after a business presentation
In order to be a successful salesperson or marketer, you have to develop resiliency to face the amount of criticism you will receive.

“The good news is, your work is visible for everyone to see. The bad news is, your work is visible for everyone to see.” This is a statement I give a lot when I talk about what it’s like to work in the marketing field. It’s very easy for one of my co-workers to look in the newspaper, see an advertisement, and know “Nicole [and team] did that. Similarly, if there is a news story published, they know that it is usually traced back to a press release we sent out. However, if there is a mistake or they think something should have been done differently, it’s also right there from them to see and attribute to the marketing and pr department.

In sales, you get told “no” a lot and in many cases it’s not done in a pleasant way. People ignore you, hang up the phone on you, insult you, etc. You have to develop a resiliency or you won’t last long in sales. You have to keep going, in constant search for those people who will say “yes” to buying your product or service.

In marketing and pr, the challenge is the amount of criticism that you get of your work. I had a boss that was known for saying “There are two areas where everyone always thinks they can do the job better than the person in the job; one is technology and the other is marketing.” And it’s so true.

Over the long-term, you will gain people’s respect for what you do, but to be in the marketing world, you must develop a thick skin, you must be resilient, and you must keep doing great things.

Lessons from sales series: Three-legged stool, leg #2, you have to love your product or service

When I was working at Adams Outdoor Advertising, they brought in Dr. George Pransky of Pransky and Associates to talk about what would make us successful.  One of the things he talked about was a three-legged stool. The three legs were: You have to love people, love your product, and be resilient.

#2 on the three-legged sales stool is today’s topic: love your product

It’s one of the oldest sales adages out there, you can’t sell what you don’t love. And, it’s so true. It’s really hard to convince someone else that you have the greatest thing since sliced bread if you aren’t convinced of that yourself.

Does that mean you have to believe your product or service is right all of the time?  No.  When I was selling billboard advertising, I knew my product wasn’t right for everyone. But, I targeted the customers I knew it was right for and shared my love with them vs. those it couldn’t help.  And, by the way, I’m still madly in love with outdoor….good outdoor that is.

A young woman at a table with a stack of CD's she is selling
It’s easy to sell CD’s for a band that you love. And, I bet that’s why this young woman has a smile on her face while doing it! From flickr mikecogh

This “love your product” advice is also why I work in higher education and particularly why I work at a community college. I believe to my core that education is the best way for our children to succeed. And, I believe community colleges offer the right combination of opportunities (small class sizes, affordable tuition, etc.) for a large majority of our population.  This belief makes my job of “selling” the college I work for, community colleges, and higher education in general, very enjoyable and easy (although a lot of work!). If you ask me to get up in front of a group and discuss my college, the hard part won’t be trying to get me to do it, the hard part will be getting me to STOP talking.

So, if you are going to be in sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, etc., find a product or service you love to “sell.” You will be amazed at how much more successful you will be at your job.

Lessons from sales series: Words of wisdom from Adams Outdoor Advertising

"We Must Become the Change We Want to See" employee handbook from Adams Outdoor

 

 

When I began working for Adams Outdoor Advertising, they gave me my employee handbook, titled “We must become the change we want to see.” But it wasn’t an ordinary employee handbook. First, it was made out of billboard materials.  But more importantly, many sections of the book relate not only to outdoor, or sales, but all aspects of life.  With permission from Adams Outdoor Advertising, here are a few of my favorite sections and quotes from the book:

Section: No knuckleheads on the bus

“Hell is other people” – Jean Paul Sartre

Nothing kills fun faster than someone acting like a knucklehead. So if you find yourself acting like a knucklehead at any point during the day, stop. If you see someone else acting like a knucklehead – help them stop. But don’t be a knucklehead about it. That would defeat the purpose.

Section: The difficult truth about growth

All things in the world are growing or dying.

Adams Outdoor Handbook section on "The Difficult Truth About Growth"

Section: Accountability

…But to be accountable to our clients, we must first and foremost be accountable to ourselves. We must be able to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of every day and say “I stand by what I did.” If we can’t do that, action must be taken.

Section: Mistakes [in the book, it’s a mirror image of the word]

“Do not fear mistakes, there are none.” – Miles Davis.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Be sure to screw up wildly, creatively, and originally. So long as you have a good rationale for the chances you take and the mistakes that result, and you spend more time being right than wrong, you are doing your job.

Honest mistakes are welcome. But if you make a mistake due to laziness or stupidity and try to use this section as a defense, you’re going to be fired.

Section: The secret to developing a trusting relationship

…It’s so simple that it seems silly to write it down. To have a trusting relationship, you must first be worthy of trust.

Section: The secret to being creative

Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.