Fail Fast: Learning From Failure Only Works When These 3 Things Are In Place



I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

No one wants to fail, especially when it comes to our business.

But, despite our best intentions, failure on some level is inevitable. There’s even a popular approach to innovation and business development that urges you to “fail fast” (or “fail fast and pivot”) so you can move on to the next thing (which, hopefully, will work out better).

So what does it really mean, should you be trying to fail, and how does “fail fast” apply to marketing in the green industry?

First, to be clear, it’s not about the big issues (like running your business into the ground so you can declare failure and start all over again)– it’s about the smaller things, like which marketing channel to focus on, how to best appeal to your ideal audience, or where to place the “request an estimate” button on your website.

Try one approach and see if it works; if it doesn’t, try something slightly different based on what you learned from the failure. Rinse and repeat until something “sticks”.

The idea is that you can get more done by quickly testing different approaches, rather than putting in time doing research to figure out the approach that’s most likely to work.

But the concept of “fail fast” is not quite as simple as it might appear, and when it comes to marketing in our industry, it’s often misused. While failure can be a great teacher, it often doesn’t teach us what we really need to know.

Why? Because one or more of the key things needed for success are missing.

Let’s take a look at those three things using your Facebook page as an example.

Key #1: Clearly-Defined Goals

When it comes to Facebook marketing, the questions I hear most often are ones like:

  • How often should I post?
  • What format should I use in my post – photo, just text, link to my website, live, FB live?
  • How long should the post be?
  • Should I boost it? Or use Facebook ads?
  • What time of day is the best time for me to post?

Using the “fail fast” approach, you’d try one tactic for a while, see if it works and if it doesn’t, simply move on to another related tactic. For example, try posting every day. If that “fails”, try posting twice a day. No luck there either? Try once a week.

But there’s one very important thing that’s overlooked with this approach, one question that’s not being asked – and that’s “Why am I posting on Facebook?”.

We often just accept that because other, similar businesses are doing it, we should be doing it too. And that we just need to do it “better” for it to “work”.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t sure what “better” looks like and how to tell if it’s “working”.

In other words, without a clear goal, there’s no way to know if you’ve succeeded or failed.

So here are some questions to ask yourself before you even start posting on Facebook, and then keep asking them on a regular basis to make sure what you’re doing will actually help your business.

  • What’s the goal of what you’re doing? The purpose of doing it in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How does that affect your business, the bottom line?
  • And how does it impact your visibility and/or the perceptions of potential and current customers?

Remember, the only two reasons people aren’t buying your products or services are because they don’t know you exist (poor visibility) or they don’t believe in you (perception).

So, back to the Facebook marketing example … First, think about what you’re trying to get out of it. Maybe it’s to improve visibility by having more people see your posts – in which case highly shareable content and/or ads would be the way to go. Perhaps you want more people to click through to your website so you can help them learn more about you and what you do (influence their perceptions of you), so link posts would be a good option. Or maybe you just want to entertain them or elicit an emotional reaction (another way to enhance their perception of you) – GIFs, videos and photos work well here.

Ultimately, all of those things should lead to more people contacting you.

And that leads to the second thing that must be in place to learn from failure – measurement.

Key #2: Objective Measurement

Can you measure it? Do you have an objective way of knowing whether or not you’ve reached your goals?

What constitutes “failure” depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how well you’re able to measure it.

For example, let’s say you average 60 views per Facebook post and 1 click to your website per day from Facebook. You implement a new post format for a couple of weeks and find that views increase to 80 per post and clicks increase to 3 per day.

If your goal was to double the number of people who see your posts (increase visibility), then you’ve failed. But if your goal was to get double the number of clicks through to your website per day (to influence perceptions), then you’ve succeeded.

Same results, different interpretation.

And if you didn’t have clear goals and measurements in place, you wouldn’t know which interpretation was correct.

That’s a really simple example. In reality, things are a little more complicated. So put in place as many measurement systems as you reasonably can.

For example, do you know how many website visitors call you each month? Which page they were on when they called? How they got to your website in the first place (e.g., organic search, Facebook, Google Ads)? If not, how do you know how well your SEO, Facebook posts or Google Ads campaigns are working?

How do you know if you’ve failed and need to pivot?

(Hint: Install Call Rail to track those calls – I use it with our clients to track success vs failure and to improve ROI).

Key #3: The Right Mindset

Finally, knowing your goals and whether or not you’ve reached them only takes you so far. If you’re not willing to admit and accept failure, and then take action, you’ll never move forward.

That’s the “pivot” part in “fail fast and pivot”. It doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater or starting from scratch every time.

It means incorporating what you’ve learned into the next iteration of whatever it is you’re doing so you can continuously improve it. Or, if it’s a total failure that didn’t get you any closer to any of your goals, then go back to the drawing board (pivot).

In today’s society, failure is often viewed as a bad thing, something to be avoided, and certainly not something to be talked about. But unless we push beyond those limitations, we’re unlikely to find success.

In Summary

Learning from failure and being able to successfully “fail fast” requires three things –

  • Clearly-defined goals
  • Objective measurements
  • The right mindset

Only with all three of those in place will we be able to take our marketing (and our business) to the next level.

Want a little more context and detail? Watch the video below!

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