Failure is a very difficult concept to come to terms with; if we fail then what good can we possibly have done?
This is a common misconception around failure and easy to succumb to. It is easy to be shortsighted when facing failure, and only then have you truly failed.
There is a fortune in failure that we often avoid, one which is key to long-term success.
Failure is a lesson, and it is the only way to reach success – in failure we can extract so many lessons and stories of data to set us on the right path.
Only by understanding where you have gone wrong can you reach success moving forward.
A world driven by data
We live in a world today where data underpins so much of what we do, especially in business.
We can track our campaigns, understand what qualities make up the core of our audience and where we have managed to get a successful message across. We can also understand where our message fell short, who didn’t engage and start to consider why.
It is only in the aftermath of failure that we can begin to understand the deeper workings of our message – what can and should we adapt and why.
In a world where data allows us to study every action and outcome, there is no failure that we cannot dissect in order to build future success.
This is a key aspect to acknowledge – every failure is a story, a collection of data that we can understand and evolve to shape our success and in doing so lay the groundwork for true success.
As we consider this in a practical context, running a campaign will have a desired outcome – whether that is signing up to a service, purchasing a product or liking a page. Messages can be shared, communicated and perceived in many ways, so we must always work under the assumption that a campaign is a journey – improvements can be achieved in every iteration.
One method of success in this regard is known as A/B testing – setting up two or more variants of a message with subtle differences – different images attached to a tagline, different word choices in the tagline or message, alternate placements and sizes are just some of the tweaks that can be utilised here.
As we start to see the results of these variants against each other we can learn from our failures and build towards our true success by gathering and interpret the results of our various attempts.
Any successful campaign typically goes through multiple stages of perceived failure before we hit the true success and reap the rewards of this.
In short, we have a journey that looks like this:
Campaign attempt 1A / 1B / more? >>
1A = FAIL / 1B LESS FAIL >>
1BA / 1BB / more? >>
1BA EVEN LESS FAIL / 1BB SUCCESS!!!
This journey will typically have more variables and stages as our success grows in every stage, but each failure is a fortune in the learnings that build our path forward.
Success does not eliminate failure
When we look at some of the largest, longest standing brands that have delivered massive revenues and investment returns over decades, not simply years or brief times, they have all suffered failures along the way.
Brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nike, Gap, Starbucks, Colgate & American Airlines have all run campaigns or made decisions that have turned out to be a failure when the short term results were evaluated.
The important thing to recognise is that all these brands still exist today, and in many cases are still seen as leaders today – the list goes on and in some cases the failures go on too.
Success and failure are not static destinations that you reach once and then all is done.
Success and failure are checkpoints, and every time you reach them they set a new standard and offer new insight and learnings to the next challenge.
This is why it is so important to evaluate failure and success in business as a journey and education – you cannot acknowledge failure until you recognise the fortune it brings in the depth of knowledge you stand to gain from the context of failure itself.
With the data available to us, this is a key mindset in business, if you understand the story of failure then you can develop success in its learnings.
Further reading on business failure
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