When they asked Thomas Edison about the many failures he endured while trying to invent the light bulb, he replied:
“I did not fail. I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
That’s pretty well what Marketing R&D is all about. It’s not a term that many people use. But it’s the terminology that I use because I want people to understand that just like investing in research and development for science, we have to do research with our marketing. We have to test.
The results you get back are extremely valuable to your organization’s marketing efforts. And too often people view failed marketing campaigns as an excuse to say something doesn’t work. Well, we did some pay-per-click advertising, but we didn’t get a lot of sales from it, so it doesn’t work for us. We did some email advertising, but that didn’t work.
I challenge that. I think it’s healthier to look at it as an investment in marketing R&D. Because you will almost always learn something from a campaign.
If you’re looking for it — if you see the clues, or if you can see some patterns — you’ll learn something. Almost always, you will have a bright spot in the campaign.
Maybe it didn’t execute all the way through to the end, or maybe you were able to get visitors to your website, you weren’t able to get conversions.
Or maybe you got conversions, but then for some reason, those who filled out and requested information or weren’t responsive to the offer, and were difficult for the sales people to communicate with, get a hold of, and/or close or qualify.
So we learn things throughout the campaign, but we have to keep our heads high and look at this as research. It’s not failure because as we test different campaigns, different approaches, key words, different offers and forms and a whole host of variables, we will be learning. And that learning, when put before the right minds, really should yield better campaigns moving forward.
But I really urge people not to view any failed campaign as an overall failure or a sign that that particular medium does not work. Because it’s hard to do something great the first time.
Oftentimes we go to people’s websites and see offers being made on the Internet and things look very easy. But behind the scenes, they put time and energy into the offer, into how it’s worded, into how the form is structured, into the sequence of the offer, what key words it’s showing up under. And a lot of that, we don’t get to see, so it looks easy.
We don’t get to see other people’s research R&D. Especially within companies when they’ve got marketing staff who want to make a name for themselves, there seems to be a real aversion to testing or doing anything that may fail. Or when it fails, to blame something as being the fault of the medium or media selected, or website selected. I’ve seen this time and time again.
And it’s one of the reasons why so frequently you will see advertisers advertise where they see their competitors because they’re reluctant to try something new. If they see a competitor there, well, at least they can hang their hat on the fact that their competitor made that decision also.
But when there’s a new opportunity that they’ve never seen, their competitor may not be aware of, that they may have a huge opportunity to make an impact on that audience without having to have their competitor appear there also, they’re reluctant to do it because they don’t want to be the ones to try and fail.
Do not talk failure. There are tests and there are results. In marketing, there is no failure, there are only results. And even the lack of results should yield sufficient information about something that needs to be retooled, improved or slightly tested.