Why Failing is Marketing At Its Best

Odd thought, right? Why fail?

But most experienced entrepreneurs will tell you that there is nothing more powerful than trying something and learning from the market if the idea resonates. Failure is a healthy part of the successful process especially when you fail fast and with limited exposure. You have to take some risks to be different and failing is your guide rails toward success.
So often, businesses want a product launch to be big and well-researched as if you can model how consumers will react to products. Big surprise- it doesn't work this way. 

Consumers have a hard time imagining what they will do with something so new and different from what they are used to. The iPad is a great example but there are plenty of them. I am old enough to remember how I didn't quite understand what I would do with a computer that I couldn't do with a typewriter. At first I didn't see any value. (this was 1990). Had I been in a focus group, I would have struggled to come up with a reason to tell IBM to move forward.

Three specific tactics to help you fail as you move up the success ladder…

EXTERNAL INPUT: Show quick prototypes or concepts to consumers (or business customers) and ask them if this type of product could solve a problem they currently have. The emphasis is on quick prototypes that give a tangible representation of an idea without a huge cost commitment. For example, if someone showed me a foam/cardboard box that they called a computer and explained that he is a typewriter machine that saves what I write so if I make a mistake, I don’t have to retype an entire document. The prototype would help me visually understand what you think the benefit would be. If I don’t get it, the failure may not be the device concept but how you explain the benefit. Spend more time on the benefit than the device. 

INTERNAL INPUT: Assemble a group of colleagues from different disciplines (HR, Engineering, Marketing, Finance, Sales, R&D, Safety, etc) and have the same discussion and ask only one specific question- could this typewriter machine help you solve one specific problem. Keep the discussion around your hypothesis so you can hear if the consumer sees the tangible solution you are providing. Don’t let the product interfere with testing the early theory. Again, let these experts focus on why people might purchase the product not the particulars of its design or color. 

INFORMAL TRADE CONVERSATION: If you are selling B2B, can you show your prototype to several in the trade to get a similar kind of input from them around your core hypothesis? The trade might see the issue differently- say from a merchandising perspective. Or they may want to understand where you might sell the product in the store. You might fail to convince the buyer of the validity of your idea, however they may give you critical clues to problems you have not yet solved or thought through carefully. 

Don’t be afraid to fail safe.  As you listen to this feedback, is there a common disconnect? Does each group see what you are trying to solve with the device? Is it resonating or falling on deaf ears? If no one sees where you are going, you may be failing. But this failure is creating a brand new road map toward needs and real benefits. If you listen closely, the shape of demand may emerge. Failing is a process of getting closer to success. 

Don’t take it personally but see it as a constructive learning experience.

Failing is not a bad thing when it is early in the process. It allows you to recalculate and readjust your direction. Failing often, with inexpensive prototypes is the best way to weave through a quilt of an uncertain marketplace.Being safe it the real risk. Failure is a sign that you are taking risks. It is healthy. Playing it safe is the new risky. 

So go ahead, go out there and fail. 

Note: When I am not failing by taking some calculated risk, you can find me writing this blog about unraveling the mysteries of marketing. Won't you share this post with your friends? Thanks. 

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