Losers are the new cool kids. Read blog posts about “startups” and you’ll detect the desperate stench of loser-worship.
Have you driven a prior business into the ground? Good job.
Has your marketing idea failed spectacularly? Awesome you’re leadership material.
Have a reputation for screwing up on a regular basis? Start sending your resume to Silicon Valley startups they want you.
Sounds absurd but it’s true. I’ve never bought it. Finally I know why.
In SmartCuts, author Shane Snow, digs into the art of success. Specifically he explains why some people succeed faster and more often than others. He’s learned that working smart and hard on the right things is essential. Good but that’s not the best part.
He also shows, convincingly, that losers tend to lose more. Winners tend to keep winning.
A 2008 Harvard researchers study analyzed data from entrepreneurs starting businesses between 1975 and 2003. They were testing the hypothesis that failure breeds success.
They found out that after adjusting for statistical margin of error, entrepreneurs didn’t do any better on their subsequent ventures than a person who never started a business.
Smartcuts pounds the nail in the failure is cool coffin with several other, equally convincing examples.
Hang on. We’re not done yet.
Your Pain. My Gain.
Cardiac surgeons can’t have a bad day. They can’t fail either.
In the late 90’s, a new surgical technique dramatically increased the success of tricky cardiac bypass surgery. Surgeons scrambled to learn the technique. The problem was that the technique required deft touch and dexterity.
Some doctors got it. Some didn’t. Researchers reviewing the doctors’ performance noticed that the failing doctors didn’t improve in subsequent surgeries. Successful doctors kept getting better.
When asked, the failing heart doctors blamed: luck, their inability to see clearly, the patient’s health, and other external factors.
The interesting part was that surgeons who observed botched procedures were more likely to succeed when they performed the surgery. As an observer they were able to pinpoint what the others were doing wrong and apply what they learned.
This observer advantage applies to other scenarios too. Athletes get better when they see their teammates screw up. Comedians get better when they watch another performer get booed off stage.
I got better by obsessively studying the missteps of other bloggers.
How to Failure Proof Your Blog
I ask my clients to name a few failed competitors. We then pick over the carcas of their failed content marketing strategy looking for what they did wrong.
You can use my (abbreviated) checklist:
- Did they tweet enough?
- Did they pick the right content?
- Did they respond and retweet?
- Did they test new tweet styles like photos, gif-video?
- Did they adapt their content for the short attention-spans of Facebook users?
- Did they mix up their updates to include more visually appealing content?
- Did they use advertising to jumpstart awareness of their most important content?
- Did they select the right topic for their audience?
- Did they publish enough?
- Did they promote their content on the right distribution channels?
We walk through this exercise for every social channel and every stitch of content their competitors produced. I’m not afraid to profit from someone else’s mistakes.
Analyzing someone else’s failure is easier on the ego than picking apart your own failure. That’s why I don’t ask my students and clients to analyze their own efforts. It’s too tough to be objective. That’s why its extremely helpful to have a knowledgeable outsider help you take the next step.
Make a list of competitors that are having trouble getting their content marketing plan off the ground. Systematically walk through their tactics and apply what you learn to improve your strategy.
Side Note: I often hear “I don’t have any competitors!” Wrong. You do. I love it when laziness or naiveté keeps my competitors in the dark.
Reviewing your competitor’s challenges will give you a head start. You will be able to devise tactics that will get you past the obstacles and give you a better chance of succeeding.
By the way, if you’ve failed before, don’t dig in and try again until you understand exactly what YOU did. The numbers say that you will just fail again until you get a different perspective and a better plan.
Talk To Me
What have you learned from your competitor’s failures? Tell me about it here.