Failing your way to success

failI have been reading Scott (“Dilbert”) Adams’ latest book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (or at your local library). I found some chapters more useful than others, and I’m not inclined to rely on the advice of a cartoonist for diet and exercise. That said, my copy of his book is full of highlighting where I found his ideas particularly useful of thought provoking.

His approach of failing your way to success resonates with me, particularly when I look at my failures as steps forward. As Adams commented, “I’ve long seen failure as a tool, not an outcome.” I fail on a regular basis; in fact, if I haven’t made any mistakes lately, I assume that I haven’t been trying enough new ideas. Of course, failure only succeeds if I actually learn something from it.

One of the things I could have only learned by trying and failing was that, if I want to be seen as high value, I shouldn’t be nickle and diming people. I wrote a collection of eTools on various aspects of running a business (they’re over at my store) that I thought were pretty good. I priced them at $9 and anticipated a nice steady stream of revenue. Hahahahahahahaha! Then I realized that I would benefit far more by giving away my ideas than from charging for them. People still pay me for my ideas… in the form of presentations, workshops, consulting engagements, and business analysis. I’ve made more from one workshop I landed because of my reputation and expertise than I ever would have made through selling $9 eTools.

I hate telemarketersA lot of my early marketing efforts for my research business also failed. Direct mail? Yep, tried it, got no response. Lesson: people don’t buy high value professional services based on postcards, regardless of how cleverly designed or how frequently they are sent. Cold calling? I tried that technique while working for a small research firm and learned that, well, I’m not cut out for telephone sales.  And–surprise–people don’t buy high value professional services based on a cold call, either. (See my free eTool, Friends Don’t Let Friends Cold Call, for more on this particular lesson.) Advertising? Back in the days when people actually used phone books, I advertised in the yellow pages. All I got from that were calls from people who thought I was a free on-call librarian and who were shocked that I expected to be paid to conduct research. Once again, people don’t buy high value professional services based on directory listings.

Eventually, I learned my lesson that attracting clients is much more effective than chasing after them. If you want to see some of my ideas for marketing techniques that don’t involve cold calling, see my 20-minute podcast, “10 Tips for Kick-starting Your Marketing“.


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