Getting the Sh*t Kicked Out of You

Everyone deals with failure from time to time. No matter how skilled, intentional, or hard-working you are, things can’t work out 100% of the time. In marketing, the cost of a failed tactic (or a rookie spelling mistake) rarely has an isolated impact. Marketing fails create a ripple effect...which puts a LOT of pressure on those of us behind the scenes. 

How you handle failure can shape your success and your process more than how you handle your wins. What’s the process we go through here at Rethink when we take a dick kick from a let-down? Dave and Kenn sat down for an episode of Brand Junkies to discuss how we deal with a good old-fashioned ass-kicking. 

Why it Sucks

Kenn dives right in saying, “Sometimes you get your ass kicked, and it doesn't feel good. I think it's important for people out there to recognize that you are going to get your ass kicked. If you market for a company, work for an agency, or have your own little one-man shop you're going to try some things for clients, and you know what? They’re not always going to work.”

Dave explains, “Failure happens in marketing because it’s not a formula. Working in the marketing space is challenging because it's science plus. There are best practices but they’re flat without the art and creative magic.”

The ripple effect of marketing makes the stakes higher. Dave shares, “I think the hard part of running an agency is that we want all of our clients to be successful. We’re not just dealing with investment for our sake, we have an investment in our clients.”

Kenn adds, “When you carry that weight with you, getting your ass kicked can have a lot more ramifications than just ‘Oh, yeah. We lost a little bit of money.’ It actually affects you on a personal level. Your health, your wellbeing, everything.”

Be Well

Kenn shares that when working through a setback from a tactic or an internal business issue, “The answers lie outside the realm of simple business tactics and go all the way to health and wellbeing practices.” 

Dave shares how he invests in his personal wellbeing saying, “I have to work out a lot. I do some weightlifting and rock climbing. I go for runs and meditate. My wife and I go on a date every week and I’ve got to take a vacation every now and then.”

Kenn highlights, “I also look for creative outlets outside of work. I play music a lot. I also write. I make sure to schedule time to create in an open-ended way.

How to Deal

Prioritizing your physical and mental wellbeing is important to build a healthy mental framework for whatever comes your way. When it comes to dealing with the physicality of a setback it’s easier to approach it in three steps.

Step 1: Face your demons. Dave shares, “To get over any personal insecurity that comes with a setback I have to remind myself that failure is necessary. In order to succeed, you have to fail. And a lot of times our clients benefit from our individual and collective early failures with other clients.”

Step 2: Get practical. Dave explains, “I have to really go through a mental checklist. Sometimes I go through a physical checklist of "Okay, these are the things we've tried. These are the things we haven't tried." I need a solid inventory before I start adjusting tactics.

Step 3: Brainstorm (with your whole brain). Kenn unpacks how to maximize a brainstorming session saying, “You’ve got to take a whole-brain approach. When we start analyzing what's going on, we use left-brain thinking. ‘Why isn't this working? What's the math? What are the analytics?’ Then, you switch to your right brain because it’s not all a science. It's alchemy. There's magic. There's more involved, and you got to open it up from the creative side and start exploring. What are we going to do differently?”

Own It

After you come to some conclusive findings and creative next steps, the next part of the equation is approaching the issue with your client. Depending on what you’ve come up with during your brainstorming session, this can be intimidating. Kenn says that if the fault is on your end you still need to approach the conversation with confidence. “You’ve got to put your gold record pants on and go talk to the client. You're certainly going to tell them the truth about everything, but you've got to present it in a way that says, ‘Hey, this is part of the journey. Part of the journey is, not everything's going to work.’”

Sometimes the failure is on the client’s end. It doesn’t matter how many leads you drive for a client if they can’t close conversions. Dave says, “Failure on the client’s end, that’s the hard part. It’s hard having a conversation with whoever is writing the check and turning the conversation skillfully to 'I think there's another underlying issue here.’”

Let’s be honest, failure is stressful. Kenn’s last piece of advice is key to managing that stress and staying in a positive, creative headspace. He says, “Share the burden. When you're getting your ass kicked, you don't have to hold it all in and be strong by yourself. If you are working on your own there are programs to help you find a therapist, counselor, or coach. Find someone to share your burden with, whoever it might be.”

David Valentine