When Failed Marketing Experiments Become your Greatest Treasures

In preparation for my upcoming Adobe Summit session, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we learn. The session is called Dumpster Fire Diving, and it’s going to feature a panel of power users sharing our most memorable Marketo Engage mistakes, along with some tips on how you can avoid making the same ones.

Considering the various errors encountered in my career, I’ve been having flashbacks of my CEO walking over to my desk after a referral blast went out to an audience that included current clients. 

An industrious salesperson had pushed the people on a Salesforce report to a Salesforce campaign, which then synced to a triggered Marketo Engage Smart Campaign, and out the email went to a 5M-revenue client. That day I learned about redundant filters on Smart Campaigns!

Now, if you’re attending, I want to see your face in the audience when we share these stories, so without giving too much away, I’m going to share some of the highlights of the hard-won lessons I’ve learned since 2012. Here are my takeaways on dealing with mistakes and other situations that don’t go as planned. 

  • Trust your gut

If someone asks you to build something or execute on a plan, and it looks off, feels wrong, or doesn’t jive with your knowledge of the system, push back. As a marketing ops expert, it’s OK to say, “This won’t work.”

Suggest an alternative if possible, but don’t push forward with something that won’t deliver results or may hurt the brand in the long run. 

  • Don’t rush

Most mistakes happen when we are in a hurry to get something out the door. Inevitably, marketing is always going to involve last minute projects, fire drills, and other requests that require an immediate response, but remember that the “Send Later” button is your friend.

Don’t ignore QA just because your project is time sensitive. Push that email back 15 minutes so you have time for a final review of your Smart Campaign and email content. Trust me: sending a correct email five minutes late will serve you much better than sending a broken one on time.  

  • Trust your community

Research new projects in the Marketo community before executing them yourself. Chances are, whatever you’re trying to do has been done before, and you can learn from the experiences of your peers. 

Let’s say you have a new project. You think it’ll work and testing has gone well, but if you do some research and find that the consensus in the community is that it’s buggy and likely to fail, don’t ignore that insight. Listen to their concerns and fully vet the project before you push it live to your audience. 

And if you don’t see your project listed in the community, put it out there yourself. Someone will respond, and you’ll have some additional wisdom at your disposal. 

  • Take ownership

If you mess up, don’t try to hide it. Covering up your mistakes only makes the situation worse. You don’t have to broadcast your error to everyone, but make sure you inform those who will be directly affected.

Then, formulate a solution, patch, or response, and bring it to your boss, along with your game plan for avoiding similar errors in the future. 

It’s been said that the road to success is paved with failures. During your time in Marketo Engage, I can guarantee that you’re going to break something, send an email that shouldn’t be sent, or fall victim to a “gotcha” or a bug. It’s the nature of our business, and it’s just part of the job. 

The key here is to remember that mistakes do not define us. They’re not a measure of our skills or our worth as marketers. Instead, we need to address our mistakes, learn from them, and use them as stepping stones on our path to success. 

After all, some of the greatest marketing treasures have come from failed experiments.