Let's start with a premise:
Whatever it is that you do, say, sell, produce and/or put out into the world does what says it will do and delivers on its promise. Nothing happens when you have a sub-par product or service. Once that premise is out of the way, how do you truly measure success? Many will say that it is about winning or losing. How many new clients you win or how many products you sell when compared to a competitor or how many more people follow you on Twitter or read your blog or whatever.
What most people don't know about agency life is the complexity of the business. It is a hard... very, very hard business. The majority of marketing agencies spend their days and nights pitching their wares. It is both an inbound effort (creating a unique name in the space, attracting new clients by demonstrating thought leadership and strong results) and an outbound effort (proactively marketing the business, public relations, awaiting RFPs, etc...). On top of that, relationships are critical. Knowing when certain pieces of business are going up for review, having friends in the right place who can bring you in and give you a shot and many more factors. It is both complex and quite ambiguous. The best shops don't always wind up working with the best brands and since true metrics (that run across the board) have only become a reality in the past short while - thanks mostly to the digital channels - it still is a very subjective process. You will often here both agency and brand people say this: "agencies get the clients that they deserve."
It's not about winning or losing.
That may shock a lot of people. The truth is that beyond the hallowed offices of the senior most executives in the agency, it is all about winning or losing. But, if you are the business owner, the entrepreneur or the senior most person in the agency, you quickly learn that it is a game (and yes, business is a game) of resilience. All agencies pitch, pitch and pitch all day. Some days, it works out and you win the client over, but for every win that an agency has, they have probably pitched and been rejected by ten other brands. One out of ten or one out of five is not a great record. So, on those dark days when we lose a pitch (and it does happen), one of my business partners at Twist Image is quick to remind me that it's not about winning or losing because our business is about moving forward. We just keep going at it. It is about resilience. The more resilient we are - knowing full well that we deliver on our promise - will be the key to our success. For over thirteen year, this train of thought has served us well at the agency, and it will serve you well: in your business and your life.
How resilient are you?
Some of my blog posts get traction. Others get digital tumbleweeds and virtual crickets. Some episodes of my podcast get tons of listeners while others fall flat. You know the drill. You may have started something: a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and Pinterest board or whatever only to find that no one cares and so you give it up. Seth Godin talks a lot about giving up in his amazing business book, The Dip. It's something we should all read and apply, but here's the thing: most people give up right before things really start to pick up. They know that they're delivering something of value, but because it doesn't get the traction by some arbitrary and pre-determined moment in time, they give up. Sadly. Don't be that person. Keep at it. Blog even when you think nobody cares. Get active on Twitter and push in different directions even if nobody is following you (yet). On Business Insider today, there is a story titled, How This Young Entrepreneur Struck Gold After Failing 15 Times. Read it and watch the accompanying video. What would his life have been like had he stopped after failing five times? Would anyone have scoffed at someone who gave up after trying five times? By the way, Corey Capasso is only 26.
Our world needs more people who have resilience and less people who are worried about counting the wins over the losses.
Great one Mitch - My first corporate seminar I attended (a long time ago) was titled "success." I still carry with me an important fact I learned back then .... "It takes more failures to succeed, then it does to fail."
Rock on - Social SteveReply
Re: "You get the clients you deserve" - Consider that when you lose a pitch perhaps there is an inner order afoot indicating there is no match or enough energy for a win/win; perhaps they don't deserve you or if the pitch was won would take more from the agency than it gives for a win/lose. On the surface it looks like you lost a pitch but an inner order is doing some protecting.
Resilience I agree holds us in good order over the long term.
When I read "it's not about winning or losing because our business is about moving forward" it reminded me of something I've long thought, "The primary goal of any business is to stay in business." There are a lot of ways to do that, of course, but it makes you realize that the real dichotomy isn't win/lose, it's "open/closed"Reply
Mitch, loved most of what you said. I wonder, though... is there a space between you and Godin where you know when to give up so you can try again in a different direction? If I never give up on my blog/business/whatever, and my venture is just misconceived from the beginning for some reason, it probably isn't in my interest to keep at it. So I keep blogging/businessing/whatevering, but maybe in a new direction to a more focused audience. Lean resilience?Reply
Powerful and superb post. I know that doesn't add to the conversation but I just wanted to tell you. : )Reply