Biggest Losers - Part 2: More Marketing Career Mistakes!


Have you heard of any agency ever volunteering to discuss their biggest mistakes? Well, here we are in this follow-up vlog for our previous ‘Biggest Losers’ podcast. Listen and learn from us, and try not to repeat the same mistakes we did. And if you have made these same mistakes in your marketing and advertising career, know that you are not alone! 

Let’s start!



Welcome to part two of our “Biggest Mistakes” podcast! I'm Noah, this is James, and we are the biggest losers!  


Overbuilt & (Waaay) Overbudget

Have you ever rationalized overdoing a project?

"The client will love it and hire me again!"

"I'll get so much more recognition."

"This will look great in my portfolio.

... Ya, us too. :-)


Noah: So, continuing to talk about the biggest losses in our marketing and advertising careers, here’s one from me. 

I had a really amazing client. They were a video game producer, and it was super cool to be able to work with them. I was so proud of working with them that I wanted everything to be perfect and amazing. But we didn't have the budget, and so one of the things that I ended up doing was overbuilding everything. 

And so I overbuilt this structure that would house the gaming consoles, and we would tour it around to different campuses, and it was so heavy and so massive that we had to hire additional staff - we were already close to being over budget, but hiring the additional staff to help with the assembly and the carrying of every single piece put us way beyond our budget, and they never used this thing again!

 We built it because I thought we'd use it for multiple seasons, thinking, “These are going to be my lifetime clients, so let's just overbuild and over-engineer this structure,” and we did. 

And sure enough, they never used it again. It went into storage and never came out so we ended up spending too much and ended up having to put together this massive thing. It took us eight hours to assemble -  it was just a nightmare!

And the second part of that mistake was that on the first event we didn't have insurance. We didn't pay attention to the nuances of the details there and didn't check for our insurance policy to make sure that it would include event activation. So when I got there, they asked for our insurance policy, and I provided our insurance policy; it did not include events! So, we could not execute our event at this location. 

Anyway, the next day, we did get insurance, but we were a day late, and the client was not thrilled. Always make sure you have the right Insurance because you'll leave yourself super exposed if you don't!



James: As creative people, this is a super common thing because that’s what we consider boring, which is stuff to do with regulations and insurance and, you know, the policies. Just because it's not creative - it doesn't stick in our heads very well. It's just such a classic thing - that these mistakes happen. And because the wrinkle in the plan happens in that particular area (which we creatives miss out on), it has a big impact. And then you end up making no money, and you can lose the client as well, or you can get in even bigger trouble! I just find this is one of the most common areas marketing agencies have issues with.

Scope Creep Will Be The Death of Me 


James: One of my mistakes as an agency that's been in business for well over a decade is staying within the scope of a project. This could encompass half of all the mistakes I’ve ever made - period. 

Because if you're not meeting the client's expectations, the scope wasn't properly defined at the beginning of the project. So if you find yourself halfway through the project and you're like, “This isn't ever going to work out”, because we didn't understand what they understand, and we didn't come together with a budget in mind with outcomes in mind, because this is work that needs to be done before the quote, to discover what the project is and what they actually want, what their goals are going to be etc. 

That's one thing; you just didn't communicate properly and get on the same page and agree to it in writing. 

The other “out of scope” thing is what you fall into the trap of as a creative. You always want to do your absolute best, over-exceed expectations and over-deliver for yourself. You want to push yourself creatively, and so you're like, “We'll use this next time, it'll be a great client!”. You rationalize, and you have all these excuses, and it's going to be the best, and then you just put extra money, extra effort, extra manpower into the whole thing, and then oops! You're out of scope, and it was entirely your own fault!

It was within your control to keep this within budget and within the time frame, and you let yourself spin out of control - out of excitement, which is just as dangerous in the end and just as damaging. 

I think most of my mistakes come down to misunderstanding the project scope and/or getting too excited.


Noah: I think as marketers and as creatives, it's so important for us to get excited about what we're promoting and what we're marketing. And we drink the Kool-Aid!

James: Yeah, you drink the Kool-Aid to such an extent that you're a bad business person. You are an amazing, creative individual and a great partner for your clients - they love it because they're getting awesome results, but you are a bad business person. Because unless you can rein in your own enthusiasm, that's just going to come back to bite you, a lot of times. 


Human Relations? Whatsitcalled? 

James: I would say one of my huge flaws in business is HR, and, in general, human relations - is that what it's called? Human Resources! Ha,ha. "I'm bad at human relations." Don't comment on that!

So hiring people was just a giant black hole in my skill set. I had zero ability to know who to identify, how to hire anybody, but as your company grows, [this is for people that are either owners or managers] and you kind of need to build a team 

You're only as good as your weakest link in your group, right?


James: So you're trying to scale up your team so that you can scale up the whole company. I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't figure it out - I just hired the wrong people over and over and over again and just didn't know what to do. It's not a very specific loss in my career, but it adds up to so much frustration and stress and sleepless nights as well as money. 

I remember the first time we actually turned a profit in our company; my business partner and I were pretty excited! We had $30,000 I think that we had made above and beyond our expenses, so it was the opposite of that first year, where we lost about $30,000 to $40,000. 

So we made some money, and we're like, "Okay! We're going to grow the company!" We hired two people, and they cost us that exact profit, and neither one of them worked out. Different reasons, but if we had known what we were doing, we would never have hired them in the first place. Because we didn't have the process to hire good people, we just didn't know, and we didn't ask for help. We always tried to do it ourselves but the training of those two people - and they didn't really do any work that was worth it - so they didn't make us any money. We just invested money in their salaries and money on training them like our time, and four months later, it was all burned up, and the $30,000 is gone, We had worked our butts off so hard and actually made this bit of money and then we just threw it away it on hiring the wrong people. 

We had the wrong expectations.


Noah: Do you subscribe to the idea that there are no bad people, only bad leaders? How do you feel about that? 

James: There are bad people. I mean, there are definitely bad leaders, but there are definitely bad people, too. A massive mismatch makes them a bad person (for that role). You need the right people in the right seats - you know, the whole bus metaphor.

Noah: There are people that are incredible, and they're performers, and they're great, and if I'm not leading them, they're not going to be those incredible performers. I've been that person too - I've been at jobs where I'm like, “Man, I really suck at this job”. And then I've been at places where I'm doing a crazy good job, and that's both the leadership and putting me in the right role or being in the right role, being supported in the right way. 

You know you can't judge a fish by how it climbs a tree.


James: I've never heard that quote before, but that's a a good one. So that’s my biggest flaw - HR. But now I have a couple of golden rules. I'm going to put them into the “Winning Podcast” because you have to learn from your mistakes, and I think on the HR side, I learned a couple of things that really helped. 

Noah: That’s it for now, folks. Don’t forget to subscribe, and be the first to listen to the “Greatest Wins” podcast! If you subscribe, you won't miss it!  




Check out our previous episode: Biggest Losers: Mistakes and Failures in Our Marketing Careers - Part 1

“Between Two Creeks” is Twin Creek Media’s weekly podcast series. You can find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify. If you enjoy listening to the latest and wonkiest in marketing every week, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button! If you want us to amp up your marketing, click here to contact us and let’s chat!