Biggest Losers: Mistakes and Failures in Our Marketing Careers - Part 1

We don’t really like to talk about them, but mistakes and boo boo’s are such a big part of our learning curve. And although we don’t really like to go back and have a good laugh about them, this is a reminder for you to do just that.

In this episode of Between Two Creeks, James and Noah will swim towards the biggest losses in their careers, having a good laugh while hopefully helping you avoid making the same mistakes!

Let’s go!

James: All right, here we are! It's James and Noah from Twin Creek Media, and we're talking about something pretty personal today. It's about the greatest losses in our careers so far. So, you know, we've been in the marketing and advertising world for the last 15/20 years, and we've made a whole pile of mistakes. This is our chance to laugh at each other as well because we haven't told each other what we're going to be talking about!

 

Mistake 1: A Site So Good, it Crashed! 

Noah: The biggest mistake I made was when I launched a website for a large sporting team. They were a brand new team in Ontario, and the announcement was huge, so we had a big press release, we had awesome PR partners, and they got us so much media and so much attention that we crashed the website! The website was great, but it's just the fact that we hosted on a cheap server. This was many years ago. It was an Amazon server, and we just had way too much traffic hit the site on day one, and it crashed the site! 

So many people driving so much traffic to this website, and the website's down. It was just such a disaster, my client was furious! Rightly so. I guess the morale of the story is 

Always plan for more traffic than you think you will.

James: I mean, that's being a victim of your own success, right? So you expect everything to be fine but the process broke down. So a couple of follow-up questions to that: did you lose the client? 

Noah: Oh yeah. 

James: And was there any financial repercussions out of that situation?

Noah: I mean, for them, in theory, they weren't selling yet, but they were trying to register people to sign up, so they lost thousands of registrations.

James: Did they pin anything on you responsibility-wise?

Noah: They did, but they didn't penalize me financially. 

 

Mistake 2: Entrepreneur Math - Pay Yourself! Uhhh...

James: That's a pretty good one to open up with. This one actually doesn't sound as bad because you started with a pretty good one.

Starting my business, I worked from home for a couple of years, and we're like, “Hey! We got some clients!” and we got some business, and I hired my buddy, and then we hired our first employee, and we got our first office, and wow! Did we ever feel official! 

We had a crazy, crazy, busy year, and we made $207,000 in 2008 in revenue. Now, that's meaningless unless you know what our expenses were: $248,000. It was kind of a wild year, very successful until I realized that we're spending more than we're making. And I didn't realize it until the end of the year. 

I was told that when you start a business, you have to pay yourself. Do not work for free. But I just kind of did it technically, even though I was working for free, so I wrote a paycheck for Employee One and Employee Two, and I was Employee Three because you have to pay yourself. So I did, and then the company's bank account was maxed out, so I just took my personal paycheck and put it in the company bank account instead of depositing it in our bank account, which we needed because we had a mortgage and a young family. 

I didn't have enough experience running a business or even starting a business and made very many mistakes during that time. I felt like I was writing myself a cheque, so I'm paying myself, but no, I'm not. I'm putting it in the company's bank account. We lost money, and I was personally covering the loss of the company, so I was working for free entirely. That's what it boiled down to at the end of the year.

 

Mistake 3: (Not Enough) Attention To Detail

Noah: I think the next one, I would say, is starting a little side hustle for a little (cannabis) accessories company. A huge mistake there was that I didn't do a ton of market research. I just thought it would be cool, and it was in a territory I was familiar with. You know, I work with a fair amount of cannabis clients, and I knew I didn't want to start my own cannabis brand because there’s the licensing and just the regulations; they are so challenging and stringent, and you know, I just wanted to do something cool.

That was a fun branding project and could get me my first Shopify project, so we built a Shopify store for our cannabis accessories. The biggest mistake we made there was that we didn't read, in detail, the terms of Shopify stores in detail. And so the Shopify store got shut down after it launched!

The first day saw $2,500 in sales, loved it, amazing! Day two: zero. We try to understand the “rules” we went against, and it clearly states, “No tobacco, No cannabis, No liquor”. I mean, cannabis is legal in Canada, Shopify is a Canadian company, and so I just assumed. [Editors note: Shopify has a new "Sell Cannabis Online" feature now, but this was way back in the day!]

And this is a problem that I continually have is that I make assumptions.

I assumed we would be fine, but anyway, we sorted that out with a new website. And they're fine for you to do your website, but they just won't process payments, so we found a new payment processor; it took us like two or three weeks. We lost some momentum in getting the site back up and running, and we're now able to take payments. We start advertising a little bit more, and then Facebook shuts us down on our advertising because, again, cannabis accessories! This goes against Facebook’s advertising rules, so that pretty much ended up being a wash. I didn't make any of our money back and had a fair amount of inventory that we had to clear. It was about $25,000 worth of inventory. So that was an expensive and stupid mistake because I did not pay attention to the little details and regulations.

James: Yeah, you have to work with somebody that is actually really good at the details, and the process of following the rules and regulations. Because if that's not your strength, it should be someone else's strength on your team, so when you're working by yourself you just kind of have to be everything, which is impossible and hence all of our mistakes.

 

Mistake 4: Ad Spends - Watch That Decimal Point!

James: My second mistake is very similar to that because it's attention to detail, and it's with Facebook advertising. So when you set up a Facebook ad, or you're going to sponsor a post and get it seen by more people, you put some money behind it. There's all sorts of fill-in-the-blank boxes, you know, you go into the back end, and you set up your ad and your graphic and your headline, and then you come to the budget, and you punch in your number, so over the years Facebook has changed the way this looks, and this has trapped me twice.

So one of them was, well actually, the first time, it was just simply me being too “in a rush”, you know. So you get in there, and you're like, what's your budget? and it's $50, so it's like 5-0, but at the time, I was used to doing 5-0 decimal 0, which I didn't hit, so I just went 5 - 0 - 0 and then didn't notice there was an extra zero on there. Instead of 50 bucks, it was 500 bucks. 

When you're a small company, every mistake you pay for is out of your own wallet.

Like especially when you're the the owner of the business, you're a One Man Band or One Woman Band so it was just terrible. 

So, just when you can't afford a $500 mistake, you just make it, and it's instant. It's over. So the moment you hit “go,” the campaign launches. This was a follow-up mistake where Facebook changed their lifetime campaign budget wording to daily budget, so you see you put $500 in there, and then you set the duration as “October 1st to October 15th”, so it runs for 2 weeks and bam! You're perfect! Right? 

Google worked on a daily budget basis, so at some point, Facebook changed it from a lifetime campaign budget to a daily budget so it would be more familiar to people running Google search ads. Well, it just trapped me, and it just tricked everybody because they weren't used to it, so now instead of the lifetime budget of $500, you put your daily budget in there of $500, you put October 1st to 15th, it is spending $500 a day for 14 days!

So there were several times when I just lost buckets of money because I went too fast and didn't check the details. Just big mistakes, big losses and looking back they just teach you. 

 

James: Looking back, every time you screw something up like that, you have just got to change the process, so you force yourself to go through the steps, or you change your system entirely and have someone else who's better than you at something like that check that thing for you. Because you got to pair yourself with people who are better than you at something, that actually goes to one of my wins - more in the next podcast! 

 

 

Check out our previous episode: Social Commerce

“Between Two Creeks” is Twin Creek Media’s weekly podcast series. You can find us on YouTube, FacebookInstagram, 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!