Failure is invaluable learning tool that we should all embrace. I wager to say I've learned more in my biggest failures as a marketer than in my major successes.

And if I've learned anything from my marketing blunders, the best piece of advice I can give business owners is to never skimp on sales talent. This is crucial to all marketing campaigns and overall customer journey.

Failure case in point:

Early in my career, I was hired to develop a marketing campaign for the lap band, which is a weight-loss surgery. The executives at the surgery center asked me to target women in their late twenties and early thirties who struggled with obesity--a broad demographic that would certainly need a bit of investigative research.

To prepare, I met with the doctor; he was a remarkably warm person who was able to offer some great insights into the psychology of those battling obesity. Diving a little deeper, I spoke with some folks who had undergone the surgery to get a better grasp on the demographic, what prompted them to make this life change, and their feelings at all stages of the procedure. Unlike many of the weight-loss commercials I saw during that time period, their focus wasn't to go traipsing around the beach in a string bikini. They cared about being able to play with their kids, feeling confident at work, and reducing health problems.

So my team and I devised a campaign that focused on positive body image (a topic that wasn't talked about too much in those days) and optimizing health for a fulfilling life. Thankfully, it really resonated with audiences and the clinic received 500 new patient inquiries in the first month. If only one inquiry converted to a patient, we would have made a profit on the marketing campaign....and we liked those odds!

Now, it was the doctor's office's job to respond to the inquiries. My team and I didn't work in the office, but we tracked the new emails and calls to determine which ads were getting the best response. On our end, it appeared that this campaign had knocked it out of the park. So I was flabbergasted to get a call from the doctor a few weeks later telling me that not one of those calls converted into a patient.

Yep. Mind blown.

I immediately thought of an array of potential problems ranging from technical issues to catastrophic content errors made on my part. There didn't seem to be an issue on our end, so I asked the doctor if I could have a meeting with his staff to get to the bottom of everything.

On the drive to his office, I tried to reason with myself that I had done my part as a marketer--I generated all these leads, after all. Whatever this problem is, it has nothing to do with my team.

When I got to the office, I sat in the waiting room passively listening to the receptionists pick up the phone and all at once, it became clear to me why there were no conversions. Their voices were cold and clinical. They didn't go out of their way to answer questions they didn't immediately know the answer to. They seemed slightly exasperated at being kept on the phone and kept referring the callers to the website.

If our warm, fuzzy marketing was the first impression to the clinic--callers were doused with cold water on their second impression. This staff did not reflect the caring doctor, nor the ads we had created about being the patients' "partners in their journey to better health." Plus, with so much industry competition, it would be so easy for any caller to just put down the phone and try the next five clinics in a two-mile radius.

It dawned on me that I hadn't done my job properly. I had never met his staff in person or spoke to them over the phone--it was all through email. I never called in to hear what the patients hear on the other end of their phone. I only cared about my "marketing campaign." If I had been a bit more seasoned at the time, I would have known that having a killer sales (and reception) team is one of the biggest assets to any marketing campaign. A great customer experience is what keeps people coming back, sharing on social media, and referring their friends. Which is marketing at its core.

Luckily, we were able to fix the problem by really working with the sales team and educating them on customer service. We also developed a protocol for faster patient intake, so no one fell through the cracks. After we made an effort to get the sales team involved in the marketing--we instilled a sense of pride and purpose. Go figure.

Throughout my career, I've witnessed numerous marketing and sales teams that simply don't talk to each other. This is always a bad thing. Great marketing on its own doesn't do anyone any good if sales do not convert. Business owners, invest in a great sales team. Marketers, make strong connections with the sales team. Ask their opinions, get their feedback, keep them involved in the marketing, and work together to create a seamless message to your target audience. They are the best teammates you'll ever have!

Published on: Oct 26, 2015