Fail quickly, cheaply, successfully


Failure is not an option.” This line became famous after the movie Apollo 13 was released and is one of those ubiquitous lines that many, many in business have used for years.

However, is that still true? Isn’t some failure really a measure of success?

In today’s world, projects fail every day. Google has shut down multiple projects in just the last year, but I don’t think they considered this a failure. In many ways, this has shown them what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve on the next project.

Even Apple, as perfect as it may seem, has had multiple failures in its past. The Apple Newton, the Pippin, and “Hockey Puck” Mouse are products that many of us have never heard of, but Apple actually released these to the general public.

What it has taught a company like Apple is to develop fewer products, but reliable and good-looking ones that appeal to its audience.

I have recently been reading “Creative Confidence” by Tom and David Kelley, who are both brilliant minds in the concept of design thinking. Design thinking focuses on quickly bringing ideas to iteration and being willing to accept that some will fail.

This quote from David Kelley sort of sums it up: “Failure sucks, but instructs.”

It is also a key point in the process of design thinking that one does not look for the perfect idea, but continues to brainstorm for a plethora of ones to find that diamond in the rough. Tom Kelley states: “Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.”

However, in some of our current fiscal environments, it can be expensive to fail. As newspaper marketing professionals, we may run a direct mail piece as a test and end up with a cost per order of US$200, or test a new telemarketing firm at a rate per hour, only to end up with a bill for hundreds of hours of calling with little to show for it.

The good thing is there are many other great sources of testing available to us today that don’t require a large up-front investment and can yield some quick results.

E-mail marketing, as has been mentioned in many posts before, is one of the cheapest ways to reach your audience. Here at The News Tribune, we send out at least two subscription offers per week by e-mail, which normally result in 20-25 orders from each blast. We are also working to make that e-mail more intelligent to target specific offers to various groups in our total audience.

We have just begun to use e-mail in our subscriber retention efforts as well. We have an e-mail blast starting next week to customers in their grace period that will encourage them to pay and remind them of the benefits of their subscription.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is another marketing channel that we are just going live with as well. With Google AdWords, you can call anytime to speak to a sales consultant who will walk you through how to set up your campaign and make sure you are choosing keywords that work.

You only pay if someone clicks on your advertisement, and with tracking code on your landing page, you can easily measure the ROI. Another benefit is being able to set a daily budget ahead of time, and then just let the campaign run itself.

Social media marketing has been another good tool for sales as well at a low cost. Facebook has an option to create an offer in your timeline, which then can link back to a subscription landing page. Recently, Twitter also released a similar type channel called Twitter Cards, which can have a call to action on the ad as well.

Beyond these two types of promotions, ads promoting the newspaper are effective as well. Some things we have done at our newspapers to even just build e-mail lists are to run giveaways with apps like Pagemodo or ShortStack, which then collect some great demographic information as well as e-mail addresses for future campaigns.

Of course, don’t forget to use your own digital resources as well. Just this last week, we ran a homepage takeover at the Tri-City Herald tied in with college basketball to promote a special US$.99 trial offer.

Results are still coming in, but we expect to do quite well with this push and are planning more of these for the near future. Beyond the homepage takeover, we are tying the campaign in with a run of site ads for two weeks, as well as multiple e-mail blasts.

The real key to all of these pieces is to not forget to be creative. Creativity breeds ideas, which sometimes fail, but in the end, some of them will be successful. Don’t be afraid to try, and let failure become an option at your media company.

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.