The #1 Cause Of My Failures In Marketing

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Like most marketers, I’ve had plenty of successes, but I’ve my fair share of failures, too.

So I was thinking today about what led to those failures. And when I look back at the ideas that didn’t do so well, it usually comes down to one thing: trying to flying solo.

In other words, when I’ve gotten feedback and support from my team ahead of time, my ideas were more likely to succeed.

But when I failed to so, failure was more often the outcome.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way…

A Failed Campaign That Should Have Never Gone Live

A few years ago, there was this one Facebook ad campaign that I was really excited to test out. Some new message I thought would really hit home.

So I grabbed one of our designers, and a few hours later we had it launched.

And guess what?

It was a dud.

It’s not that you shouldn’t run experiments and be comfortable with some failures in marketing. That’s key to learning.

But if I had taken ten minutes to get some feedback from a couple of people in sales, they would have told me right away that the message wouldn’t resonate.

My shortsightedness had caused us to waste time and money, when we could have easily avoided it.


Excluding Your Team Means Failures in Marketing

This is just one example, but if you fail to get support and feedback from your team before you launch major marketing initiatives, there are a few bad outcomes you’re putting yourself at risk of:

  • Hard to verify success. If you want to others to see your idea as a success, you’ll need to agree on what success looks like ahead of time. This means putting in the right metrics in place and aligning on how they’re tracked. It’s much easier to do this upfront.
  • Lack of effort from your team. If others aren’t convinced that your ideas is worth doing, but you rely on their support to get it done, then you may not get more than a token effort from them. No one wants to spend time on a project they don’t believe in!
  • No ongoing support. Even if an idea you’ve tested shows promising results, it won’t matter if your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to support a new initiative month after month. Addressing this ahead of time can help avoid that.
  • Poor results. Like in my example above, you spend time on an idea that could easily have been improved if you had sought feedback. Get input from whoever is closest to the problem and you’ll be much better off.

Why We Fail To Involve Others

If it sound obvious that including your team up front can help you avoid those outcomes, why is it still so tempting to move forward alone?

A big reason is fear.

Fear that our idea won’t ever get off the ground because others don’t see its value.

Fear that we’ll be missing out if we don’t get something done right away.

Fear that an idea will get “ruined” if others provide input.

When we operate out of this fear, it ends up being easier to just “do something” than to spend time getting input ahead of time.

But ultimately you have to get over that fear if you want to succeed consistently – especially if you’re part of a marketing team.

It’s something I’ll always be trying to improve on, but here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me be more successful in getting my team’s feedback and support and avoid failures in marketing.

How to Get Your Team To Back Your Marketing Ideas

Be Open To Being Wrong

No one likes a know-it-all. And as smart as you might be, you’re still not going to be right 100% of the time. Admit this up front and it will be much easier to create a sense of collaboration with your team.

Recognize That Not Every Idea Has To Win

If every single one of your ideas is a “must do”, well, that just gets annoying. Don’t try to win every battle. If you have a smart team and they tell you something is a bad idea, maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t, but if you let your team veto a few ideas, they’ll be more supportive of the ones that you do drive forward.

Listen, Then Recommend

Ever visit a mechanic who “knows” what’s wrong with your car even before you’ve had a chance to explain everything that’s going on? No one likes that mechanic, even if he’s right. To avoid that outcome, ask others to tell you what they think is going wrong before you make any recommendations. You’ll earn their support in the process.

Turn “Your” Idea Into “Our” Idea

If an idea is yours and yours alone, there are two problems. First, it probably has issues that you’ve overlooked. Secondly, no one is going to get excited about “your” idea. But if they have the chance to critique and improve your idea, then it becomes “their” idea too.

Be Patient

Sometimes people just need time to think through a marketing idea before they can back it. If you have people like that on your team, give them some time to process it before pressing for their support. Not only will they appreciate the chance to ponder your proposal, but they’ll probably have some good advice on how to improve it too.

Crawl, Walk, Run

If you have an idea for a major initiative that’s going to represent a big commitment, start small first. It will be easier to get others to back the effort if they can see signs of success from a test.

Build Trust Before Going Big

This one matters especially if you’re new on a team. You might have the right idea for a brand overhaul, a major event, or a dramatic change to the team’s way of operating. But it will be hard for many people to back those ideas if you haven’t established trust and credibility first.

Reference What Others Have Done

Chances are, your ideas have already been attempted by someone else. So if you’re sensing some hesitation, point to other successful executions of your idea to help others see how it’s done and what a successful outcome looks like.


Ask enough people about your idea, and you’re going to find concerns, questions, and probably some pushback. Maybe these comments are valid, or maybe they’re just driven by emotion. If it’s the latter, then sometimes people just need to be heard. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’ll be able to build trust just by listening and empathizing with where they are coming from.

Understand That Not Everyone Sees Marketing The Same Way

Marketing is such a broad discipline. Marketers and non-marketers alike can have widely different views on what marketing’s role is and how it should be executed. So sometimes you have to get clarity on this before you move forward. If your team doesn’t align on this, then you’ll have systemic issues that will continually get in the way!

Great Marketing Isn’t About You

Whether you’re leading a marketing team or contributing to one, being successful and avoiding failures in marketing over the long term means putting your ego aside.

Yes, pushing some initiatives forward on your own can be gratifying in the near term.

But more often than not, if you exclude your team from providing input and fail to get their support, you’re only hurting your odds of success.

Share this:

Subscribe to Flag & Frontier

Get the newsletter that will help you become a better category designer.​

Category Design Office Hours

Join John Rougeux, Kevin Maney (Play Bigger co-author), and Mike Damphousse for a free 30-min category design strategy call.

Get the Category Design Guide

The Newcomer's Guide to Category Design

Want to get started with category design? Get 44 pages of advice from 30+ practitioners.

About the Author

John Rougeux

John Rougeux is a Partner at Category Design Advisors. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Recent Posts


Get the newsletter that will help you become a better category designer.

About the Author


John Rougeux is VP Marketing Strategy at BombBomb. Connect with John on LinkedIn.

Recent Posts