Falling Short Of Your Best

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It sucks when you don’t do your best.

I am very tough on the work that I put out into the world. Maybe too tough. I was reflecting the other day on some new client pitches that have been lost… the ones that didn’t go our way. It’s frustrating. That feeling is only exasperated by the media. Running an agency is a funny thing. While the new business process is often so confidential that you don’t even know who you are pitching against, once a digital marketing agency is chosen, it’s pretty easy to see the work as it lives and breathes in the market place (you also get agencies doing a lot of PR around the work, so that helps too). When that happens, it’s hard not to think about how your work might have impacted the client had things gone another way. Losing those kinds of pitches doesn’t bother me the way that it used to. Don’t get me wrong, they still bother me (I hate losing), but my mindset has changed. I’m often reminded of this shift in belief when I think about one of my three business partners (it’s our CEO at Twist Image, and his name is Mark Goodman). Prior to Twist Image, Mark ran a very successful multi-office marketing agency that was also a part of a large advertising network. When he decided to join Twist Image, he saw how hard I would take new businesses losses. He used to always tell me the same thing: it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you keep on going. The most successful marketers and agencies are the ones that stuck it out. Yes, you have to win. Yes, you have to keep the lights on. Yes, you have to always strive to grow the business. No, you won’t always win.

There was something else.

While I was accepting that you can’t, in fact, "win ’em all," there was still something else bothering me. I felt that we could have done better. That we weren’t presenting our best. Ugh, "Our best." How does one always be their best? That was the frustration. It’s fine to lose when you’ve done you’re best. Anything else isn’t acceptable. In business – especially in the pitch – you want to be "in the zone" you want to have lined up all of the ducks, so at that precise moment you are experiencing what professionals athletes would define as peak performance. All of that practice, hard work, dieting and attention leads you to this one, exact, moment.

Let put an end to peak performance too. 

I spent years training and then being a coach for Tony Blauer. He’s also a close friend who has taught me more about business, psychology and how to get things done than anyone else. Tony doesn’t believe in peak performance. This may be strange for a coach, but Tony’s specialty is close quarter combatives. Whether he’s training Federal Air Marshalls, Navy SEALs or a women’s self defense course. Tony believes that if you get jumped in an alley, praying for a peak performance moment is probably not an efficient use of your time. Rather, Tony believes that we should all train on the basis of performance enhancement. You just have to be better than you were yesterday. Striving for that, rather than hoping that everything will come together in one moment, will enable you (and me) to evolve in a more healthy and realistic way.

Why am I telling you this?

I often feel like am falling short of my best. It can be a blog post, a client presentation, a public speech or anything else. I beat myself up. Pretty hard. I have to focus and remember that it’s not about perfection (or peak performance) that it’s about the journey (performance enhancement). I’m telling you this, because every brand is so excited about content and marketing and social media. Creating relevant content that consumers like and want to connect to is challenging. Creating relevant content that consumers like and want to connect with on an ongoing basis is nearly impossible. Too many brands are looking for that peak performance moment. That viral video. That wildly popular hashtag. Whatever. True success with content is much more about performance enhancement. It’s about inching it forward with every piece that is produced. It’s about getting more people to care about the brand on an ongoing basis.

This is not about quality or quantity.

One could argue that for content to work, in this day and age, that it requires a delicate balance of both quality and quantity. As popular as some brand’s viral video was last week, there’s something newer this week (and we’ve already forgotten about then). Name the top five viral videos from a brand that really rocked your world. Now, ask yourself this: what has the brand done for you (and the other consumers) lately? How soon we forget. The real challenge with great content, working with a performance enhancement attitude and trying to keep consumers interested is trust. Remember trust? We talked a lot about the merits of trust when social media first took hold. It was core to the book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and it’s probably more valuable today than it ever has been. Don’t believe me? Don’t think consumers need that trust? Trust in Sponsored Content Runs Low. That’s the headline from a Marketing Charts article last week.

"Some 54% of internet users aged 18-65 say they generally don’t trust sponsored content, with most of the remainder only trusting such content if they trust the publication it runs on (19%) or they already trust the brand (23%). That’s according to survey results from Contently, which also found that two-thirds of respondents have at some point felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video they read was sponsored by a brand." 

Trust is not a given.

Whether you’re sponsoring content in a space that is trusted, or whether you are trying to build up your own audience. Not only is trust not a given, even when consumers trust a brand, it doesn’t take much for them to lose that trust. What’s the lesson? You’re going to fall short of your best work (often), you’re going to slog through some tough mud to get anyone to care, and it’s going to take even more to get them to keep caring. Don’t get down when you fall short of your best work. The more you keep at it. The more you try (authentically and with care), the more consumers will trust, engage and encourage you to keep at.

If that’s not true brand loyalty, I don’t know what is.  

P.S. – I may have written this one more for me than you… I apologize.