Why We Need To Fail In Order To Move Forward

By Matt Umbro | @Matt_Umbro | Senior Account Manager, Community

I usually don’t gain insight or motivation from quotes, but one has stuck with me over the years, which has helped to put my career into perspective. In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne has seemingly been defeated, but his butler, Alfred, gives Bruce the motivation he needs to continue. Alfred says, “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”


I’m a firm believer that you must make mistakes in order to learn and progress in your career. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t aggressive enough with your account management and are too willing to go with the flow. You also don’t have a strong desire to gain knowledge and become a better digital marketer. To this end, I don’t believe in regrets as your mistakes shape who you are today. Failing is necessary so you can learn from your mistakes and pick yourself back up.


Be Aggressive


My account management philosophy has always been to be aggressive. This aggressiveness comes in a variety of fashions, including:


  • Getting whitelisted for betas
  • Testing new ideas, such as RDSA
  • Making what I deem to be minor updates (such as bid changes and adding negative keywords) without alerting clients
  • Cutting out the middle man when requesting updates (ex: asking a developer to implement a conversion code instead of sending the request to the client contact first)


There have been cases where being too aggressive has gotten me into trouble. For example, the client didn’t see new initiatives that I deemed worthwhile in the same light. The initiatives may have contrasted against account goals or weren’t appropriate at the time.


I once created a Shopping top products campaign without alerting the client of this initiative. I figured that since we were already running Shopping campaigns, it would be beneficial to create a top performers campaign. The process I followed was to review the Analytics for top converting products and then bid higher on these items. The rationale was sound, but it turned out that many of these products had low average order values. The higher bids were actually causing a lower return. When I reviewed with the client, he confirmed what the data had shown me. We ended up keeping the campaign going, but with different, higher AOV products.


In the short term, it was a negative hit because the client had to correct my error. It was probably also a blow to the relationship as I made a decision without alerting the client.


In the long term, being aggressive helped this relationship to flourish. I was still aggressive with new ideas but made sure to alert the client before beginning. In fact, when letting the client know about new ideas I would set a deadline for him to veto or provide his thoughts. I might say, “If I don’t hear from you by Thursday I’ll go ahead and implement.”


This aggressiveness shows clients that I have a desire to improve their accounts, even if a slap on the wrist is necessary at times. It also shows clients that I’m keeping up to date on the latest news and ideas. Many clients are managing multiple online efforts so the more they trust your PPC judgment, the more time they can spend in other areas.


Going With The Flow


The opposite of aggressiveness is being too reactive. Generally, the telltale sign of a reactive account manager is when clients consistently point out account observations and new ideas. I’m not saying that account managers and clients shouldn’t collaborate together, but it can’t be one-sided. It’s not a good sign when clients are bringing more pertinent discussion and analysis to the PPC efforts than the account manager.


I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. With one lost client, I was spending too much time on reporting and not enough on strategy. I failed for two reasons. The first was for lack of results. Since I was spending so much time on reporting and not enough on account work, performance suffered. Second, I didn’t voice my concerns. I should have told the client that reporting was taking too much time. It was on me to either work with the client to find a better reporting balance or delegate the work. As account managers, we work for the client, but we also need to be confident voicing our concerns and opinions.


Another example of a lost client that taught me an important lesson happened with a lead gen account. I had been managing the account for several months, but never inquired about lead quality. I would report on how many conversions were coming through without asking if any of those leads were turning into legitimate opportunities. I was only optimizing based upon the information I saw, not what ultimately mattered most to the client.


The client ended up hiring another agency and gave me an apathetic explanation for leaving. I realized that I should have done more to follow up on those leads and vowed never again to lose a client for this reason. I understand that not all clients are going to be transparent, but it’s important to at least inquire and show that you are concerned about finding the true ROI for the PPC program.


Final Thoughts


I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve failed before. I’ve made PPC account mistakes and suffered the consequences. At the time, these failures felt like a kick in the gut and made me question if I was any good at my job. But from each instance, I’ve bounced back and learned from my mistakes. I’m sure I will fail many more times throughout the course of my career, but I know I will learn from these mistakes and be that much stronger of an account manager and digital marketer.