Win or Learn—Never Lose

Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” I consider these among a select group of words I live by. Losing is not final; it represents the opportunity to try again with more knowledge than you had last time. Thomas Edison encapsulated this thought in his famous quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The wealth of knowledge that Thomas Edison compiled on the various properties of different materials went on to not only create the light bulb but many other things as well.

How do we apply this more specifically to business and the business of being a technology services provider?

First, do not worry about getting most things right the first time. I would be corrected if I did not mention that as solution providers, there are critical things on the technical side of our jobs that we must get right the first time, like backups. However, there are plenty of things on the other side of the business that we can experiment with to drive real, positive results.

What’s your marketing plan?

One obvious area is marketing. What is your marketing plan? Is it a written plan with action items on a calendar? Are you tracking results? If your answer was no to any of the above, then you definitely have something to experiment with. Any good experiment starts with a hypothesis or a vision of the outcome you are expecting (or desire).

In this case, your outcome may be that you want to get more leads and prospects. The next thing you need is a method or process. This includes the exact steps you are going to try in order to achieve the desired outcome. Here is a sample process for posting to Facebook:

  1. Post from your business Facebook page every Monday
  2. Measure the results of each post for one week
  3. On the following Monday, boost each post with $10
  4. Measure the results of each boosted post for one week

Once you are done with the experiment, check all your results. Did you achieve the expected results? What can you do to improve the results? Here are some ideas to refine your experiment:

  1. Change the day you post
  2. Change the format of your content (text, image, video, poll)
  3. Change the style of your content (advertisement, tips and tricks, article, etc.)
  4. Change the demographics of your boosted post
  5. Change the amount of money you spend on the boosted post

Managing variations

There is a lot of variation to experiment with. Just remember to change one thing at a time so you do not confuse your results. As you find things that work best, stick with those things and change another variable in your marketing equation.

So, here’s a formula you can apply to many of your business processes:

  • Decide what to improve
  • Hypothesize an outcome
  • Define a process or methodology
  • Test the process
  • Measure the results
  • Review outcome
  • Change a single variable
  • Do it again

This gives you an easy way to start, manage, and improve most processes in your business. It does require two things you may find expensive: work and time. Defining and refining your processes is not an easy task but it will improve your business practices in the long term, and will pay dividends, especially as you grow and scale. Documented processes are easier to transfer to new employees as you expand.

Remember that failure is rarely fatal and most often is an opportunity to learn. If you have an intentional process to measure everything you do and funnel negative results into changes, you will turn all those learning opportunities into growth and improvement.

For more sales and marketing tips for your MSP business, download our free ebook:  The Big Book of Sales and Marketing for MSPs

Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP

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