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“Mistakes make me feel like a clown”

Nobody ever wants to make a mistake. From the time we are children, we get corrected. We are told how to do better. For many of us, the feelings that come along with the mistakes are the worst part—we’d do anything to avoid feeling them. But the only way to avoid those feelings completely, we tell ourselves, is to avoid mistakes. The way that plays out in real life is to avoid risks, chances, experiments, and everything we actually need to do to succeed at Internet marketing. What can you do when mistakes make you feel like a clown?


The first thing to do is to realize that this is not rational. It makes no sense for you to avoid all risk-taking to prevent mistakes. You know that you are preventing success when you do this. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to stop.
The fear of making a mistake, the abject terror that you might feel at the consequences (“I might lose my job” or “I will be a laughingstock”), and the depression that can follow can provoke even more anxiety the next time. Because we all make mistakes no matter what lengths we go to attempting to prevent them. And each one can sometimes feel worse than the last. The thought of making a mistake can fill some people with dread.
But even if your reactions are less extreme, you might still be engaging in avoidance behavior. You might be playing it safe.
If you are, you need to realize that the Internet is making “playing it safe” a very dangerous game. If you are playing it safe, while your competitors are beginning to experiment, then you are losing ground to them every day. Because you are standing still while they improve. And that is the biggest mistake of all.
So, when I say “do it wrong quickly,” does a cold shudder run through your body? Do you tense up just thinking about being responsible for a mistake? If so, you need to change your self-talk—that little voice inside that speaks to you all day. That voice is telling you about all the scary and awful things that will happen when you are wrong.
Instead, you need a new song playing in your head. I say, if mistakes make you feel like a clown, then it’s time to cue the calliope music. Stop making every decision life and death, and start looking at every marketing maneuver as part of a negotiation with your customer. You try something and the customer might respond favorably—or not. Then you try again.
By making lots of little “mistakes” you eventually find the winning formula. You just need to get past that voice in your head that triggers those nasty feelings we all want to avoid. Then you’ll be in your way to doing it wrong quickly.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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