Gut Check: How to Bounce Back After Losing $300k in a Quarter

“These are for you all,” a prospective client purred while pulling out their latest product line from a branded tote bag. I saw my team’s eyes light up at the new product and I couldn’t blame them — it was fly.

I cracked a joke about it being too early to spoil us and we settled in. Our team had spent weeks brainstorming, iterating and finalizing our ideas for this pitch and it was time well spent: this was a big fish. Our ideas covered innovative content campaigns and creative ways for the brand to extend themselves offline to meet their target demographic. We were confident in our ideas and I took the lead into the sell.

A few weeks later, we got the much awaited call from the client: they loved the pitch and wanted to talk budget and a start date. Perfect.

We reviewed the next steps and then sent over a contract for them to sign off on.

A few days passed. Silence. A week. Silence. Two weeks later, we finally heard back: the company was going through internal changes and would get back to us with a starting date. Right.

Ultimately, that client never signed a contract. Believe it or not, it happened to 3 other prospective clients around the same time, all of the same caliber. We went from estimating around $300k in additional billings for the past quarter to zero. Instead of zeroes we were looking at zero.

It wasn’t that our pricing was outrageous or there was some crazy clause in the contract. It was just how this game goes.

I take pride in being a resilient CEO and leader, but how are you supposed to respond after an L like this? How do you emit confidence despite coming up short? How can you continue to inspire the best effort from your team?

These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with for the past few months, as we climb out of the wreckage that was 2018. If you’re in marketing, especially digital or growth, this year has probably been a bloodbath for you. Between Russian hackers, Facebook’s algorithm changes and overall paid media fatigue, CPMs are up, conversions are down and agency-client relationships are on the fritz.

After analyzing our processes and pitches, I realized that our instincts had generally been right and the ideas had been strong. There wasn’t any glaring issues in our approach that I, or my partners, could find. If anything, we were slow to pivot to the changing market conditions but made up for it as soon as we realized our mistakes. As crazy it sounds, a lot of success in this world is dependent on timing and we just weren’t on the right side of it. This helped me reconcile that our shortcomings weren’t all because of our performance or ability, but rather an unfortunate combination of things outside our control.

As I audit my agency’s performance this year, we did a lot of things right despite the mixed results. As we move into 2019, here are the ways I believe we can continue to grow and do dope work:

  1. Build experience-driven campaigns that exist on top of a digital rollout. This means more pop-ups, retail activations and attention-grabbing moments. Take a look at what we did with Anik Khan: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn1qwTTDZqe/
  2. Prioritize strategy before execution for clients. Remember, algorithms can’t automate creativity and strategic thinking..yet. How can you get companies to think differently based on their goals? That’s where the goldmine exists.
  3. Over-index on culture being a brand’s biggest advantage. If you know me, you know I’m big on this. As long as you’re being genuine and self-aware, you can never go wrong building a culture-first approach into your strategy. Focus on your user community and the characteristics that make them special.

As for me, my focus has been on keeping the team motivated and hungry despite a few losses. The thing about bouncing back is there’s rarely any other option. You either stop the bleeding and get back up, or you die. And I’m not ready to die just yet.

Given my macro perspective on life and business, I’m confident that we’ve studied our mistakes and are learning from them to get better. Luckily, everyone around me is up for the same challenge.

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Have questions about entrepreneurship, investing, tech, music, or anything in between? Get in touch with me at @anihustles.

The oldest son of an immigrant. | CEO @ Green Room Creative. Investor, hustler, speaker. Connect: @anihustles