Most of us are not taught, either by our educational system or society around us, to learn how to fail. Instead, we’re taught to avoid failure at all costs. The problem is, in business you have to be willing to fail and make mistakes — many of them — in order to be successful. It’s one of the only ways to figure out what works and what doesn’t so you keep making progress.

I have tried and failed so many times that I don’t even notice anymore, and this has become a strange sort of advantage for me. It keeps me always moving forward. Trying and failing is how we’ve found our stride at Ontraport. Once we started learning what really worked and what our customers really needed, we built it for them, and that’s when things started going well for us. But it took time and lots of experimenting to get there. If more business owners could approach business with a scientific mindset — willing to experiment with new things and to view mistakes not as setbacks but simply as evidence of what doesn’t work— I think we’d have a whole lot more successful businesses out there.

In business, you must persist in the face of failure. In order to do this, you need all of your information and all your data in one place so that you can see the results of your efforts and your testing immediately and accurately. This is the way to test and iterate quickly. And this is exactly what Ontraport was built for.

Simply put: You need to try smart ideas fast, and Ontraport equips you to do that. We give you the tools you need to run your business and analyze what’s happening in it and the tools you need to easily make changes to improve it. The ability to do this is at the core of marketing, and it’s what entrepreneurship is all about — trial and error, experimentation, failing and fixing. It’s the one skill that I believe ultimately matters more than anything else in terms of building a business.

If you can try new business strategies quickly, you will find solutions. You will figure out what your true problems are, which puts you on the road to finding the right solutions to those problems. Lots of successful businesses have been started by people who didn’t know what they were doing, and the only path to success was experimentation. They saw what worked and did more of that; they saw what didn’t work and stopped doing it. You have to get good at this process and persevere through the inevitable failures. This is the game. This is what entrepreneurship is.

Determine what works

In order to test and try new ideas, you need to be able to answer these two questions:

1) What smart ideas should I try?
2) How do I get good at trying ideas fast?

There are millions of ideas out there about which smart ideas you should focus on to be successful — but the reality is, you don’t have time to try them all. The more quickly you’re able to hone in on the best ideas for your particular business and weed out the rest, the less time and money you’ll waste trying to refine things that won’t move you forward.

The challenge is that it’s so easy to focus on the wrong problems because there are different people telling you what you need to be focused on to be successful. Everyone wants to tell you about the one thing that worked for them — and most of those people are trying to sell you something, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for businesses.

The most important thing for your business is not going to be the most important thing for the next guy. What we need is a tool that can help us determine the most critical thing we need to work on in our particular business. The tool we use for figuring out which ideas we should try is the Customer Lifecycle. We use it as a lens through which to view the machine that is our business.

Focus on the customer lifecycle

You’ve probably heard of the customer lifecycle, but maybe you haven’t thought about it as a tool that you can use to determine where to focus your energy in your business. The customer lifecycle consists of five stages (Attract, Convert, Fulfill, Delight, Refer), and the idea is that you build systems in each one of these stages to move people through them.

The point of using the customer lifecycle like this is to figure out what your problem actually is (rather than just guessing at it) so you know where to invest your resources. Once you can see which stage of the lifecycle where you’re underperforming (i.e. where your leads and customers get stuck and don’t move beyond), you can identify your weak spots and come up with ways to improve. It might be your marketing; it might be your fulfillment; it might be your management. It might be that your salespeople can’t talk their way out of a bag. Your goal is to figure it out. There are always going to be problems. Your job as an entrepreneur is to identify and solve them.

Unless you view your business through this lens, it’s easy to lose sight of your end goal. We went through this process early on at Ontraport. For a long time, we were just sort of ignoring our weaknesses. And because we did that for years, our customer lifecycle ended up being really strong in the fulfill stage because we had an amazing product, but our attract and convert stages were weak because we weren’t putting enough effort into marketing and telling people about what we’d built for them.

One Size Fits One

One of the most critical aspects of being able to test ideas quickly is to make sure that the things you’re testing with your audience and customers are relevant to them. This may sound like a given, but you’d be surprised how many people are marketing to an empty room.

If you are not relevant to your potential customer, you will be ignored. This means that it makes no sense to spend money advertising to people who are not at all interested in what you are selling. No matter how good your ideas are, if the content or product is irrelevant to the audience, it’s not going to work.

The demand for everyone’s attention is skyrocketing. Every distraction in the world is a click away, and the cost of capturing and keeping people’s attention is getting higher and higher. It’s a shame for most marketers; they spend money on ad after ad, but their target customer won’t actually see the ads unless they are actually interested or actively looking for a solution.

How exactly do you stay relevant?

The hardest part about marketing is figuring out who’s who and what each person is interested in. We’ve found that there are a few ways that you can segment your market that will allow you to send more relevant messaging. Those ways are: by what their specific problem is, by what their main objections are, and by where they are in the buying process. You can get this information in one of two ways: ask them (on the phone, in person, or they can fill out a form) or look at their data (look at things like page visits, email opens, link clicks, ad clicks and purchase history).

Once you have your clients and leads segmented accurately, you can deliver better, more relevant experiences to the right person at the right time. It’s no coincidence that Ontraport automatically collects the data listed above for you. We learned that this is the information you need in order to deliver relevant experiences to your audience, and we spent the last decade building the tools to enable you to do that.

How to Try Smart Ideas Fast

Ontraport is not a glorified email system. What we built is a platform that has all the tools you need to generate and collect the information that you use to figure out who is interested in what so that you can segment your audience and then turn around and deliver relevant experiences to that audience — and do so quickly. This is why we built these features — this is why we built Ontraport.

Trying smart ideas quickly is rooted in an ability to access your data — all of it — so you can be smart about what to do next. Doing so “fast” is about the speed of implementation. If you can only try one idea per month because you’re not set up to experiment quickly, it will take years to figure out what works. Using Ontraport, you can try smart ideas fast to figure out what works and what doesn’t without wasting tons of time and money.

With Ontraport, you have all of the data you need to make data-driven decisions in your business, and it’s all in one place — in fact, in the same place where you can also make the necessary adjustments to make improvements. You want to be sure that you’re taking full advantage of Ontraport’s abilities to get the most value from the platform.

When you use your data analysis (in Ontraport, this means using features such as our marketing analytics and tracking tools) to experiment with your products and your marketing quickly and regularly, you learn over time what sticks. When you have all your data and all your tools in one place, you can quickly find out what works and what doesn’t, and who is interested in what and deliver that to them.

If you are an Ontraport user, you already have all the tools you need in order to test and iterate quickly, allowing you to make data-driven decisions. You have the ability to make beautiful landing pages and lead magnets, to make forms to capture customer information and a robust CRM to store and organize that information. You have Campaign Builder to create tailored campaigns to every customer and email marketing to deliver your messages and promotions. You have membership sites to scale your content and reach more people. You have marketing tracking and analytics to help determine which aspects of your marketing and your business are performing best. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dive in

Try smart ideas fast. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Be a scientist. Focus on the right problems by using the customer lifecycle. Keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t work. Scale it up.

The faster you move, the quicker you’ll get here and the more likely you are to actually overcome these challenges. Follow this process and eventually, you will have built a system that’s designed to deliver that extraordinary experience: You’ll be able to delight your customers and deliver your value to the largest audience possible. You’ll have built something of real, lasting value for yourselves, for your communities, for your customers. That’s why we built Ontraport.

About Landon Ray
Ontraport Founder and CEO Landon Ray is a serial entrepreneur whose personal mission is to educate, motivate, and enable others to realize their goals of starting and growing their own business. At the age of 25, Ray transformed himself from a street-corner flower vendor into one of the nation’s top securities day traders in only twelve months. After beating the odds on Wall Street and again during the great recession, Ray has taken his research and personal experience and created Ontraport, a small business automation platform and related family of services, which reflect his passion for educating and supporting entrepreneurs.