Customer Experience News & Trends

How a marketing disaster led to success

Just about everyone with a smattering of business knowledge knows the story of Ford Motor Company’s biggest failure: the Edsel. But fewer people know how the Edsel fiasco led to one of the carmaker’s biggest successes.The lesson: Learning from your mistakes doesn’t mean vowing to never do that again. It means taking the information from the mistake and using it as the groundwork for success. Here’s how Ford learned and applied that valuable lesson:

Before recommending that the company build Edsel, Ford’s marketers broke the U.S. population into income groups and decided there was a clump of people out there who could afford to, and therefore would, buy an Edsel. When sales of the big sedan tanked, the marketers went back and took a second look at their data and asked themselves:
• Was our original data accurate?
• If it was accurate, did we somehow misread what it was telling us?
• What’s the next step to success?

What they learned
Here’s what they learned: People in various income groups saw themselves in terms of “lifestyles,” not income or what they could afford. This time, anyway, it wasn’t about the money. And the people in the group that had been the Edsel’s target market saw themselves as fast-moving, wind-in-their-hair types. Results: Using what was learned, Ford went on to build what at that time was the country’s best selling car – the Mustang.

Learning from a fiasco
If you’ve ever caused a fiasco with a customer, you’d probably like to erase the scene from your memory. But don’t – at least not until you’ve made an effort to salvage something from it. Look at it this way: One of the most valuable traits you can possess is good judgment. But how do you learn good judgment? From experience. And how do you gain experience? By making judgments that sometimes don’t pan out as you expected.

When you make a mistake, admit it
Making a mistake that results in failure is actually a means of improving your skills – provided you take the time to learn from the experience. Don’t try to cover it up with excuses. The customer knows what’s going on and the experience will cast doubt on your credibility as a company or as a salesperson.
Once you’ve admitted the mistake, start talking about solving the problem. Then the customer often moves to your side of the desk and begins working with you.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.