3 Direct Marketing Mistakes – Elliott Spitzer 101

Everyone makes mistakes in business, but it’s not how you screw up that matters, it’s how you fix your problems. Here’s a great example of what I mean:

In addition to being one of the costliest and most damaging political falls from grace in the history of New York politics, the news about Elliott Spitzer contains tons of marketing and business lessons as well, so let’s take a look at a few of them:

One. Spitzer’s entire platform was built on “ethics.” He chased down lots of bad guys, especially some big financial firms most people would have been afraid of challenging. And in reality, he actually did a lot of good work.

In fact, he was hated on Wall Street for this. I read an article about Spitzer, and one broker, when he heard the news about Spitzer, said, “Yes, there is a God.”

Most successful people have enemies however, so this isn’t a surprise.

What is a surprise is that Spitzer got caught with his proverbial pants down. Literally.

And see, the problem is, if your entire persona is built on one thing, and your get caught in the very same cookie jar you’ve been responsible for raiding, there is no other outcome to be expected other than failure — at least, temporarily. The good news is, America is a very forgiving place (think Marv Albert, Michael Milliken) and Spitzer is very likely to be back at some point in time, but perhaps not as a politician.

Lesson: If you’re going to be a staunch defender of anything, the fastest way to get thrown off the top of the mountain is by not drinking your own kool-aid. After all, no one’s bullet-proof. (Remember reverend Jim Baker?)

Two. When confronted with an obstacle, take swift action — this is usually the ONLY way you’ll have some input on the outcome. I believe had Spitzer waited to see what would happen, he would have suffered the same political fate, but there would have been a number of other severe legal misfortunes to reckon with as well. This would have magnified his situation and compromised his family even further.

Lesson: Being decisive (making decisions) and taking fast action have been pillars of success since business was invented. These specific traits were pointed out by Napoleon Hill in “Think And Grow Rich,” and they are as true today as they were back then.

Three. Admit your mistakes. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve seen Spitzer take specific ownership of what he’s done. He’s said somewhat evasive things like, “I’ve got to get my personal life in order,” but he never came out and stated that he’s been sleeping with a variety of women over the years. Of course, this isn’t exactly a slice of humble pie that’s easy to digest, but there again, that’s why he’s in trouble.

The truth is, in any relationship — whether it’s with your spouse, or with your customers — when you’ve done something wrong… the fastest way the other person will get over it, is by taking full ownership of your actions. And then, you put some sort of transparent checks and balances into your business systems (which you should let your customers know about), to make sure they won’t happen again.

Lesson: Full disclosure and being completely transparent in your dealings, is the fastest way to build trust. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a new relationship, or if you’ve messed up an existing one. No one’s perfect (Lord knows I’m not), but that’s not a problem — no one’s looking for you to be perfect. They’re just looking for you to be honest and open. Flaws are not the problem, they are a part of life — pretending you don’t have them, however, is a HUGE problem.

Fixing your mistakes in business is like fixing your mistakes in life: just be candid and rebuild, one step at a time.

Now go sell something, Craig Garber