Failed marketing ideas that were never used

Brainstorm all your ideas

Brainstorm all your ideas

This week, I remembered something we brainstormed at PF about five years ago.

Something that never got off the ground. An idea that seemed incredibly brilliant at the time, but didn’t happen.

Looking back at it now I’m so grateful we didn’t go this route. (I admit this has been responsible for a LOT of laughter as I’ve shared it with others this week. I’ve even had a few laughs as I’m writing and sketching this note.)

This all came to pass about five years ago. Long before the PF rebrand and the creative agency as it is now. We were having a team meeting and brainstorming ideas around the way we help accountants.

We didn’t have the marketing map we have today, and looking back I can see we didn’t have the clarity of structure around what we offer and why.

We did still have a progression of what we offered accountants. Content to build awareness, free things, paid courses & programmes, monthly retainers, one-off projects.

And as we looked at the variety of what was available to accountants, and thought about the variety of stages accountants were at when it came to marketing, we had a brilliant idea.

We would give names to the ‘routes’ accountants could take to do marketing.

Some accountants want to move fast, we had learned. They knew the value of marketing, they’d learned a bit about it, they were ready to invest big in terms of time and money.

Other accountants weren’t ready yet. They’d been burned before, or hadn’t tried marketing at all, or had no clue where to start, or they were still building their marketing budget.

We wanted to reflect these various options. We sat round a table, with a flip chart and a whiteboard, and somehow we thought of using animals to reflect the various stages, or speeds of marketing.

You could go really fast – something like a cheetah, or a hare.

You could go slower – a turtle, a snail.

I know. Please, believe me…I know. Looking at it now I’m thinking….

…a snail????

Who in the wide world wants to be a snail? Who’s going to look at a series of marketing packages and go, “Ah, yes, excellent. A snail. THAT’S the direction for me. I’d like to go so slowly that my progress can’t be seen, and I’d like to leave a trail of slime as I do it.”

The flip side – the faster option – feels just as ridiculous.

We went far beyond just cheetah. A cheetah wasn’t fast enough for us. We wanted fire, and flame, and swooping through the air bringing fear to all the other accountants who were simply hopping along on the ground as a frog.


The options were, in order from slow to fast:

  • Snail
  • Turtle
  • Frog
  • Rabbit
  • Cheetah
  • Dragon

I do remember some laughter at the time. I’m pretty sure one of the team members pointed out that being a ‘turtle’ might not seem too appealing to an accountant considering marketing, and might make them feel like their results would be as slow as the related animal.

Our intentions were good. We knew not all accountants are alike, and not every “target client” acts in the same way. There are different options for different people.

But I see now why we never did anything with it. Never went through with it.

First, it wasn’t on brand. At that time the old PF logo was blue and grey and slightly formal and a little boring, to be honest. But even with those dull visuals, we still had a sense of the “brand” of the company, which was that we wanted to inspire accountants. To help them feel confidence that they were hiring an agency with authority, expertise, experience.

Second, it wouldn’t have been appealing to our target audience. This approach gives a real patronising feeling to someone considering hiring a marketing agency – as if no one would want to be anything less than a cheetah or a dragon, and you’re cheap or foolish to go with Turtle (much less Snail).

And finally, it’s because “packages” don’t work. No one is completely Snail, or completely Dragon. Some firms we work with are enthusiastic, ambitious, and ready to invest in a big way: but it takes them a while to come to the decision. Other firms are small, startup, with very little of a marketing budget at first: and yet they discover they’re ready to invest in a big way on their brand, or in learning about marketing.

It’s not about forcing people to decide how fast or slow they want to go, and trying to squeeze them into something that works.

Instead, it’s about getting to know the firm and the humans behind it. The pain they feel, the emotional upheaval that can come when you’re considering marketing, the frustration at having done nothing or the wrong thing or wasted money in the past. That’s what we have to tap into. That’s the kind of conversation we have to have.

Then we can help direct them to what will deliver the very best kind of results.

We do have a visual structure now. It’s called the Marketing Map. It visually represents the journey most firms take, in the order they take it.

It’s been created based on our experience of the direction most firms go when they get the very best kind of clients – and it helps other accountants see how they can go the most helpful route possible. It’s the core of every conversation with an accountant, talking through why it matters that you go in that order, why you might miss out on amazing results if you don’t, and why the services we’ve created are based on it.

But there are no animal names.

I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

Got any failed-marketing-idea stories?? Do share them!! Let’s have a laugh together!

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I’m not actually bummed about the grey weather we’re having. Here’s why.

I went for a walk in the MORNING today, which felt like i’m winning at life. 🏆 

Lately I’ve been fitting in my daily walk at 9 or 10pm after a long day of meetings. I’m super grateful for the way it’s still light so late at night, but a walk-at-end-of-day doesn’t have the same motivational kick as the walk-at-the-start. 🌑 

So that one little thing I did puts me at champion status, and affects my entire mindset for the day. 💪 

There are a lot of contributing factors to this morning’s walk, but the top one was that it was grey, cool, and windy...which is far more motivational to me than bright sunshine. 🌬 

I know, it’s weird.

The rest of britain is like UGH WHAT A SHIT SUMMER and i’m here going um...i really, really love the rain. And clouds. And cool breezes. And grey skies. ☔ 

I’ll join in the conversation and be like yea, yea, it really does suck...but that’s just to start conversation and show British solidarity. Deep down I don’t think it does suck. 👀 

I do like sunshine, but after spending 25 years of my life in Arizona, I don’t love or crave the heat. ☀ 

Anything over about 20 degrees and i start getting a bit antsy...and my limit is “23 with a breeze”. 😎 

If it’s higher than that I’ll literally hide inside, not rush out to sit in a beer garden or at the beach. I really don’t enjoy heat at all. 

So thanks grey skies and wind, you helped a lot today. 💪 

Just me? Everyone else dreaming of 30+ degrees and sunshine?? It’s okay if you are...i just...don’t get it. 🤣 

#justkeepgoing #walkoftheday #goodmorning #wegotthis #onestepatatime #motivation
Cancelling things is a superhero skill.

Not all the time, of course: we want to be trustworthy.

And the sheer stubbornness of being a business owner is good.

I can do it. I will do it. No matter what! I can make. this. work.

A product, an event, a new hire, a business.

So we keep pushing. Show up, send the emails, make the phone call, record the videos. More training for the new hire, more new hires. Make sure we never let anyone down.

Of course, things happen. We get sick, something happens to a family member, or there’s an emergency and we need to shift things around.

But cancelling things can be a superhero skill: when you do it well, knowing why it’s time to cut the cord and communicating it well.

Here’s some of what I consider when I’m trying to decide if it’s time to dig in, or stop & go another direction:

1. Does anyone even know about it?
Sometimes it’s been a big part of your business life and used a lot of brainpower, but no one outwith you and your team know it was meant to happen.

2. What’s the cost of not doing this now?
The full cost, more than financial, including:
- Motivational cost for you, team, clients
- Decreased trust for clients
- Loss of strategic partnership connection

3. Could you replace it with something else?
Another day, an online option, a template instead of custom build? Sometimes a replacement isn’t a cancellation at all. You’re doing it, but in a less costly way.

4. Do I have the energy and appetite to keep going?
I can do it with an automaton approach…but given the other things on my plate, where do I want my energy to go? How much do I have to give? Will it renew energy, or drain it?

I ended up cancelling a small event recently, & whilst I was disappointed, it was the right decision for these reasons.

It can feel embarrassing...but cancelling something can be a superpower, if it’s done well & communicated clearly and honestly. And when it’s more the exception than the rule.

Anything you are considering stopping? What impact might that have?

✨This is from this week’s Creative Headspace note. They go out every Friday - except for the rare occasions I skip a week for my own sanity. 😄 Sign up in bio!💌