Success Comes From a Series of Failures

There’s one question I keep getting asked over and over again.

“How did you land a job at KISSmetrics?”

And here’s the standard answer I tend to give people.

The co-founders of KISSmetrics, Hiten Shah and Neil Patel, tend to be a bit famous in startup circles and I had been following them for awhile.

So one day in March, Hiten randomly tweets that they’re looking for some help on marketing with KISSmetrics. And he told people to find his email and tell him why they would be a good fit if interested.

I jumped at the chance.

So I grabbed Hiten’s email address from his blog and fired off an email.

At this point, I didn’t expect to hear back.

A few days later, he put me in touch with Neil. Then we did a quick phone interview and I started to work on projects for them. Three months after that, I joined the company full-time.

This SOUNDS like a strike of random luck. Out of nowhere, I caught a lucky break that brought my career to an entirely new level.

And it was. But this is only one step of a much longer journey.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

The First of Many Rejections

In a former life, I was seriously entertaining going into a medical profession. You can work anywhere, create odd schedules (like batching your shifts into 3-4 days or working nights), and the the pay isn’t half bad. At the time, I was making $16/hour and was planning on taking an entry-level job at $8/hour. I had already dropped $3000 on a class to get my EMT and figured the pay cut was worth the price of starting a new career.

Get this: I accidentally networked my way to the president of a local ambulance company and landed an interview. Turns out my aunt knew him.

Even with a 50% pay cut and networking my way to the president of the company, I still got rejected.

Then I tried volunteering my time at a local hospital to get some experience. But there was a waiting list for volunteer EMTs. I couldn’t even give my time away. Looks like this medical thing isn’t going to work out after all.

Searching for a Marketing Position (And Failing)

After running my own foreign policy blog for awhile, I had some experience with online marketing. I began to realize that the skill set I was developing was actually way more valuable than the blog itself. So I started to look for positions in marketing.

The first startup I went after was Palantir. They help government agencies understand massive amounts of data to find financial fraud or terrorists. Got an interview for an event marketer position and nearly died from nervousness. But I had absolutely zero experience running events. While I’m sure I would have gotten through the learning curved inside of 3 months and made a major impact to their business, they made the right choice by rejecting me.

Then I applied to be a sales rep of DPS Skis (they make some of the best skis on the market). I even managed to trade emails with the hiring manager but it never went anywhere.

There was that Denver-based SEO agency that was looking for an SEO writer (someone who churns out poorly written content as fast as possible to rank in Google). At least they sent me an email telling me that they weren’t interested.

I also received a rejection from one of the most well-known content farms out there: Demand Media. This is about as low as you can go when it comes to content marketing. In all fairness, my writing was still WAY too academic when I applied.

And there was a online marketing agency in Denver that had an open position for a PPC marketer. I probably sent 3-4 emails to different people at their office, never got a single response (not even for an informational interview).

A chocolate startup in Boulder had an open position for a marketer, couldn’t even get a reply.

Some entrepreneurs from San Francisco were starting a new business in the office supplies market and wanted someone to lead it. I never heard back.

Harvest was also looking for an acquisition marketer. I even got on good terms with one of the guys on their marketing team but was never able to get in touch with the hiring manager.

I applied to be Laura Roder’s assistant, never heard back.

Also applied to help Andrew Warner with Mixergy, never got a response.

One of the best web agencies out there was looking for someone to help organize their client work: Digital Telepathy. Got an interview with the president. He even said that my answer to one of his questions was the best he had ever heard. Then I got turned down.

Tucker Max was looking for a research assistant and I made it to the second round of the application process (hundreds of people applied). Then I failed to make it to the third round.

Applied as a copywriter at AppSumo and perked the interest of Noah Kagen, then I was rejected.

I racked up all of these failures inside of a year and a half. That’s 15 in total.

Lucky Breaks Come to Those Who Hustle

So KISSmetrics was my 16th try to land a gig. This wasn’t resume blasting either, I networked my way into companies, spent hours crafting resumes and cover letters for each position, and went after openings I thought were a perfect fit.

I had also been pitching businesses for freelance work and had worked with a couple dozen clients at this point.

Remember that rejection I got from Palantir? I was devastated. It sounded like the opportunity I had I always been looking for.

The rejection from Digital Telepathy also did me in. As soon as I got that email, I drove to Target, bought a video game (Deus Ex: Human Revolution), and didn’t do a single productive thing for like a week. I drowned my sorrows in Arrogant Bastard, Netflix, and video games.

By the time Hiten tweeted about needing some help, I had gotten pretty jaded about the whole “job hunt.” The first thing I thought was “there’s no way he’s going to reply to my email.”

But I didn’t let myself stop hustling. Even though I didn’t expect this opportunity to be any different that the previous 15, I still stepped into the ring.

And this time, everything finally clicked.

Did I reach a whole new level with a single email? Yes. Had I been hustling for the last year and chased plenty of other opportunities that could have been just as amazing? Absolutely.

When I had that first interview with Neil, I was ready. I had notes of improvements I would make to KISSmetrics, had already helped several companies get off the ground, and had a wealth of experience to draw on.

I may have gotten lucky but I was going to get lucky sooner or later. Even if it hadn’t of been KISSmetrics, it would have been some other awesome company.

Marketing Success Also Comes From a Series of Failures

A long string of failures produced an amazing success for me.

And marketing works EXACTLY the same way. Most campaigns? Complete failures. The majority of your blog posts, tweets, AdWords ads, and emails? Nothing changes.

But every once in awhile… you finally hit it.

Instead of staying up all night wondering where you’re going to find customers, you’re now losing sleep wondering whether or not your business can serve them all.

I see this ALL the time when running A/B tests. If you try to run a bunch of A/B tests to increase your conversion rates, you’ll endure this same series of failures. Most A/B tests don’t move the needle at all. Either the test results don’t produce a meaningful result or your new idea doesn’t beat the original. This is the norm.

And then you slap an A/B test together at the last minute, thinking the test won’t produce a significant difference, and BAM. Now you’re acquiring 5-10% more customers every month from a small tweak to your home page.

So keep hustling and keep learning. Don’t get jaded.

You never know when a single email will change your life and your business.

I’ll show you how to build an unstoppable growth machine. Don’t miss any of my new essays.

I don\’t share emails. Ever. And your trust means a great deal to me.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Nuno January 17, 2013, 7:11 am

    I think they were lucky to get you, Lars!! Congrats to everyone, and a happy 2013 and beyond!

  • Ross January 30, 2013, 12:55 pm

    Lars this is truly an inspirational story. And I am happy to hear this from someone who wasn’t an ivy league school drop out. Your approach to finally landing your marketing position is very similar to Ramit Sethi’s . He is constantly telling his readers that in order to land your dream job you need to think about what value you can offer to your employer/client. Get inside the hiring manager’s head to figure out what his needs and wants are, and then align your skills to those needs and wants. Check out Ramit’s blog here:

    • Lars Lofgren January 30, 2013, 4:49 pm

      Thanks Ross!

      I’m a big fan of Ramit’s and have been following his blog for several years now. His Earn 1k program got me started with freelancing.

  • Bryant Jaquez March 31, 2013, 10:52 pm

    Lars, This is the single most inspiring trial and error blog post I’ve ever read. You’ve got yourself a fan for life.

    Thanks for telling us about your failures.

  • Lenny August 16, 2013, 12:46 pm

    This is an epic post. Thanks for sharing your journey! One thing I am curious and If you are open for me to ask, I have seen in your Linkedin Profile how you been quickly escalating positions inside Kissmetrics. How you’d layout the next steps to where you want to be? That is the best question that I could come up with but I am not sure if it’s the right one, if you know what I mean…

    Thanks again

    • Lars Lofgren August 16, 2013, 5:03 pm

      Thanks Lenny!

      Honestly, I don’t really have a career plan or next steps in mind. My goal is to provide as much value as possible to those I’m working with. Then as opportunities come up, I make the most of them.

      I also got incredibly lucky and happened to join a startup that’s very interested in developing it’s talent. And since it has traction, there’s plenty of new positions that open up as we grow.

  • Steve Walsh October 3, 2013, 7:21 am

    Hey Lars,

    why don’t you come work for me??? (hahaha)

    Or would it be…I work for you????


  • Anja Skrba June 23, 2015, 10:39 am

    Never give up – I like that 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your story with us Lars, it is very inspiring.

    Kindest regards.


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