There’s something about watching epic fails that’s impossible to resist.
It’s human nature – when something goes badly wrong, it’s damn hard to look away.
Take the new Netflix documentary on the notorious Fyre Festival disaster from a couple of years ago…
It’s almost impossible to tear your eyes from the screen – especially if you know the outcome.
SPOILER ALERT! (sorta…)
I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anyone’s enjoyment of Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (I mean, the clue’s in the name) by saying that the whole thing is like watching a runaway train roll downhill…
…a runaway train piloted by some of the most arrogant, vainglorious and unlikable bro-preneurs ever to fist-bump their way onto the screen.
Of course, that makes it a lot of fun to watch. But also kinda scary too.
Especially if you’re in business, and especially-especially if you consider yourself an entrepreneur…
Because it’s well-publicised disasters like these that raise Joe Public’s already sky-high scepticism about entrepreneurs and marketers even higher.
I watched the doc, mouth agape, as the ‘organisers’ of the worst-organised luxury festival ever ploughed through millions of dollars of their own and then other people’s money, in a relentlessly wrong-headed quest to achieve the impossible.
It becomes pretty clear that this was a quest driven not to help others, but to show the world how awesome they were.
Sure, in some ways I had to admire the entrepreneurial spirit behind the desire to create an unforgettable experience for their paying customers:
Expensive, selfie-driven fun of all kinds was promised on a tropical island for an exclusive clientele of rich, preferably young and attractive, Instagram-addicted thrill-seekers…
There would be music, there would be supermodels, there would be beach parties, there would be luxury villas and private jets.
Of course, it turned out there would be none of the above…
Just a lot of ripped-off, angry people trapped on a soaking-wet campsite or locked inside an airport, posting unhappy pictures of inedible cheese sandwiches and tearfully vlogging their attempts to claim refunds that would never come.
So Fyre Fest is a complete disaster. Mass chaos. No organization. No one knows where to go. There are no villas, just a disaster tent city. pic.twitter.com/1lSWtnk7cA
— William Needham Finley IV (@WNFIV) April 27, 2017
Because when it came to delivering on their ideas, Fyre Festival – an offshoot of a fairly sound idea for a service based around making it easier for event promoters to book celebrity talent – got drunk on their own hype and failed, epically.
By focusing so heavily on the promotion of their event before dealing with ‘trivial details’ (like accommodation, transport, infrastructure, catering etc) that would impact the experience of their customers, Fyre’s organisers were more interested in how pulling something like this off would make them look.
That didn’t stop them selling around 5,000 tickets at $1,000 and up… but it also didn’t stop them copping the wrong end of a $100 million class-action lawsuit as a result.
Check out the movie on Netflix if you want to see how the whole thing fell apart.
It’s an uncomfortable watch because there were, inevitably, some genuinely hurt people who got caught up in the whole calamity…
Like small businesses and unpaid workers on the Bahamian island of Exuma who are still waiting to recoup their costs or get paid for their time.
But the thing that really struck me about the Fyre doc wasn’t just the vast sums of money gambled, squandered, stolen and lost:
It was about something that affects us all as biz-owners, whatever level we’re playing at.
It was about TRUST.
So many people involved said the reason they ended up out of pocket, out of work or on the wrong end of a lawsuit was down to misplaced trust in the event’s founder.
Somehow, these folks all bet their livelihoods on the vision of a cocky 22-year old entrepreneur called Billy MacFarland.
Whenever MacFarland showed up on screen in archive footage (unsurprisingly he declined to be interviewed for the film), somebody’s voiceover would say how they’d had absolute faith not just in his vision, but in his ability to deliver that vision.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty skeptical – I think it helps to be, when you work in marketing – but I still admire ambitious, driven entrepreneurs.
A lot of good can be done by those who dream big.
But there are some folks who set off my BS-ometer every time they open their mouth…
It’s not a special talent, it’s just instinct. Sometimes I’m wrong, and I’ve been burned like all of us.
But I was amazed how so many smart, successful, professional people seemed to believe in the hyped-up proclamations of a permanently-grinning man-baby doing tequila shots and riding a jetski.
Could it have been the money he was throwing around that ‘earned’ that belief, that trust?
Maybe. But money can’t always buy trust.
Which is actually good news for ethical businesses and entrepreneurs who want to demonstrate their better qualities to their audience…
Obviously testimonials and case studies are reliable trust-builders, and deserve pride of place in your sales messaging…
But what if you’re launching a new service, a new product line and don’t have success stories or tons of social proof yet?
How do you earn trust then?
Well that’s when it’s even more important that you a) identify your ideal audience and gain some understanding of them…
…and b) be open and address their objections in your sales message.
When you’re the new kid on the block (or your product is) you’re obviously going to come up against some “Yeah, but what if..?”s, some “What about..?”s and probably even some “Who the hell are you..?”s that you’ll need to answer.
Because then you get to show off what’s unique about you and your offer in your sales copy – the things that set you apart, that show you care about and really ‘get’ your people.
Sure, maybe you can’t hire an island in the Bahamas…
No worries if you can’t (and shouldn’t!) promise your promotional partners a weekend away with a gaggle of supermodels, or even stretch to a bottle of Jose Cuervo…
But if you’re honest, open and promise not to take business calls from the back of a jetski more than once a month, you have a good chance of convincing people to buy your stuff.
People trust those who remind them of themselves…
It’s part of the “Know, Like and Trust” approach to marketing that the Fyre founders ignored.
You don’t have to be flamboyant to sell.
You just have to be you.
Need help communicating that to your ideal customers to earn their trust? Head over here.