Now that you’re up to speed, you know McFarland promised Coachella on a tropical island with jet skis and bikini models but ended up delivering a real-life version of Lord of the Flies for rich millennials.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably thinking: “This guy sucks! I’m nothing like him!” And that’s probably true. But even the most honest people can learn from a lying jerk’s mistakes.
So without further ado, here are four lessons every entrepreneur can learn from the Fyre Festival documentaries.
1) Holding a Negative View of Your Customers is Bad for Business
“We’re selling a pipe-dream to your average loser, your average guy in middle America.”
-Billy McFarland, during a video shoot for a Fyre Festival promotional video
If McFarland had a more positive view of his customers, the process of organizing the Fyre Festival would have looked very different.
Think about it: if you’re planning a party for a friend you really care about, you probably won’t make all sorts of inflated promises to her before you start planning the actual event. You want to make her happy by giving her an experience she’ll never forget, not just sell her on the idea of it.
On the other hand, if you’re a CEO who thinks your customers are “losers,” selling is going to be all you care about.
Even if McFarland didn’t intend for the Fyre Festival to be such a colossal disaster, he focused on advertising the event first, and implementing the event second.
That’s because giving his customers the experience of a lifetime wasn’t what drove him. He was far more excited about finding clever ways to get them to empty their wallets.
If you own a business, it’s crucial not to fall into this type of mentality. If you care about your customers, you’ll run your business in a way that takes their needs into account. That is ultimately what will make you a successful entrepreneur.
2) It’s Better to Cut Your Losses Early
Here’s a popular idea that holds a lot of merit: When things get tough, successful people grit their teeth and push through.
Here’s another idea: When failure is inevitable, you should bury your head in the sand and work even harder.
The first idea is responsible for the success of Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey. The second idea helps people win Darwin Awards.
Billy McFarland loved the second idea.
Shortly before the scheduled date of the festival, a Fyre employee sent Billy this email:
I want to paint a picture for you of 300 guests landing on a remote island, being herded into 8 yellow buses, brought to Roker’s Point [the festival location] only to realize they have nowhere to sleep and they are trapped here…
This will be much worse than any cancellation blowback. I don’t have another option for you.
In other words, there’s no way we’ll be ready for this festival. However harmful a cancellation might be to our business, allowing people to come to our event will be even worse.
Billy didn’t care. His head was buried in the sand...and his wallet.
Ironically, the festival did end up being cancelled, but only after the guests arrived, and everything the employee predicted ended up happening!
And his customers weren’t the only people who suffered. His investors lost money. And even worse, his employees in the Bahamas, many of whom did intense physical labor for months on end, never saw a penny for their hard work! (Basic Business 101: Pay your damn employees.)
No matter how badly you want things to turn out a certain way, it’s important to keep a solid grip on reality. Sometimes “giving up” is the best thing an entrepreneur can do.
You might think Fyre Festival had great marketing, and it was just the implementation of the event that went wrong. That’s not quite accurate.
Marketing is the process of getting consumers interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and a solid understanding of your ideal consumer’s wants and needs. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.
Notice the part we put in bold. Sure, Fyre Festival had really effective sales and advertising, but their product development and distribution methods were absolute garbage.
“Okay,” you’re probably saying. “That’s kind of interesting, but all you really did was explain the definition of marketing. Got anything else for me?”
Glad you asked.
Traditionally, digital marketers think of businesses as funnels. Picture the shape of a funnel for a second. Or if you don’t feel like doing that, we’ve put one here for you: