No matter what business you’re in, from dentistry to landscaping to marketing, there’s one fact you have to confront: you can’t save everyone from making their own mistakes. No matter how much you want people to succeed, some people will insist on ignoring your good, well-intentioned advice, and they will fail as a result. Hopefully it’s only a minor stumbling block in their path, but sometimes the consequences can be catastrophic: a patient who didn’t heed doctor’s orders and died, or a company that wouldn’t listen to sound marketing advice and had to shut its doors.

Accepting the idea that a certain percentage of the population will ignore your advice is one of the hardest things about being in marketing. We can beg our clients and propsects to blog, implore them to use social media responsibly, steer them in the right direction on event promotion and pour our  hearts and souls into giving them the best advice we can based on years of experience and blood and sweat and mistakes, and some will always smile, nod and ignore every word we’ve just said.

Watching people fail is hard. There is never any joy in seeing a client who walked away fall on their faces, when a simple shift in strategy could have made all the difference. It all falls back to the fact not everyone is  your customer. Some people may look like your customer and sound like your customer, but at the end of the day, if they don’t put action behind their words, it’s all for nothing. Ultimately, as small business owners or employees, we all have to accept the reality that people have to be free to fail. Even if seeing their failure, breaks our hearts.

Help people whenever you can. Offer them the advice you’ve learned from making your own mistakes. And then ultimately,  stand back, wish them well and offer them a hand up when they stumble. It’s something I’m still working on every day.

How do you deal with people who just won’t listen?