Change your Luck blog series – Article 4
Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor
I was able to enjoy watching a lot of sport this summer and even though I’m not a betting man, autumn sporting events like the Invictus Games, the UK Masters Golf, a whole host of Rugby Internationals, and of course, the upcoming Ashes, have started me thinking about the similarities between marketing and gambling- and how alike gamblers and marketers sometimes are.
However much we attempt to predict outcomes, carefully researching, planning, testing and measuring changes we make to our marketing plans, sometimes what actually happens is still unexpected.
Probable or improbable, we’re all trying to beat the odds.
Going for the long-shot
Some gamblers are lucky. So are some marketers. They place their bet or launch their campaign and win big. A big stake, long odds and a huge return. It’s a gambler’s dream. It’s a marketer’s dream.
Correction. It’s an inexperienced gambler or marketers dream.
Basing your success strategy on picking a long-shot is not an approach anyone with a track record of success would recommend. They’ll tell you that you have to do your homework and be smart, know when to bet and just as importantly, when not to.
They’ll also tell you that in marketing you can make your own luck.
Risk, reward and consequences
When you bet on the winner of a sporting contest you don’t just predict the outcome, you weigh up risk and consequences with the potential reward.
Imagine betting £1. Then imagine betting £100,000.
They feel completely different. The more you bet, the greater the risk, and the faster your heart rate. But the event you’re betting on and the odds of winning are the same. When does it start to feel risky? With a £10 bet? A £100 bet? £1000? More?
Everyone has a different perception of risk, and different circumstances that describe the consequences of losing your stake. What if you could place a stake within your risk threshold at the start and then choose to increase it during the contest as you see it unfold? What if you could test the outcome of choices during the contest before you change your bet? Hit the next shot down the line or try a lob? Shoot for the green or lay up?
Cut your losses or double-down?
Gamblers can limit their exposure by not betting any more when the result isn’t going their way, and “double-down” if it is. Fortunately for marketers, this is exactly the situation we enjoy.
The creative campaign development process will always require an investment of both time and money, but gambling on a marketing campaign isn’t necessarily an “all or nothing” proposition.
As investments increase, so does the consequence of underperformance. Testing the effects of both tactical and strategic choices during the campaign allows us to choose when to bet, and importantly when to stop.
In recent years, with the advent of new marketing technology such as the Ladder marketing tactic database used by results-focused agencies such as BH&P, A/B testing has become a lot easier. BH&P clients will typically run between 6 and 20 experiments every month, allowing them to ramp up or drop tactics almost in real-time. And whilst entire strategy pivots are less common, they are possible.
Can you pause the game?
Choosing what to test and when to test it, is where knowledge and experience pays off. It’s the reason why marketing technology on its own can’t help you fix the odds.
The best sports’ people know intuitively which choice is right for the moment. They can’t stop the game, test a couple of options, and then choose which one to take. They have to know instantly that the right shot is the passing forehand drive down the line, or the lay-up on a long par five in front of the water. It takes experience and practice.
For most marketers it’s just as difficult and impractical to stop the game. It can also make bad business sense to stop a campaign mid-flow. But you can test changes that are intended to improve performance during a campaign.
Yes, it’s still a gamble. But with the right tools, you can reduce the risks and improve the odds of this gamble quite dramatically.
Play the shot that’s already played
Marketers today have the opportunity to use the experience of others who’ve played the same shot.
You can identify which possible change to a campaign tactic is most likely to improve performance by selecting it from a database of previously executed experiments. It’s no guarantee, but it can improve the chances of improvement more than threefold.
This database, documenting past experiences of other marketers executing thousands of tests on their campaigns and tactics, combined with sound creative thinking from an agency partner that really understands this type of testing framework, is like having a personal coach and tipster at your side. It will help you become a better marketer, one who places more winning bets than those who play every shot as if it were the first time it had been played.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact me. I’d be delighted to help you explore the possibilities.
In the final blog of this series I’ll explore further how this data can help the most resource constrained, inexperienced or even high-performing marketing teams deliver exceptional results.
If you missed Martin’s last blog post “The joy of the happy accident“, you can read it here.