Surfing the next wave

Surfing the next wave

Change your Luck blog series – article 2

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

 

Lately I’ve had the previously unknown luxury of time – and with this came the opportunity to revisit some of the magnificent coastline, towns and villages in Devon and Dorset. I’ve been able to enjoy great weather and explore new things without the pressure of deadlines and targets to return to.

On my latest trip I was struck by the behaviour of the huge number of surfers also enjoying the conditions.

They sit on their boards patiently waiting and watching the surf, bursting into action to paddle furiously in pursuit of a wave, ride it as best they can and then return to repeat the process.

Surfing, it seems, requires a lot of patience, the right tide, and a certain element of luck.

Waiting for the perfect break.

Some waves they let pass, some they paddle to catch. Some they time perfectly, and some they don’t. Some they ride and on others they fall.

It struck me as I watched how similar their behaviour was to the marketers I had been working with for so many years. Watching and waiting for the next big marketing wave, the perfect break that will catapult their programme forward.

So how do you choose when to paddle, which wave to ride, or how long to ride it for? New marketing technologies, techniques and tactics are constantly emerging. Some are big and powerful, others tiny tweaks, but full of promise that never quite delivers, fading out as quickly as they rose up.

Learning from failure, yours or theirs.

Is it better to wait for the one big one and ride it right in, or to ride lots of smaller ones so you can jump on and off more quickly? Expertise and experience become really obvious when you have the opportunity to observe at leisure, from the cliff-top.

To maximise your surfing performance (the equivalent of your surfing ROI i.e. ‘maximise your return on effort invested’) it seems to me that it’s about riding as many of the waves you have the skill and energy to catch. Every now and then they can be bigger and more testing than you expected, but more importantly, it’s about knowing how to recognise a ‘fail’ so you can peel off and paddle back out for the next one.

You can tell a lot from those around you and can use their choices to influence your own. Wasting energy and time on waves you don’t have the skill to ride, or coasting to the shore on a wave with no break, brings little reward.

In the same way, marketers need to constantly look for new ways to improve their ROI. New tactics, new techniques, new technologies. It’s impossible to catch them all. Making good choices about which ones to paddle for, and which ones to let pass, is paramount.

Using the wisdom of the crowd.

There are surprising statistics that show how tough it is to make a change to a program or campaign that improves your marketing performance in
this blog
at Ladder.io (whose technology BH&P uses with every new client BTW),

“Noah Kagan, an early employee at Facebook and founder of AppSumo, only sees a 1 in 8 success rate. An industry study by VWO shows a 1 in 7 success rate. A study by Harvard Business Review pegs the failure rate at 80-90%.”

Having others around you with more experience and knowledge definitely gives you an advantage, helping to spot the right wave, encouraging you to go when maybe you wouldn’t, offering advice and guidance, watching and providing feedback to help you develop and control your own skills. There’s a lot to be gained from working with others who collectively spend a lot of time in the water.

This is huge. More marketing initiatives fail, than succeed. Period.

All resource constrained organisations, small or large, face significant challenges to improve their marketing.

Relying on your own innate capability and existing knowledge isn’t enough, particularly in the current build up to changes in the rules surrounding the use of prospect data. Your expertise in one technique won’t always translate into capabilities in others.

Coaching through failure to achieve success.

The collective experience of other practitioners, either individuals or agencies, are an invaluable resource. Used properly they can accelerate the improvement of your marketing programmes, campaigns and tactics.
Their reservoir of knowledge and experience can be used to quickly identify where the most significant improvements can be made, one after the other, to maximise marketing programme performance.
Knowing how different tactics, techniques and technologies work, what to try next, how to execute on the proposed changes, evaluating the results and quickly changing the plan in response are the attributes of a great marketing partner, and inevitably of a surf coach.

Fail fast to succeed sooner.

Maybe this summer has been the one where you donned the wet-suit, paddled out into the waves and started working with a surf-coach on improving your skills. Or maybe not!
Even if surfing is not your thing, hopefully the analogy rings true. If so, you’ll be inspired to think about experimenting more, testing and enhancing your marketing, to put you and your organisation on a path to improving not just marketing ROI, but business performance.

However you decide to go about this, you’ll build a better return on your investment of time and money, faster, if you can learn quickly from the successes and failures of others.

In the next article, I’ll be exploring why it’s a good idea to fail fast, and how you can turn this to your advantage quickly and (almost) without risk.

 

If you missed Martin’s first blog post Watching the World go by, you can read it here.
And if you’d like to request a free ideabook showing how BH&P can help you structure some tests to improve the ROI on your marketing, get in touch