Tag Archives: Epicor

Can you fix the odds?

Can you fix the odds?

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.

Check your own gut reaction to the opportunity presented by a million to one chance.

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.

 

The joy of the happy accident

The joy of the happy accident

Change your Luck blog series – article 3
Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor


One of the best parts of my recent career break has been the opportunity to develop my (limited) skills with watercolour. It’s been a long time since I picked up a paintbrush and it isn’t proving easy. Satisfying, yes. Easy, no.

With the luxury of time I’ve been able to explore the vast resources of the web, absorbing advice from much more accomplished artists than me. The advice is varied but there are common themes.

Don’t just start, first prepare to start.

The first piece of advice is nothing to do with paint. The foundation of a great watercolour is a great drawing. Composition, scale, proportion, perspective. Not where a novice like me wants to focus when I have dreams of a great masterpiece.

Second is to experiment. Copy techniques of others, find what works and how, what fails and why. Use their experience to build an understanding of the fickle nature of watercolour. Learn to layer and blend colours into the hues and tones you need, learn when to paint and (importantly) when to stop.

Watercolour is also about happy accidents. The effects caused by water, pigment and paper reacting to each other in unplanned and unexpected ways. Learn when to intervene and when to hold back, learn when enough is enough.

Finally, it’s about volume. You have to be prepared to sketch and sketch and sketch, paint and paint and paint. Learn to move spontaneously and make quick decisions. Practice will make perfect, but there’s a lot of failure on the way.

Satisfying, yes. Easy, no.

Can you ever know enough?

Is it possible to practice every conceivable technique with every conceivable variation in hue and tone? Transparent and opaque colours, staining colours, wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, textures, brush techniques, paper types. The possibilities are endless and knowing enough to master watercolour can take a lifetime.

Who has a lifetime? I’m too impatient, but the web allows me to absorb the experience of others. Collectively we’re spending multiple lifetimes practicing and sharing our experiences with each other. Someone, somewhere, has tried it before and posted the outcome online.

Use shared knowledge to reduce your fails.

As a novice I know the value of knowledge and experience. As a marketer I know it too. When you read back over the advice above, imagine I was talking about maximising the return on investment of your campaign.

Build a solid foundation, know your market, your audience, your value proposition, your positioning, your message. Know it before you start building campaigns.

The difficult part comes when you have to practice and experiment, learn what works and what doesn’t, what has the best outcome, what destroys the work you’ve done before. As an aspiring artist I may struggle to accept it, but the stakes are usually much higher in marketing than in watercolour painting. Failure can be much more costly.

This is where you need a way of accessing the collective knowledge and experience of other marketers who have gone before, and of those who are developing new technologies and techniques. Unfortunately, this knowledge has significant value to those who have it and quantified performance information is very often confidential, or expensive.

Making a breakthrough by accident.

The infinite variations in value proposition, positioning, message, market behaviour, communication channel preferences, cultures and tactics make it impossible to predict every campaign outcome perfectly. Some marketers are fortunate enough to guess correctly. They get their masterpiece, but it can often be a happy accident.

The fastest way to success is to test changes to campaigns quickly and efficiently. Get the first washes of colour down, then layer and blend to produce the best effect. Rather than acting randomly, using collective knowledge and experience to pre-select choices will massively increase your success rate.

The gift of experience.

Rapid performance improvement of campaigns demands the rapid execution of multiple tests. Time is the enemy, resources are scarce and ROI is king. If you could access the quantified past experiences of other marketers, and a ready source of knowledge to replicate their experiences, why wouldn’t you?

A database of qualified and quantified techniques to improve the performance of any and all of the tactics you are using would be invaluable. You would pre-select those that have worked for others, focussing time and resource where it has most chance of success.

It would be just the same as me watching videos of watercolour experts, wondering how they make it look so easy, and then deciding to try it myself. I’m absorbing a little bit of their lifetime of experience every time.

Time will tell if I ever produce a masterpiece. I’d settle for a few ‘wow!’s. Where’s your next ‘wow!’ coming from? What chance do you have of a ‘wow!’ campaign?



In my next blog I’ll explore the relationship between marketing and gambling, and ask ‘Can we fix the odds?’.
If you missed Martin’s last blog post Surfing the next wave, you can read it here.
Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Change your Luck blog series – article 1


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

 

This year I decided to take a break from work and bring a bit more life into my work-life balance. I’m getting the time to relax and rediscover my natural curiosity and creativity, and to take a much more objective view of the pressures and practices of marketing that governed my career.

I’ve worked through a period of massive change since leaving university in the early 80’s. Watching from the outside magnifies how much the pressure, pace and pervasiveness of work has changed.

Even though I’ve disconnected from my previous job (surprisingly quickly!) I’m left with a ghost of myself in many social channels that continues to attract news, commentary and content relating to my interests in business, technology, communications and marketing.

Having the luxury of time.

Now I have the time to watch this world go by clear of the goals, targets, deadlines and pressures of a full time job, I have the luxury of time to consider the opinions, propositions, technologies and techniques being described by vendors, consultants, observers, practitioners and experts alike.

Time is the key. I now have it, where I didn’t necessarily have it before. Time was (and is) such a valuable commodity the question is always how to invest it most wisely. Hidden in the tsunami of news and opinion, research and promotional content are the gems that every marketer seeks.

Marketing techniques, tactics and technologies are developing so fast, the lifecycle of an effective programme is becoming shorter and shorter.

What works today might not work tomorrow.

Experienced marketers know they should be constantly looking to improve, enhance and even re-invent their programs and tactics to maintain and improve performance, but what, how and when? How do you chose experimentation over execution when time and budget are so constrained? It’s hard enough getting things done, let alone experimenting with improvements once they are up and running.

For a small enterprise, having a marketing programme that is working and delivering results is often an achievement in itself, attention and resources will then naturally move to other areas of the business that need attention.

For larger enterprises, having programmes in some markets or channels that work allows attention to shift to those where it doesn’t. Add more complexity with the dimensions of the buying cycle, changing buyer behaviour, the proliferation of communication channels, multiple products, markets and geographies, the varied expertise and experience of those who are responsible for the programmes, the shortening life cycle of the tactics deployed, the variety of specialised skills required to master marketing technologies, competitor behaviour, time and resource constraints, the need to improve return on investment…

It’s no wonder that most marketers need more time.

There’s no organisation that can afford to apply and evaluate every new technique, tactic or technology. You either don’t have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, or most importantly the time. If you have (or make) the time, how do you decide what to change, what to test, what to improve? Which programme, which campaign, which tactic?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of slowing time and speeding up action; identifying opportunities prioritised according to their predicted improvement on ROI; and then acting on them quickly and effectively. A marketing time machine if you like. Something that allows us to build a plan that evolves dynamically, that we can pivot at will, and that guides organisations to better performance.

Stay with me on this … if the improvement plan is built based on emerging best practice, uses the knowledge of experienced practitioners, is specific and action oriented but can remain agile, it would eliminate hesitation and procrastination. It could (and should) direct the actions of an individual or team, and maximise the way they use their time.

I’m watching the world go by. I’m watching other marketers watching the world go by. For those that want to stop it but can’t figure out how, when or where, I think there’s a better way to maximise ROI.

The value of your investment may go up or down.

A bit like watching the stock market, the skill is picking those tactics and ideas most likely to go up and making it happen quickly, evaluating as you go so you can abandon those that don’t improve performance. No breakthrough technology, no over-hyped pseudo-methodology, no repackaging of old ideas with new names, no over-intellectual hypothesising. No snake-oil. Just a common-sense, practical approach to maximising return on marketing investment that will make life easier, more enjoyable, more productive and more effective.

In the next article I’ll look at how you become a more savvy marketing investor. One whose choices are more often the right ones and whose ROI is most likely to keep improving.