Tag Archives: Ladder

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.

 

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