What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Most organizations, like most people, go into something new with high expectations. We’re wired to expect positive outcomes but we need to work to ensure that we earn them. Sometime this quarter or year you’re going to embark on a journey into new digital territory. You might be building up a new social community or creating a mobile experience, trying a new targeting approach, launching an online promo or app, or integrating new analytics or CRM software. You most certainly will be dealing with the changes that are foisted on you by partners (like Google) or outside influences (like regulatory bodies or competitors).

Change is a constant in digital marketing as new technologies, approaches, and players appear regularly in your path. Those changes bring both opportunity and risk.

What can you do to embrace all the new possibilities without turning your well-oiled program into shambles?

Don’t avoid change. While you’re contemplating your navel and perhaps justifying your stasis with an exaggerated or unprepared measurement of the risks, you’re forgetting the huge opportunity cost of doing nothing. Your audience doesn’t remain static, nor do your competitors.

Don’t rush into every new thing. It’s often the fast followers that do better than the early adopters. Let someone else work out all the bugs while you watch carefully from the sidelines and take notes. The exception to this is where the early adopter wins user loyalty that will be hard to overcome by later players. A conservative approach can cost you dearly if that is the case.

Don’t attempt too much at once. If you have a new program stew you will have a hard time analyzing where you’re getting impact – positive or negative. Before anything is launched get consensus on goals and KPIs and make sure that you can collect and analyze the needed inputs in a timeframe that allows appropriate action.

Don’t get lost in the analytics. A quick read with sufficient data is infinitely better than a drawn-out analysis with multiple layers of decision-makers. The strongest players often employ a nimble approach that allows them to incorporate innovative new programs frequently without a ton of overhead that slows them down or creates an obstacle to that innovation.

Celebrate controlled failure. It simply represents the learning that’s so necessary to growth and gain.

Build in a ridiculous amount of optimization and watchfulness for new and early programs. New, by its very definition, takes some time to understand and get comfortable with. Don’t handicap your good planning with short-sighted execution.

Leave yourself an out. Negotiate aggressive out clauses where that is possible so that you have options to cut your losses if you’re not seeing a return.

Be conservative in your budgeting. But make sure you have a dedicated or reserved amount set aside for testing either for things you’ve wanted to try or for things you can’t even name yet but will pop up later in your budget year. Ten percent is a good hold back unless you’re in a particularly dynamic vertical, in which case it should be higher.

You don’t ever want to commit a huge portion of your budget to something new. Get a test in place first but be sure to structure that test so that when you read the results you can confidently recommend whether to move forward with that element and how.

Give yourself enough time to appropriately assess the results you’re seeing. Collect enough data points over a long enough period to be meaningful and statistically significant. Factor in seasonality if that applies to your business.

Measure the impact of this new element by the total digital results. As most programs have some relation to each other – even if they appear to have six degrees of separation. Your goal is to find the optimal mix of programs that drives overall results. A new element might have unexpected impacts, both positive and negative, that you need to watch for.

Factor in competitive response. You will be watching what your competition is doing and seeing how they react to your changes and should assume they are doing the same. Especially for bid-based programs or for organic search results, competitor actions can have a direct impact on you. Competitors could also counter your new moves with competing promos, offers, or discounts that draw your audience attention or dollars and you should be prepared in advance for that possibility.

If you plan appropriately you can handle almost anything including the rapid testing and innovation that will keep your digital marketing approach fresh, relevant, and productive.

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