5 Steps to Make Winning Marketing Bets
The best laid marketing plans still involve a ton of risk. Here's how to make sure that risk is worth it.
Every marketing decision is a bet. Much like buying stock, you invest in something you think will bring good returns, but there's never a guarantee it will. In fact, many companies lose everything on a bad marketing bet — yet others are able to hit it big. Why? What separates the winning bets from the losing ones?
Every situation may be different, but you can always follow these five steps to make marketing bets with substantially higher chances of paying off.
1. Look for low risk, high reward opportunities
Risk is tied to money and reputation. Reward is tied to a metric — revenue, user adoption, or traffic, for instance. You don't want to waste money or ruin your reputation, and anything you put effort into needs to fit within your company's top goals. But you have to risk something, or there'll be no chance of a big win. So, find the happy medium.
Look for marketing opportunities where the worst case is you lose money and your pride takes a hit. Even if this idea tanks, the ship keeps sailing, and everyone keeps their jobs. The best case is that you're able to 10x your revenue or move your primary metric significantly in the right direction.
When you discover these opportunities, go for it. If an idea is not low-risk, high-reward and mission-driven, shelve it. It may be good later, but it's not worth it right now.
2. Fully commit
Shy bets are bad bets. Do all the research and planning it takes to do this to the best of your ability. Take the time, spend the money, bring in the agency, leverage other teams.
So many marketing bets fail because they were tried "on a budget," done half-heartedly or turned off before they had time to flourish. You want this to succeed, right? Give it 100%.
3. Give success a long-time horizon
It takes time for customers to see what you're doing, to care about it, to feel the need, to talk about you among their team and peers, to make a purchase decision. That's okay. Stay the course and be consistent.
Depending on the specific campaign and other factors — like how much you promote it, the size of your target audience, competition and what else you have going on to create brand momentum — it could take a week, six months or a year to start seeing the returns you want.
Keep this in mind as you prep the campaign, and make sure stakeholders understand how long it could take, but also pay attention to signs of progress. Engagement, traffic, fewer customer objections and people simply telling you they liked it can all be signs you're on the right track, even if you misjudged the timeline.
4. If it's working, bet bigger
Happy with your results so far? Congratulations! Now, double down on it. Spend more, do more, hire more.
Even the best campaigns tap out at some point — your job is to find out when. But be careful not to go too big, too fast. Instead of going from 10 to 100 overnight, go from 10 to 20, then to 50 and so on, as long as it's still working at each new level.
We all want to hit a home run, but most good bets are more like base hits. They bring consistent growth, not exponential. When you have a campaign that's working consistently, write the playbook on how to keep it running effectively, and bring someone else in to run it. Then, you work on the next bet.
This layering of effective marketing campaigns is the secret sauce behind most successful companies, not one great idea.
5. If it doesn't work, run a postmortem
One of the simultaneously fun and frustrating truths about marketing is that you never really know how something is going to perform. You're going to be wrong. Your best laid plans will fail. That's okay, so long as it was low-risk, high-reward and mission-driven. But you better scrutinize why it didn't work, and you better learn from it.
Immerse yourself in the data. Talk to customers and industry peers. Get personal feedback and insights. Look at each stage of your funnel, process, messaging and product for where traction fell off. Learn as much as you can, and use that to inform your next bets. Perhaps, the worst thing you can do is fail and ignore it. Lean into failure, you'll be better off.
Fold this into your routine
Use these steps as your rubric for creating and measuring marketing campaigns. It will help you market your business more effectively while also creating more alignment across departments.
Sales, finance and product teams typically all have an easy time buying into low-risk, high-reward and mission-driven bets that are tied to clear metrics and have a roadmap for what to do in case of success or failure. And you get to be the one leading the charge.
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