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How to Take Manageable Marketing Risks, from Forrester’s Marketing Forum

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360i’s live in the front row of Forrester’s Marketing Forum, so we’ll share some highlights of the coverage here (some more rambling, messier, but detailed notes are at my own blog).

Forrester Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk set the stage with an energetic presentation about risk taking. I had talked with Shar about this last month, when she asked some bloggers for feedback on her idea for the keynote, and surprisingly the feedback I gave (which she kindly credited) inspired a lot of her discussion.

She was thinking a lot about risk taking, and she shared my initial feedback on the Forrester blog last month:

…Leveraging interactive tools can actually make marketing innovation *less* risky. Berkowitz mentioned – and I agree – that doing things like monitoring Twitter for what is being said about your brand or campaigns is actually an extremely *safe* thing to do. Although Twitter sounds all newfangled for a traditional brand, it provides a way to listen to how your audience is talking about your brand. Heeding this input can help marketers actually be better/more secure in crafting customer-centric marketing programs.

This wound up leading to a very detailed discussion at the Marketing Forum on managing risk – how to take risks and how to make them less risky. She focused specifically on “accessible innovation”, which she defined as “A marketing program development that you can pursue from within your own role in order to solve problems or improve business results.”

Forrester’s Shar VanBoskirk suggests marketers leverage interactive tools to manage risk online.

Here are the Four Fundamentals of Accessible Innovation:

Enhance: build on existing idea to create new value, to create margin on existing programs

Include: incorporate many disparate perspectives, gain community input on campaign devleopment – eg Adidas including users in New School of Thought campaign

Empathize: relate to community and bring value, to build personal relationship between brand and customers – eg Zappos as human face of Twitter brand, company had $1B in sales in 2008, 75% growth

Iterate: segment different messages to different audiences – Shockwave used different websites, got 150% increase in annual subscriptions

At our agency, we know it’s not all about risks. There are very safe bets like search engine marketing (safe and tested for most marketers, at least), and there are some things that feel risky, like communicating directly with customers through public channels. But by listening to what consumers are saying, the risk drops off dramatically, and marketers can make better informed bets that are more likely to deliver results.