Lab Notes

Experimentation Now Means Marketing Advantage in the Future

I’ve got two sons that are into wake boarding. They are both new to it and to them it seems hard and, though they won’t admit it, sort of dangerous.  But, at the same time, they watch YouTube videos of kids their age doing amazing things on a board and it’s clear they admire the skill and courage of these little daredevils.

They aspire to put their own videos out there at some point.

When we go wake boarding, the guys get embarrassed when they fall. But, they know what the YouTubers would tell them: if you’re not falling, you’re in your safe zone. And, if you want to progress, you gotta get back up and push it. You will get a face full of water a few times along the way, but that’s the price to pay for learning something awesome.

Nobody likes to fail, but we all know it’s part of growth. So, just like the guys expect and plan for some face-plants on the lake, business leaders need to build some failure into their plan.

These days, your marketing plan isn’t truly strategic if you’re not consistently, methodically investing in developing new techniques to grow your business (aka a strategic marketing experimentation plan).

That is, learning and experimentation should be a core strategy for your team to build a sustained advantage over time.

At GoKart, we’re big proponents of the 70/20/10 approach. We believe this approach enables you to balance  hard-core, short-term focused, performance driving efforts (i.e. the 70%) with planned, pure  experimentation (i.e. the 10%). And, it leaves room for proving out promising techniques and approaches that have been successful tests (i.e.the 20%).

Our Approach to Regular Experimentation

We think of it this way:

* 70% – Maximize results and efficiencies above average results

* 20% – Grow the scale of smaller successes

* 10% – Learn what’s possible through experimentation

Lots of marketing teams talk about applying this screen to their spend mix but in our experience, very few actually do it with discipline or for a long period of time. The spending mix is generally more like 90%/10%.

And true experimentation gets cut.

As a result, we often talk with marketers who feel urgency to “catch up” on important elements of a digital plan, whether it’s mobile, or social or content-focused efforts.

It’s hard to win when you’re always playing catch up.

If you’re in marketing leadership, and you’re playing catch up right now, you’re part of the problem.

See if you agree with these statements to check your progress towards a more strategic marketing mix.

  • Our company sees marketing experimentation as a critical effort to take advantage of changes in the media landscape
  • My team has a dedicated, protected experimentation budget every year
  • We have a process to determine how to prioritize and allocate our experimentation budget
  • We have methods to grow and improve successful experiments into scaleable efforts
  • We fail enough to learn from it

If you can say “yes” to more than 3 of those, you’re in pretty good shape. If you can’t, it may be time to consider reviewing your commitment to building learning and experimentation into your program. Here are two easy places to do some small-scale (i.e. less than $2,500) experimentation in areas we believe are critical to your brand building in the future:

  • Experiment with YouTube ads – A great way to reach consumers on the second largest search site on the web
  • In-app advertising – Use an ad network to target your message in a local, in-app context. A great way to understand how the mobile context drives a different kind of response.

Small failures in your experimentation plan are your equivalent of getting a face full of water on the lake. Not pleasant, exactly; but a small price to pay to build some new skills to grow.

At GoKart Labs, we specialize in Invention & Business Strategy, User Experience & Design, Web & Mobile Software Development, and Digital Marketing. To find out more about becoming a client, call 612.454.4012.

 

A thought leader among modern marketers, Jim brings a whole pile of experience (from start-ups to big brands), wisdom and humility to the GoKart garage. We say we’re lucky to have him, he says he’s lucky to be here… it’s a fight neither of us will win. He’s a man of diverse passions. Jim could open a restaurant, create its brand, craft the menu, cook the food, brew the beer and deliver it by bicycle (even if you live 100 miles away).

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