Assess the Risk of Marketing Programs Before You Start

November 4, 2015
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Follow these three steps to assess technology risks when you plan marketing campaigns and product design.

A manufacturer of smart TVs recently found out the hard way that it’s better to assess technology risk when designing a marketing campaign rather than after the product or campaign launches. The manufacturer built a feature that allowed voice commands to turn on the TV. It was a cool feature to turn on a football game from across the room. Unfortunately that same feature also recorded and stored everything said near the TV.  When the media got wind of it the brand came under fire, especially since they retained the rights to share the customer information with third party marketers.

Marketers can decrease risk, and increase the value of marketing and product plans, by adding three steps to the campaign and product design phase, notes Mike McGuire, research vice president for Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

1. Discuss risk when you design your marketing plan

A clever digital campaign doesn’t help the business if it damages the brand from bad technology choices. Incorporate technology and implementation risk into your go/no-go calculations when planning a new product launch or marketing activity. Participants in the risk management workshop at the Gartner 2015 Digital Marketing Conference used this approach to uncover hidden risks in launching a fictional mobile app.

When assessing communication risk, one group opted to forego using an email campaign and instead to deploy via social media because the email would bombard campaign subscribers and shrink their opt-in list. The lesson? Make changes to the marketing plan to mitigate risk, and those changes will cause less disruption than if you make them after the design phase.

2. Look for opportunities to improve the marketing plan through risk assessment
Technology risk assessment during the campaign or product design phase can improve the marketing plan as a whole. In one of the workshop groups, a participant with a global company shared that it traditionally pursued distributed marketing, but planned a large rebranding campaign across the geographies it served.

One business unit insisted on using cloud solutions (low upfront costs, great flexibility) while another unit asked for a single content management provider across the globe (more consistency, higher cost).  The company could deliver more consistent messaging and achieve better business results if it consolidated technology partners. Adherence to a particular technology choice in one region would sabotage consistency and could bring more negative press to a another region.

3. Focus on the inherent risk of agility

Workshop participants assessed risk along five aspects – agility, permission, partner risk, communications and risk in building trust – to evaluate where they believed technology risk could impact their campaigns. Agility topped the list of concerns because workshop participants worried that the choices they made for the mobile app campaign would lock them into an approach that would restrict them and hurt future results. They recognized that every investment choice comes with sunk costs and secondary effects on resources and funding that must be managed (such as impacts on store traffic, communications with the call center, supply chain effects and even the creation of secondary communities of users through new digital interactions). Digital marketers need to think about the next steps they need to take to follow up on the original campaign down the road.

Next Steps

  1. Engage the IT organization to help with risk mitigation – Many IT shops are pros at risk management.
  2. Validate your assumptions before implementing risk management – Would your particular audience really use a mobile app? Find out for sure before you build one.
  3. Establish metrics to monitor risk – They will help you watch for warning signs while the campaign runs and avoid serious trouble.
  4. Bring various roles into the conversation – Campaign-focused, tech-focused and customer-service-focused people can uncover aspects of risk unforeseen by individual roles.
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