Is Your Marketing A Gamble?


How many times have you heard or participated in discussions about the effectiveness of marketing dollars? Personally, I can’t even begin to count. There have been so many. Undoubtedly there will be even more. However, when I ask people to describe the actions they want to undertake and the outcome they seek to achieve it often sounds more like gambling than business to me.

Businesses are organizations that take the uncertainty out of specific outcomes for their clients. Consequently, the processes and actions engaged in must take the uncertainty out of the business providing its goods and services to its customers. Marketing, as a process, is not an exception.

All too often, my own customers as well as some colleagues presents marketing plans which are so ambiguous that they seem to based on a hope and a prayer. In the worst case, they appear to be the power play of an individual or department seeking to push their own agenda to justify their existence. At the other end of the spectrum, many marketing actions seem to be motivated by something someone absorbed through the media; if worked for them it will work for us type reasoning. None of this works for me and I hope it doesn’t work for you either.

Although I can’t provide an answer that will satisfy every marketer, I would like to provide a framework for considering the marketing actions you plan to engage in: probabilities.

Do you know the odds of your marketing producing the desired outcome?

In my view, any marketing action must have a probability of outcome better than walking into a casino to play a game of craps. For those of you unfamiliar with the game it is played with 2 six sided dice, thus I figure you have a 1 in 36 chance of getting the result you want. Although this is not strictly mathematically correct it makes no difference to this argument. If you prefer, use a roulette wheel which has similar odds. My point being these odds are considered gambling. This is not business!

If the odds of achieving the objective are higher than gambling at a casino then you haven’t thought things through. To be more precise, your marketing is gambling, not business.

Before going to your boss, investors, or partner with a marketing action please, please, please, work through it so you have some idea what the odds are of success. If you don’t then you risk having another long discussion about the value of investing in marketing.

Before doing anything you and your team need to set out the goal. Whatever that goal may be ultimately it should turn into revenue. And revenue turns into gross margin and then profit. All too often I see marketing plans that cannibalize gross margin thereby never generating any profit. Don’t get caught up in circular reasoning.

Determining the odds requires testing and more testing. Holding the objective steady test the audience, the message, the connection between the two, and anything else which impacts the objective until you are no longer in the realm of gambling. The better your probability of success the easier it will be to have that budget granted.

Now, present your plan.