• December 12, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Risk Aversion Is the Top Barrier to Marketing Innovation, Gartner Finds

Despite commanding 16 percent of marketing budgets, marketing innovation is largely hampered by a lingering aversion to risk, an inability to measure the impact of investments, and limited talent, Gartner found in a recent study.

In general, significant challenges remain for marketing execution and effectiveness, Gartner noted in its "Brand Strategy and Innovation Survey 2019" report.

"The nature of true innovation is newness, and this takes people out of their comfort zone," explains Elizabeth Shaw, senior research director in the Gartner for Marketers Practice. "Even though senior executives demand innovation, they are reluctant to move forward when the time comes to act."

Marketers also face a significant challenge to measure innovation initiatives, often not knowing what success even looks like, according to the research.

Nonetheless, Gartner points out that measurement is necessary; otherwise, innovation efforts can be deemed of no value to the organization. Marketers managing innovation must be savvy communicators with key stakeholders to manage expectations around innovation programs and outcomes, the company says. 

Many marketing leaders also expressed difficulties in finding the right talent for innovation. While the chief innovation officer title and corporate innovation labs have been on the rise, many marketers are still working to build the skills needed for these roles.

"Driving innovation requires a depth and breadth of skills beyond what exists in many marketing organizations," Shaw explains. "Although many marketers are taking training programs and gaining certifications through online courses to gain an edge in today's hyper-competitive job market, hiring managers must ensure hiring and up-skilling priorities align with their organizations' strategic innovation needs."

To overcome these barriers, Gartner suggests that marketing leaders should do the following:

  • Combat risk aversion with a "crawl, walk, run" approach. In the crawl phase, use tactics such as asking users or customers for ideas, partner with external technology service providers and create a business case for an innovation. This will give momentum and help build the foundation needed to successfully graduate to the maturity and pace of the walk and run phases.
  • Overcome measurement hurdles by focusing on three key areas: innovation culture through pulse surveys and employee participation; innovation processes to boost agility and efficiency, for example; and innovation outcomes , such as the number of prototypes and pilots. Always separate the metrics for culture and process from the innovations themselves. When possible, use regular business measures to quantify innovation outcomes.
  • Actively provide training for existing talent and prioritize innovation skills in new recruits. Team members should be provided opportunities for specific innovation and leadership skills, creating a future-ready culture and the expectation of ongoing professional development.

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