Why You Need Marketing Experimentation

Experimentation is a hot buzz word in the marketing world these days.

Two recent polls sponsored by Dukky and LinkedIn asked 1,030 marketers about their perspective on experimentation. (Check out the polls here and here.) Of those polled, 93 percent indicated that now is a good time to experiment with marketing techniques. Several respondents even commented on how to best go about it. Out of these polls, a theme emerged: Marketers should test the waters, move deliberately, and measure all results when it comes to trying new strategies.

Just as importantly, marketers should remember why it's a good time to experiment: Maximize new opportunities — not move out of desperation.

Three Major Forces Driving Marketing Experimentation Today

The recession has hit the retail world hard, spurring competition. Consumers are cutting back on their discretionary spending and they are looking for the best deals when it comes to everyday purchases. As a result, companies are competing more fiercely for the dollars still out there.

Some companies have waved the white flag and each "going out of business" sign provides a new opportunity for survivors to capture greater market share.

"Now, more than ever, it is crucial to be as creative as possible when promoting your company," says Stephanie Schwartz, director of marketing and sales at The Great American Trolley Company. "With so many companies going out of business and/or reducing their marketing strategies, what better way to allow your business to shine than to experiment with new marketing and advertising options?"

The consumer's mindset is transforming. In the wake of a credit crisis, mortgage meltdown, and ponzi scheme bonanza, consumers are making more conscious purchasing decisions. Shoppers are increasingly factoring in the effects of the financial market, in addition to their environmental and political responsibilities. In other words, savings is a new currency, environmentally minded products are valued, and local is hip.

Companies must recognize this swing in the consumer consciousness and respond with the proper products and messaging in order to stay relevant.

The emergence of online tools and widespread consumer adoption of social media technologies. Consumers are empowered to find — and demand — the information they're looking for. Customers are spending more time online and companies run the risk of losing customers and missing business opportunities by not being there. Of course, to properly engage, companies have to listen to the consumer — the marketer is no longer in charge of the conversation.

At the same time, these tools are empowering marketers. Online technologies allow marketers to find customers, learn about them, and stay in touch with them over long periods of time. Nevertheless, social media tools represent just part of the new tool set. Advances in advertising are increasing relevancy and improving purchasing power, while analytical developments allow marketers to measure success like never before.  

These three trends indicate that the time is right for marketing experimentation. Consumer sentiment has changed and companies have to figure out how to respond. New technologies have emerged and companies need to know how to use them. Luckily, companies now have the tools to measure all of these efforts.

"It's a good time to experiment [or risk] missing out on a new trend [or] technique that really works," says Natasha Kapur Dutta, manager of marketing and communications at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications. "But it's important to do a pilot first, then take the learnings and scale up."

A Fourth Force: Desperation

Marketers beware: A fourth factor is swirling with these three trends that could lead to a recipe for disaster. Due to market instability, the desire to experiment is often ignited by the fact that some marketers are worried about their job security. Marketers feel pressured to be on the cutting edge and prove their worth — and let's face it, many have some time to kill.

However, the fear factor can drive marketing experiments awry. Desperation distracts from best practices such as due diligence, careful action, and measured results. Moreover, it can lead to annoying Twitter spammers and failed coupon campaigns. Adding noise to a new channel that you don't understand could have serious adverse effects.

"With little marketing dollars to spend and looking at new ways to find new people, it's a fantastic time to get creative and strategic in our experiments — as long as they are responsible," says Mary Engler Guccione, the marketing manager at Butler Rosenbury & Partners. "Risky doesn't mean irresponsible. If the cost is minimal to experiment and it won't damage the brand, go for it."

Most important, keep in mind the quality reasons for innovating today:

  • consumers are organizing online;
  • consumer sentiment and priorities are changing; and
  • new tools for engagement and measurement are now available to marketers.

Map out a clear plan for maximizing these opportunities and no matter what, leave desperation out of the equation. 

About the Author

Scott Couvillon (scott@dukky.com) is chief marketing officer at Dukky, an innovative direct response company based in New Orleans. Couvillon focuses on the infusion of technology to enable consumer participation and accountability into traditional channels that can dramatically improve a brand's relationship with individuals.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.
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For the rest of the December 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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