Rolling Loaded Dice

Predictions are risky business. The top gamblers in the world, the ones who actually make a living gambling are only right little more then 50% of the time. Branch Rickey, considered by many the greatest baseball mind that ever lived wrote this scouting report, “There have only been two young pitchers I was certain were destined for greatness. One of those boys was Dizzy Dean. The other is Ron Necciai.” Necciai won only one game in his brief major league career.

Think about the smartest person you know. How often are they right? The smartest marketers and agencies I know are never right. They don’t make great predictions. What they are great at is asking the right questions and getting the right answers. In other words, they are great at testing.

Let’s take a look at SEM. The standard practice for launching new campaigns seems to be having a few brainstorms, taking tens of thousands of dollars in client media budget, and throwing everything online to see what sticks. After one or two months hopefully you are on the way to figuring out what you got right and what needs to be worked on. This is especially true when agency comp is a percentage of media spend (and there is the need to subsidize the 25 year old that was just hired to manage your account).

This entire approach seems foolish and antiquated to me. Why wouldn’t you start your first one-to-two months of a campaign testing ideas in small-scale pilots programs and then blow them out when you are done with the guesswork? In this scenario the client’s ROI is increased without the wasted money on what didn’t work. You’ll also save yourself a whole bunch of time and expense. Most times signals from tests can be received in a number of weeks. Most importantly, I guarantee you will gain learning you can leverage throughout the life of the campaign that you would never have been able to achieve had you been spread thin concentrating on a full-out campaign.

Treat the client’s money as if it was your own. Why gamble with it? Especially when so many marketing results are counterintuitive. Spend you time asking the right questions of your client and your audience and you will be rolling loaded dice.

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