How to Sell Innovation: Set Metrics

This is the first story of a four-part series looking at brands that are pushing the envelope and taking risks in digital. It is brought  to you by Vizu, A Nielsen Company, the leader in measuring digital brand advertising effectiveness.

One of the biggest challenges for marketers looking to test out new media, which doesn’t always have guaranteed ROI, is convincing those up top to take this risk.

There’s a case that it should be easy. After all, it’s the brands that are being “risky” that are making all the headlines. Think Red Bull Stratos and Nike Fuel Band. And yet, talk to digital marketing execs, and you’ll hear tales of risk-averse managers who are more interested in protecting their bonuses than in doing something with possibly greater upside for the brand.

Digiday spoke with six digital marketers about how best to make the case internally for innovation. The common thread: tie programs to set success metrics.

Scott Gulbransen, director of social business strategy, H&R Block
The best tip I can give is to make sure your program aligns with some business priority or goal. If it’s not ROI, perhaps it’s awareness, retention or other softer metrics. I’m a firm believer in making sure my executives understand the goal of each program before we get the green light. Innovation often times comes with learning and pushing through boundaries. That means we need to experiment and try new things. If you’re bridled by ROI, you might now push hard enough making breakthroughs harder to come by.

Roy Camblin, CEO of Lyris and former exec at Citibank, Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo
I once heard the expression, if you haven’t failed, you can’t be a success, and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. This is what I call the 70-30 rule, balancing the known short-term ROI metrics for marketing with experimental, innovative programs that can impact long-term brand worth. Assessing a new approach or channel is critical, especially with the advent of new and emerging online mediums. But as a brand marketer, you are also accountable, and that’s where also ensuring a weighting towards a data-driven integrated approach will ensure you remain the CMO’s friend, not foe.

Robyn Phelan, interactive marketing manager, Palms Casino Resort
When selling a new idea to upper management, their first question will always be about ROI. At the end of the day, revenue is what makes a company keep its doors open. However, when selling an idea that doesn’t necessarily have a set ROI, you need to find another metric to measure success off of. Is it engagement? Is it new leads? Whatever is important to your company, figure out how this new idea can help build that and be passionate that it will work.

Joe Barbagallo, manager of social media, Volvo Cars of North America
ROI is paramount. If you aren’t driving sales in some way, then something is drastically wrong. A marketer can drive sales both directly (hard sale with price point) and indirectly (branding), and they both have different ways of getting the job done in different lengths of time. In social, we always work within building the relationship, building the brand, being relevant and being part of the conversation at the right time. These social KPIs are a mix of increasing the brand’s share of voice, getting into your audience’s news feeds with relevant content and gaining the earned reach your social campaigns are driving. In the end, if you aren’t showing direct monetary ROI, you need to show how your initiatives are impacting KPIs that ladder up to sales. As long as there is proven measureable value, a brand manager cannot dispute the success rate of the campaign. It’s a mix of instinct, art and science, which is everything marketing is built from.

Marcy Cohen, senior business leader for worldwide communications, MasterCard
Showing that you are going to cut back on other expenses always makes it an easier case. We did this when building out our conversation suite. We did an analysis of the collective cost and presented the fact that we’d be saving on traditional monitoring services, and that really helped us make our case.

Aubrey Flynn, brand content director, Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka
When trying to sell innovative programs, managers should focus on the opportunity of being first to market. There are a number of benefits, such as leveraging the buzz and association with PR opportunities surrounding new programming. There are competitive advantages as well. The costs of establishing a strong following on a new social network, for example, could be less than the opportunity costs of trying to catch up with a competitor that got to market first.

Image via Shutterstock

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