Determine what success looks like before gauging it

I'd like to round out our series with some proactive measures that can keep you out of trouble.

All week, we've been talking about how we can try to predict that a marketing program will fail before it ever hits the market. The warning signs are generally there. The key is to avoid them altogether as you plan. I'd like to round out our series with some proactive measures that can keep you out of trouble.
Use a multi-disciplined team. I say it all the time, “get out of the silos!” A diverse team is more likely to think of everything in advance and will share knowledge from its area of expertise. Pull team members from various parts of the organization to get a well-rounded view, even if you don't think you need their contribution. You'll be amazed at the input you get. Try to give them a way to easily contribute and share. A "war room,” physical or virtual, will help to keep everyone connected and contributing. A diverse team can spin out of control though without one focused leader – one ultimate decision maker who makes sure everything is accounted for and that it all lines up. It's important to give that decision maker authority to make key decisions across all the lines, not just the responsibility of making sure it gets done.
Determine what success looks like. Your marketing program will only be effective if it accomplishes goals that you determine upfront, so specify what the end game should look like and set benchmarks to identify when you get there. Build in ways to measure along the way so you can adjust the program if it isn't working the way you had planned. With key mid-term metrics, you don't have to wait until the end to know if the plan didn't work – you might even be able to prevent a disaster from coming to life.
Do a trial balloon. With social media, mistakes are a real risk. All it takes is one wrong tweet and it's over in a matter of minutes. So try your program out with a small group to make sure there are no fatal flaws or potential misinterpretations. A little more time upfront saves a mountain of effort later. It doesn't have to be an expensive test market. Run it by people in a chat or ask a group of friends to comment. You can go statistically significant or not, just get some feedback.

Nothing is fool proof, and what makes marketing so much fun is the art of it all. If there were a clear formula for success, then most of us would not have jobs. The key to a positive outcome is to eliminate as much risk as possible right at the beginning. Happy marketing!

Jim Joseph is president of North America at Cohn & Wolfe, a professor at New York University, and author of The Experience Effect series.

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