Not too long ago, Gartner Group predicted that Chief Marketing Officers will spend more on technology solutions than Chief Information Officers by 2017. This is a challenging time like no other for corporate marketing leaders. Buying software and evaluating technical solutions to impact the ever-changing consumer journey is maddeningly complicated, confusing and worrisome. Marketing leaders are not trained technicians, and yet, they are being asked more regularly than ever to wear that hat. Then come the technology vendors and agencies (or 10 or 12 agencies) employed by a brand.
Either way, you know what, those agencies and technology firms are businesses too, and as in all businesses, their job is to make money. Sometimes though, the idea might not be grounded in a consumer insight or a real business objective, but the idea is really fun and cool. And then, poof, you are sold something you don’t need. It usually happens with what I call “bright-shinies”. You know those things that are really new that have some kick-ass VC behind it.
So, how can you know when to call bullshit on a new idea or solution? Well, here are 6 ways to know.
But it’s Cool or Everybody will be doing it!
They couldn’t clearly explain how their “big idea” was going to impact business objectives. And when they make everything about their latest bright-shiny (and I mean everything), but, they have no concept of how it fits into what we are already doing… BAM! Bullshit! If your vendor can only talk about the bright-shiny without being able to tell you how the bright-shiny will accomplish one of our organizational goals, get out the shovel.
Measure? Measure what?
If optimization is never mentioned and when pressed they were unable to set forth clear metrics for measurement, walk, don’t run. You see, I tend to believe that a marketing plan should be 90% of what works best and 10% of what works next. And when you are talking about the 10%, it is important in any strategy or tactic to understand early at what point you should plan to move it to what works best or cut bait and try another pond.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
Who’s in the pitch and who does the work? Big difference. Make sure you know who is executing the bright-shiny. Make sure you get it in writing.
They have NOT eaten their own dog food
When the vendor does not do what they are themselves recommending to you, you might want to understand why. And the answer should NOT be “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Unless of course you are still buying shoes from cobblers, this should not fly with you. In some cases, they may not be eating their own dog food, maybe their audience or business is very different from yours. But, if they are talking about a social strategy that they themselves are not executing for themselves, it might be time to keep looking for a different solution provider.
We got this.
Vendors who do not play nice with others (agencies, other firms, internal teams, etc.) are generally going to be focused on the bullshit. What this tells you they are all about them and not about being part of the larger team you’ve hired to solve your problems. In addition to not playing well with others, these firms are more likely to want to execute their projects in a silo. They do not look for ways to integrate first; these entities think they are mavericks. They are not, they are likely bullshitting you.
And finally, ask yourself: Would our customer ever do that?
When you sit back and think about the pitch or idea you just sat through, can you actually picture your average consumer doing the very thing that the vendor just pitched you. For example, if your brand is marketing bifocals, do you see that average customer posting a pic promoting your bifocals on Instagram? Maybe not. There are a thousand examples I could give you, but too many of them would incriminate friends and frankly, myself. If the answer is no, you are being bullshitted.
Now, if you answered yes, and can actually see your consumer taking advantage of this new bright-shiny tactic, then you should go for it! Post haste! Be that first marketer to market with the new bright-shiny. Make the bloggers write countless words about your super-smart, risk-taking self.
But what if the answer is unclear? If you ask yourself, would our customer ever do that and you aren’t sure, maybe they would, then, it is important to take a step back and look harder. That’s when you could take a few different approaches to validate a direction. First, you could use your social channels to ask about your fans’ habits. See if they have been exposed to the new bright-shiny. The second approach is to test and learn. Take a bright-shiny, look at the opportunities; then work with them to develop a fit for you. They want your business! The important thing with test and learn is to make sure you that have benchmark goals and the capability to measure impact. Let me say that again: YOU NEED TO MEASURE, TEST AND LEARN, or you can’t learn!
There are so many marketing strategies and tactics these days, that knowing what’s what is darned near impossible. So many start-ups! So many ways to reach customers! But, at the end of the day, you want partners who know what these innovations can do for your business. And you want someone who will look you in the eye and give you the honest take on their product or service. And when you’ve found that, keep them near and dear because they are not vendors, they are partners.