The ROI on risk-taking
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
Hockey Hall of Famer, Wayne Gretzky, probably wasn’t talking about marketing when he uttered what is arguably one of the most popular quotes ever to come from the world of sports. But the relevance is clear. Contemporary marketing, or more specifically marketing communications, has become increasingly risk-averse. Today, it’s all about ROI and quarterly financial reports. It’s safer to do things the way they’ve always been done, or in accordance with industry expectations, than it is to zig a bit when everyone else is zagging.
Let me be clear. I believe in the importance of ROIs, accountability for results and smart (strategic) marketing. Shooting from the hip and taking risks for the sake of taking risks is seldom a safe strategy. On the other hand, walking down the middle of the road is seldom a safe way to get to your destination either.
Going back to Mr. Gretzky, he didn’t become “the Great One” by taking wild and crazy shots that had no chance of going in the goal. He made smart decisions based on his experience and skills. Then once he saw an opportunity, he was not afraid to pull the trigger, no matter the game circumstance or the pressure to avoid possible failure.
Smart insights, sound strategies and creativity are the marketing equivalents of hockey experience, skills and opportunistic play. Technology has provided us with an ever-growing suite of marketing tools and channels. The frontier of possibilities is exploding. We have the opportunity to be pioneers, to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no marketers have gone before. But it takes courage to explore new frontiers and, sadly, many marketers lack that kind of fortitude.
Of course, strategic risk-taking isn’t limited to new technologies. It can apply equally to creative problem solving or adapting solutions from other industries or experiences. Again, it is a matter of being willing to push the envelope. Or as Apple once proclaimed in its advertising, the ability to “think differently.”
The idea that marketing should be viewed as an investment and not an expense is hardly original thinking on my part. But extending the metaphor even further, marketers would do well to remember the classic investor mantra that the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.
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