Taking Marketing Risks in a Strained Economy, with Emily Montgomery


If you’re a SaaS marketer who tends to be risk-averse, the last 12 months haven’t been kind. Market volatility and “doing more with less” does not pair well with risk-taking. However, Emily Montgomery, VP of Professional Services at Xplor, believes there are still opportunities to take calculated risks… and doing so starts with a mindset shift.

Listen in as we explore how to “experiment and learn” to create a culture of risk among your marketing org and discuss the channels that are best for experimentation.

Experiment with opportunity

During their conversation, Emily and Lindsey discussed the transformational power of shifting from an “experimenting with risk” perspective to an “experimenting with opportunity” mindset. As marketers, we often doomsday about worst-case scenarios before creating a new campaign. But what new heights could we reach if we considered the potential benefits of a big risk instead?

“Risk has a negative connotation to it… I believe that even just reframing it and not looking at it as a risk but rather a willingness to experiment takes away that negativity. And with that negativity often comes fear,” said Emily.

Emily also suggested that risk-averse marketers objectively weigh a risk’s pros and cons before spiraling about a decision’s potential fallout. At Xplor, Emily accomplishes this by thinking through worst-case scenarios and determining if the possible consequences of a campaign or idea outweigh its potential benefits. If the answer is “no,” it might be time to walk on the wild side and try something new.

Lead with wow, not how

It’s one thing to convince yourself of a good idea, but convincing an executive or manager? That’s an entirely different ballpark, especially when risks are involved.

If you’re in this situation, Emily suggests taking a data-driven approach. For starters, answer the following questions:

  • What is the organization attempting to accomplish with this idea?
  • How will we know if that goal is accomplished?
  • What KPIs can we track for this campaign or idea?

Alternatively, if you’re a marketing manager presented with a novel idea, consider the impact you might have on an employee if you shut them down immediately. Instant rejection is demoralizing and might discourage employees from sharing further ideas. So, instead of leading with a derogatory line of questioning, welcome new ideas with healthy skepticism. In other words, “lead with wow, not how.”

Work backward from your goal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a comprehensive guide on which risks are “worth it” for every organization? Unfortunately, no such tome exists — so instead, marketers have to rely on their instincts to determine which channels are best to experiment with. Emily advises marketers to outline their goals early in a new campaign and be intentional about their investments.

For instance, if your organization is considering a paid media opportunity with a KPI of X% sales growth, outline these expectations on the front end of your campaign. And if the metrics don’t suggest success when it’s all said and done, take that under advisement as you consider future campaigns.

Remember that failure to meet a specific metric doesn’t equate to wasted time or resources. If nothing else, you learned a valuable lesson:

“[Nobody] can make sound business decisions when motivated by fear and negativity of what will go wrong. Whereas if it’s reframed as an opportunity to learn or experiment — to try to see if it’s going to work — it feels less… scary to create a culture that allows and encourages experimentation,” said Emily. “Not everything will work, but there’s always something to learn from what you were willing to try. [For example], if you were to try again, what would you do differently? Or, if you were never going to do it again, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Listen to episode 356 of SaaS Half Full for more of Emily’s insights.

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