Sometimes – maybe most of the time – the best way to explain something is to tell a story. So, we thought we’d try something a little different and share a story that highlights why it’s so important to innovate in the right way; that is, in a way that never sacrifices operational excellence.
Stories, of course, need characters, and our protagonist is Kim, a fun-loving digital lead at a Fortune 500 company. Kim’s known around the office for her smarts and her knack for anticipating which social platform will take off next — not to mention the hilariously inappropriate gifts she brings to the Secret Santa exchanges. Sure, Kim can feel a little overwhelmed at times. Sometimes it almost feels as if she’s starting a brand new job every month. But new jobs are fun when you’re good at what you do, and Kim is really good. She recognized the importance of mobile before almost everyone else and convinced senior management to put the mobile experience front and center. Amazingly, she only needed 12 slides to convince them.
Kim, to be clear, is a fictional character, a composite based on real digital marketers we talk to every day. And, like many of the digital marketers we meet, Kim has figured out the secret to great innovation.
So, what’s Kim’s secret to success? It certainly helps that she’s a numbers person who loves using data to uncover the trends that no one else sees, a talent that has led to some of her colleagues dubbing her “Moneyball.” But Kim is much more than a numbers person. She’s also insightful enough to appreciate that innovation isn’t a virtue in its own right.
On the contrary, Kim knows that innovation can sometimes do more harm than good for marketers if they don’t connect all the dots and think through the operational implications of their decisions. And Kim has one other important skill that makes her a brilliant marketer: she knows how to make the people around her, including her CMO, appreciate the lessons she’s learned about innovation, even if it sometimes takes a little nudging.
Now that we’ve established why Kim is so good at digital marketing, let’s take a look at her talents in action. As it happens, Kim had to muster all of her talents not long ago when her CMO, Dave, decided it was time for the team to start using a new Data Management Platform (DMP). Kim was excited when she heard the news. After all, she loves innovation. For heaven’s sake, she started the company’s Product Innovation Group. And she knows that the companies that figure out how to make the best decisions based on their data are going to be the big winners in the years ahead.
The challenge for Kim arose when she actually started using the new DMP to manage her data and campaigns. Kim found that it didn’t meet her most basic needs, starting with integrating her Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data into the DMP. Kim found that the DMP was turning into a classic case of innovation gone awry. Kim didn’t want a fancy new toy. She wanted to work with a vendor who could solve the operational pieces. The more Kim used the new DMP, the more fearful she became that the omni-channel marketing strategy she’d been working on for the last year was going to collapse.
Dave was a great boss who genuinely believed he was doing the right thing when he chose the new DMP. If he didn’t see the problems, it was because he wasn’t the one using the DMP every single day. But the good news is that Kim is a team player. She’s made it this far because she understands office politics. So, finally, after months of struggling, Kim sat Dave down and told him the news he didn’t want to hear: the new DMP, the one that he loved so much, just wasn’t working out. Yes, it felt almost like she was dumping someone, but Kim gave it to him straight. She needed a solution that could capture all of her audience data in one place, a solution that solved rather than created problems.
Luckily for Kim and her company this is a story with a happy ending. Dave saw the logic in Kim’s argument, and after cycling through the seven stages of grief he began looking for a new vendor. Kim eventually ended up with the DMP she actually needed. But how many real Kims out there are sitting at their desks frustrated because innovation is marching ahead before all the dots have been connected? Their stories are the ones that need to be heard.
Ben Plomion is the VP of Marketing at Chango. Prior to that he was at GE Capital, where he established the digital media practice.