The Magic of a Pilot Program to Prove Your Marketing Concept

November 28, 2017 / By Bruce McDuffee

Sometimes you just have to go ahead and do something different, then share the fantastic results. The level of risk depends on your organization and the level of control your department and the other departments want to have over the organization. In some high-control cultures, you could get fired for going rogue. In other groups, where the culture supports new ideas, you could be lauded and promoted for doing something innovative. You will have to decide how far to push the envelope in your organization. I suggest that if your innovation is perceived as going rogue and defying the powers that be, you would be better off working for another company.

There is a more formal way to approach the introduction of the new way in the face of a high product culture. Suggest a pilot program. The chances are high that you can get support and funding for any pilot program that highlights innovation, even if that change comes from the marketing department. What manufacturing company does not like to think of itself as innovative? If you offer a creative idea in support of company growth or other business goals, you will get approval.

The reason pilot programs are magical and why they are almost always accepted is because they are perceived as not permanent and non-threatening. Conversely, if you were to propose a complete change of the existing go-to-market strategy, the chances are slim that you would be able to overcome the product culture. Therefore, I suggest you use the pilot program to get your “new way” foot in the door.

If you are the chief marketing officer with a seat at the leadership table, you might have a chance at revamping the strategy all at once. If you are a close advisor to the CEO and were brought in to turn around the marketing and sales teams, you have a good chance of revamping the strategy. If you are like most of the manufacturing marketers in the manufacturing industry, with little power or influence but a lot of passion, the pilot program is the best way to go.

There are six steps to creating a pilot program designed to demonstrate the power of the new way and the power of sharing expertise for free as a means to engage with the people in the target audience.

Step 1: Write down your goals and objectives. If the goal is to demonstrate the power of knowledge-based marketing as a way to generate engagement, then you should state that purpose and how the results will support the goal.

Step 2: Gain commitment from a subject matter expert to support your pilot program.

Step 3: Choose the particular tactic you will propose. I strongly suggest choosing a tactic that allows you to show real, verifiable numbers. An educational webinar series is an excellent choice because you can quickly show the number of registrants and attendees along with critical data about each person. You could argue that your webinar pilot program will deliver qualified leads.

Step 4: Identify and procure the tools, develop the content, set milestones, select a launch date, and execute.

Step 5: Share the results and be prepared to show how the results demonstrate proof of your hypothesis.

Step 6: Ask for resources and support for an extension of your original pilot or request a second pilot program to demonstrate the concept of the new way further.

If your first pilot program is successful, you will likely be allowed to do a second pilot. Eventually, the pilot programs will merge, and you will have achieved your initial desire to pivot the marketing strategy from product pitching to sharing knowledge and educating the people in your target audience.

Takeaway Actions:

  1. Keep in mind the politics of your organization as you craft your pilot program. Unfortunately, in some companies, the success of new ideas is feared, and they are treated as a threat rather than an opportunity. Form right alliances and collaborate as much as possible. Avoid conducting your pilot program as a stealth activity. Your chances of achieving the ultimate goal of transforming the go-to-market strategy are better with collaboration and transparency.
  2. Be patient, but be persistent. You might consider treating your marketing position and the firm where you reside as a laboratory where you can experiment in a real-life environment. Operating your company as a laboratory allows you to learn the lessons of success and failure, which will go a long way toward forging a successful marketing career.

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