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Any significant undertaking involves risk. This is true across any area of business, as well as in your personal life. The question I will answer in this article is how to mitigate risk when you are creating your next digital marketing strategy.

There is no perfect strategic decision. One always has to pay a price. One always has to balance conflicting objectives, conflicting opinions, and conflicting priorities. The best strategic decision is only an approximation – and a risk.

– Peter Drucker

How do you experience risk in creating marketing plans? It can be resistance from people pushing back. It may be the resource strain on your time and energy. Additionally, a sense of uncertainty may linger: what are we doing? How do we know we are doing this right? Is this all going to be worth it?

To combat risks, you need to be aware of them and prepared to handle them. Be proactive through prevention rather than reactive through putting out fires.

Common Risks in Digital Marketing Strategy Development

  • Changing technologies: For example, changing the platform your website is built on (the CMS, or Content Management System); migrating to a new customer relationship management (CRM) software. This would require your team to learn new technology and may take additional investment of time and finances to successfully change (i.e., switching costs).
  • Changing Responsibilities: You or your team may have new or additional tasks to handle. In addition, this may mean losing responsibilities. If that applies to someone on the team, and their job, as it was, does not exist in the same way, that can create resistance.
  • Additional Needs: You may need to add personnel, outsource to a vendor, or replace the majority of someone’s job to realign with your new execution needs.

Until you have developed the strategy, you don’t know exactly what risks you will face. However, you can begin to anticipate potential risks early in the process, as well as while you develop your plans.

There is a risk of momentum loss and overwhelm while creating a digital strategy particularly. I see individuals and companies go through this when there is a lack of digital expertise available to them, and making sense of the conflicting terms, ideas, and technological integration puts a halt to their progress.

In digital marketing, there is a need (and opportunity) in integrating with those who handle technology at companies (particularly mid-sized businesses and larger). However, this can also be challenging if anyone confuses IT & technology experts with digital experts (including when the technology expert confuses that about themselves).

Side Note: I recommend you involve technical teams in the strategy development process in an as-needed consultative manner. I do not recommend they are involved end-to-end.

How to Explore Technology Risks

With Marketing Automation as one of the most common marketing technologies (“MarTech”) to consider, you will want to glean relevant insight from your tech team, such as:

  • How does this tool fit in with the other software we use?
  • How can we migrate data and information smoothly to this new software?
  • How can we seamlessly transition our people to the new software?

If you read into the above questions, I am really asking:

  • How do we mitigate technological risk by ensuring our softwares work well together?
  • How do we mitigate switching costs?
  • How do we mitigate loss of efficiency and morale hits because of learning curves?

This is the essence of risk mitigation for digital marketing.

The additional benefit of your due diligence in risk mitigation is that you will not only be able to reduce resistance; you will learn how to communicate the benefits of the changes to your employees from diverse perspectives gathered in this process.

Since you can’t prepare for everything, remember the two elements of risk management: likelihood and impact. If you identify all risks, you can begin to measure how likely each is to occur, and the impact if each occurred. This will help you know what to prioritize.

Risk Management Across Risk Areas

When developing a Business Case for a client, we review the following risks:

  • Timeline Risk
  • Financial Risk
  • Strategic Risk
  • Technology Risk
  • People Risk

Now, go ahead with your marketing planning and be ready to reduce resistance and increase the likelihood of success.

This article is an adapted excerpt from “Getting Digital Marketing Right” (David J. Bradley, 2015). See other excerpts from the book here.

David J. Bradley, MBA is the managing director of Bbg, Inc. and a published author. He regularly contributes to several publications and has been featured on Business Insider, Investopedia, PR Daily, Capital One’s Spark Business and more. Connect with David on Twitter: @DavidBradleyMBA.