I’m not a huge Star Trek fan, but I know that if we were to take the show’s original cast and drop them into the business world, Mr. Spock would work in accounting. They may not bleed green, but talented accountants possess an elegant and ruthlessly efficient mind. Like Spock, they know how to put aside ambition, fear, and many other emotions that can creep into management decisions.
Accountants do one thing exceptionally well: they know how to forget about what happened yesterday when making decisions today. Investments and revenues earned in the past may inform what will happen in the future, but accountants know that every business decision needs to be weighed separately and in the proper context. Will they achieve an acceptable rate of return? How do they compare to other projects competing for scarce investment resources?
Having an accountant on your marketing leadership team is more valuable than ever these days. Based on my experience, that’s because a lot of companies need to make better decisions about mobile. In spite of accounting for about 25 percent of all web traffic and over 11 percent of e-commerce, many companies have been slow to invest in the talent and projects they need to keep up with their mobile consumers.
I strongly suspect that some of that sluggishness may be the product of feeling vulnerable for not having predicted the mobile revolution. Many digital marketing leaders have spent the last 15 years investing for customers they anticipated would engage via laptop and desktop computers. They never imagined that mobile devices would become so popular, and asking for additional investment to build mobile capabilities may feel like admitting that they were wrong all along.
If you have avoided asking for mobile investment because you’re worried about being judged harshly for having not foreseen the rise of mobile, there are three things you need to know.
- You’re in good company. Very few saw the rise of mobile coming, as evidenced by the small number of companies that are enjoying real mobile success.
- Consult your own “Mr. Spock,” aka accounting. What you spent on yesterday’s digital investment is irrelevant to the decisions you face today. It’s a sunk cost. Instead, consider the most basic, accounting-driven approach to how much and when to invest in mobile programs. Model the ROI, however you define your desired return. If you can demonstrate a sufficiently positive ROI, you have a light as green as the juice in Spock’s veins to request funding no matter how you spent money last week, last month, or five years ago. If you can’t, it’s a universally accepted indicator that your project isn’t ready, but commit to revisiting the issue. Your ROI model may change for the better over time.
- Get ready for more disruption ahead. If you think the last 10 years have been turbulent, with the rise of digital, then social, and now mobile marketing all upending what we think we know, just wait. The marketing landscape will get more disruptive at an even faster rate in the future.
The work you do today to recognize you’re not the only one facing significant changes, to let Vulcan-like rational ROI modeling guide your decisions, and to acknowledge that navigating decisions you face tomorrow will help gird you for the emotional and financial challenges that inevitably lie ahead.