Original insights in international business and marketing

What Marketing Can Learn From Portfolio Management

Business people, and especially marketers, are always hatching new ideas, programs or campaigns.  Its just what they do.  Unfortunately, we live in a world of finite resources – and budgets.  Hence everybody’s next great idea needs to be justified, defended and prioritized against many others.
In the field of Portfolio Management, we often rely on project scoring systems or tools where each initiative is rated along a number of key dimensions or criteria (e.g. Market size, NPV, strategic fit, etc…).  Each rating criteria can also be weighted to add special emphasis.  Projects are thus individually ranked and prioritized based on their overall score.  It’s not a perfect system but when used consistently and effectively, it can provide management with a powerful tool to prioritize and justify picking one project over another.
This begs the following question:  If we can successfully rank competing R&D projects, then why can’t we do the same for marketing or PR campaigns?  I am not suggesting we start such a thing for your next brochure or banner add.  It is probably best reserved for major projects or when you are being asked to commit a significant portion of the overall budget.
So what exactly would a marketing scoring system look like or include?   To get started, a simple spreadsheet is all you need.  The challenge lies more in identifying the right criteria or dimensions for assessing the attractiveness of the selected campaign.
To my surprise, there are actually quite a few that I would like to propose.  Not all of them deserve the same weighting but when taken together they certainly highlight some of the challenges, complexities and multi-dimensional aspects marketing projects can often have.  So here we go:
  1. Flexibility. Is the campaign set/fixed from the start or can it be tweaked/adjusted along the way?  A flexible program is potentially more attractive if it can be altered or even enhanced as it progresses.
  2. Affordability.  In a resource constrained environment (and who isn’t in one these days?), doing more for less is the new business mantra.
  3. Sustainability/Longevity.  Is this a one time shot or will this require ongoing efforts to keep it running?  Having the option to keep a successful campaign going on can be a good thing but it will require further investments.
  4. Originality.  In a media rich world, original ideas are like diamonds: they are beautiful but rare.  A truly original idea is powerful in a way that a more conventional one will never be.  Are you just copying what others in your industry have already attempted?
  5. Engagement.  Just how compelling is this project to the target audience and how much engagement will it trigger?  Is this creating more background noise or will it draw your customers in?
  6. Measurability.  How easy, how often and how effectively can the campaign be measured to determine effectiveness? How will you be able to assess overall effectiveness and evaluate results?
  7. Scalability.  If this project works in a particular region or market, will it be reproducible elsewhere? Will you be able to leverage your success on a larger scale?
  8. Targetability.  How effectively will you be able to specifically target your intended audience?  Is this project like a rifle or is it more of a shotgun?
  9. Sociability. Will this new campaign leverage or tie in well with your social media efforts? In this day and age, a marketing or PR campaign that doesn’t factor in social media, clearly hasn’t been well thought through.  But even if it does, some projects do this better than others and are therefore more likely to maximize your ROMI.
  10. Mobility.  Just as programs need to factor in the social media dimension, they also need to be mobile-ready or enabled.  With a majority of digital content being accessed via wireless mobile phones, does your campaign have mobility baked in?
  11. Executability.  Simply put, how prepared are you and your organization to put the project into practice?  Do you have the staff, expertise, IT systems, time, etc… To pull it off?  Will it require skills or resources you currently do not have?
  12. Environment & Society.  Will your campaign generate a lot of waste (printed materials, samples, etc…)?  Will it consume a lot of energy?  Does it provide some value to society?  Programs that are environmentally sensitive or that offer benefits to society are more likely to be well received and to have a positive impact.
  13. Consistency.  Is your project in-line with the image or reputation of your organization?  Or is it a significant departure from what people would expect from your firm?  Might this project have any beneficial or detrimental impact on other products you sell?
  14. Riskiness.  Will executing this campaign present some financial or brand equity risk?  Are there any regulatory or legal considerations that need to be factored in?
  15. Exceptionality.  This is essentially your performance criteria.  It is too soon to estimate effectiveness but a good proposal should strive to create exceptional results.  Some projects are more grand and more ambitious than others.  This is where you would highlight the expected scale and impact of the project.
Whether you choose to adopt a portfolio management approach to marketing or not, the above criteria should at least serve as a set of guidelines or checklist for ensuring that your next proposals are as complete, impactful and defensible as possible.

photo credit: Andy Beal Photography via photopin cc

4 comments on “What Marketing Can Learn From Portfolio Management

  1. PM Hut
    July 17, 2013

    Hi Andrew,

    I rarely read articles on the application o PM in the marketing world (I did publish one though, see: )

    I would like to republish this post on PM Hut where many project managers will benefit form it. Please either email me or contact me through the contact us form on the PM Hut website in case you’re OK with this.

    • Andrew Hyncik
      July 17, 2013

      Dear PM Hut. Thanks for your comment. I would be delighted to have you use or republish this article. Kind regards.


  2. Editor
    July 18, 2013

    On a personal level, I’ve tried adapting Daniel Kahneman’s interview approach described in Thinking, Fast and Slow. He recommends picking about six traits for the candidate which vary independently, preferably traits that are easy to assess based on objective evidence, then using these criteria and keeping track of your outcomes. In this way, you can educate your intuition, and perhaps have more predictable results over time. What I like about this process is that it prevents me from gravitating to ideas based on emotional attachment.

    • Andrew Hyncik
      July 18, 2013

      Thanks for the comments. I too like this approach. I think we can always use more objective criteria to help us with decision making. Google recently came out with fascinating news about how they tried to uncover good recruits. Turns out they have not been able to find a single method, process or technique that works consistently. Not GPAs, not tests, not quizzes. Here is a link to some of their findings:

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Andrew Hyncik

Andrew Hyncik

Parifornia is the creation of Andrew Hyncik, an experienced International Marketing executive who's lived and worked for over 20 years in both Europe and North America.

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