No matter how fast it moves, the pace of technological innovation is always accelerating. Marketing is no exception. Developments such as voice search, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality marketing and many more leave companies in a quandary: Should we hop on the latest marketing bandwagon or sit back and wait to see what happens?

Early adapters can win big, but there’s also huge downside risk. Investing heavily in a new marketing approach, especially if it involves scaling back tried-and-true options, can ruin the bottom line with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, being too conservative carries a lot of risk as well if competitors establish a significant and long-lasting advantage in online lead generation.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to wait or innovate.

  • What are your customers like? Always start by looking at your customer base. Older people and conservative industries tend to be more comfortable with things that are familiar, so you have to be careful about getting too far ahead of them.
  • Do you want to attract new types of customers? Maybe you sell in a conservative industry but want to start marketing to one that is more “cutting edge.” In that case, an edgy marketing campaign may be just what you’re looking for.
  • What do your customers want? Old, young, conservative or cutting-edge, customers may surprise you if you ask what kind of marketing they want. Consider online chat. This was a very rare website feature only a handful of years ago, whereas now it is common. This innovative marketing tool had inherent appeal to practically everybody; companies that surveyed their customers discovered this long before their more inwardly focused competitors.
  • How much risk can you afford? If you have a lot of money in the bank and the future of your core business looks strong, you’re in a good position to experiment with new marketing ideas and technologies. If the opposite is true, you’ll probably need to offset the cost of such experimentation with cutbacks in other areas.
  • What are your competitors doing? Getting involved with new marketing programs simply to copy competitors is not always a good idea — you can’t assume competitors know what they’re doing! On the other hand, you can’t sit back and scoff at them, either. To really understand whether your competitors are on to something, you have to dig deeper and find out whether their new marketing efforts are producing results. Also consider the track record of competitors in terms of past success (or failure) with marketing innovation.