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Received wisdom – the enemy of the marketing department (and any other department for that matter)

July 30, 2010
Image of some data

Data - true opinions should be based on information rather than just what people think

Opinions and hearsay, received wisdom, call it what you will – all these are enemies of effective marketing. Yet they crop up time and time again as marketers attempt to achieve results by methodology and data rather than by someone’s opinion.

Picture the scene: the MD is talking to someone on a train who tells him (or her) that he “never receives any of the company’s brochures”. The MD comes in fuming and idle chatter become firm fact. A few checks later on the database and said person on the train does receive all the company’s mailings. He just throws them away when he gets them…

Or what about opinions like this “people are fed up with bullet points”… “direct mail doesn’t work any more”… “we must be seen to be publishing this”…

All the above are true examples of received wisdom I have come across in the last few years. As can be seen, they are all high in opinion and low on fact. Which is why the marketer’s mantra is always test, test, test.

Yellow or Blue brochure? Courier or Times? List A or List B? The variables of a marketing campaign all influence the final outcome so all must be tested. A Yellow/Black brochure against a Blue/White outperformed the latter by a ratio of 1.5 to 1. That’s a fact. So next time we test this fact against another variable in the pursuit of results.

The problem with the opinionated is that their opinion is usually baseless (or is based on some psychological disorder). If they had the facts, their opinion would be based on more than just a chance meeting on a train, or a personal view about bullet points.

The key to any marketing discussion is to focus on the facts. Sales are up – why? Sales are down – why? What was the list response? Who responded? Who didn’t? What’s the cost per thousand (cpm)? What’s the ROI? What’s the renewal rate/acquisition rate/lapse rate?

Unfortunately, many marketers today have the misfortune to work in businesses where marketing is not given the information it needs to make decisions. Consequently, opinion leaders are those who rely on their place in the pecking order to determine strategy. This is, of course, a deeply flawed model. It also causes listlessness and a decline in professional morale.

Marketers of the world: data is key to decision making. If the data is unavailable, if the groupthink in the business is geared more to personalities than to performance, then either effect the change or leave.

Businesses which survive on hearsay and gossip are built on false foundations – surviving by dint of personality alone. Better instead to work for businesses which have a real interest in commercial performance and which are prepared to scrutinise data and metrics to drive the business forward.

Because in such businesses, people are rewarded for what they achieve rather than who they are. And businesses are only ever assessed on results.

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