Data driven decisions. Analytics. Return on investment. Measure, test, report. Measurable outcomes.
If you're in business of any sort, you probably toss around these phrases all the time. I do too. I love data and statistics and am a big proponent of setting goals and measuring against them. I like making numbers into charts and posturing with friends and colleagues about what the data might tell us, how it might inform future decision making.
Analyzing data like this is often interesting, exciting and informative. But does it every give us a full picture of what's really happening? Can data provide all the information we need to make a decision? Definitely not.
There are times where I have all kinds of data that suggest we should tack right and yet, for some reason, I want to tack left. There's this niggling sense that the data is wrong, but I can't quite put my finger on why. My gut tells me to tack left.
Trust your gut.
When it comes to marketing, "gut" can be important. Here are some reasons why I think gut counts:
Ultimately, marketing is about people and if there's anything that we know about people it's that they're unpredictable. We might have a marketing formula that's worked for years and all of a sudden it's not working anymore. Why isn't it working? Sometimes, the only answer to this is "people."
Human behaviour cannot be accurately predicted all the time. Our needs, our feelings, our environments change constantly. For a marketer, this means we can do all the things we do, like building persona profiles, decision trees, experience maps, etc. but ultimately we'll never have the right answer all the time for why a marketing tactic worked or didn't work.
I'm an introvert, which isn't a characteristic that usually people usually associate with a marketer. However, I think it helps me be an excellent marketer.
Since I was little, I would step back a bit in rooms of people. I would listen and take in the room, then on the drive home I would talk and start to unload all of these observations I'd made and my understand of what it meant in terms of human dynamics. I'm fascinated by people, what motivates them, how they interact with each other and the world and objects around them. I like listening to conversations and analyzing word choice, meaning, tone and intent.
Ultimately, these observations, whether intended or just a natural inclination, arm me with oodles of information that feeds my gut and informs future decisions. These observations become a natural repository of consumer behaviour data that I can call on anytime.
In my opinion, it is difficult to be a successful marketer or communications professional without a high degree of empathy. The ability to put yourself into someone else's shoes is going to help you understand what they might be feeling, what they need and what is motivating them. While you'll never be able to truly understand another person, having empathy will certainly help and will drive you to fulfill their needs. Empathy will inform your gut and will help you craft calls to action that are customized to them. It will help you craft speaking notes or other pubic engagement tools that are sensitive to the audience. If something doesn't sit well with you as you're developing messaging or public outreach, it is likely that your gut is being informed by your empathetic position.
Another thing that helps inform your gut reactions are both personal and professional experiences. With experience, we've seen things work well, we've seen things that have utterly failed. With experience we've gotten to learn tools, tricks and techniques that we've implemented before. We've seen what other people have done. We've tried things ourselves. We have learned from both failure and success, and even if we're trying something that is unlike any experience we've had before, these former learnings will help determine our gut reaction to the new thing and will warn us if something is just a little off.
Will your gut always be right? Nope. But neither will the data.
All I'm saying is, sometimes, we have to give gut a chance.
But don't just take my word for it: