Why You Should Never Follow Your Head OR Your Heart in Decision Making

Why You Should Never Follow Your Head OR Your Heart in Decision Making


Any tangible outcome that comes from a strategy based on the head or the heart is pure luck, not good judgment.

When it comes to decisions around marketing, many agencies and professionals fall into one of two categories:

Following your heart

Recommendations from the heart tend to be the creative ones, or the desire to try something new. Creativity in marketing is a key component, but it should never lead the strategy.

I have worked with some of the best creatives in the industry, but their input comes much further down my list when devising a marketing strategy.

Without a strong global brand behind you, a beautifully crafted piece of creative is not going to be enough to get results, equally if you like it, it doesn’t mean to say your target audience will.

Following your head

Pulling on past experience or using what has worked for another client, I admit, appears to be a good approach. However, what has worked for one client does not mean it will work for another and with the ever-shifting patterns of consumer behaviour, past experience becomes out-of-date pretty quickly.

Any tangible outcome that results from strategies based on either the head or the heart is down to pure luck, not good judgment.

So, if your head and heart can both be equally misleading, the question is: what should you follow?

The answer is simple and has been realised by many of the fastest growing companies in the world. In fact, it has been recognised by most companies in general, but that fastest growing in the last decade or so are those who have acted on that realisation.

Following your data

Famously, American businessman John Wanamaker once said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

When he said that, decisions were solely made on the head and the heart, as well as some basic data such as focus groups.

Now however, the same doesn’t have to be true: we have so much data on everything in marketing that decisions can be made on fact, rather than hunch.

It goes without saying that there’s no magic formula that gives you all the answers, but there is a way to significantly increase the probability that marketing will deliver a tangible outcome: a strategy which revolves around using data to make decisions.

Data spans the entire marketing lifecycle, so it’s imperative that marketers, operations managers and sales teams give it their full attention.

It’s important, however, to point out one caveat and it relates to the famous saying that “there are three types of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics”.  If we are truly to be led by the data, we can’t let the heart or the head take over and look for data that gives us the answer we are looking for.

In order to add value, the data and the interpretation of it need to be free of bias. This, of course, is easier said than done, and requires a business leader to be wise and open to the idea that they’re wrong.

Different types of data

  1. Market
    – Industry
    – Competitors
  2. Target audience
    – Prospects
    – Customers
  3. Performance
    – Analytics on tactical marketing activity
    – Sales performance and metrics
  4.  KPI data
    – Measured against what you’re trying to achieve

Why your business needs to be data-led

Looking at your data should not be a one off exercise, marketers need to ensure that data is the driving force behind their strategies, regularly looking for the exceptions and making changes accordingly.

To add value and see a return in your marketing you should be able to answer these questions accurately all of the time:

  • What are the characteristics of my best customers?
  • Where can I find more of them?
  • What messages/tactics/channels engage with them?
  • What makes them buy?
  • What makes them keep buying?

If you can’t answer all of the above, then you’re relying on your heart or your head; as such, your marketing is unlikely to be adding value to your business.

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