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Dog Days of Data

August 08, 2014|John Donlon

How many times have we let one sales rep’s impression of what it takes to win a deal influence our entire marketing strategy? How many times has the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) – one opinion, mind you – won out, leading to a copy rewrite that resonates with that person, but not with the target persona?

While kicking off a recent client inquiry, I ended up chatting with the senior marketing operations leader, who is also a friend of mine. We were lamenting New England’s latest stretch of hot weather and the temptation we both have every summer to install central air conditioning in our houses.Sure, it would be nice to have, but do you really need it? We agreed that, even though the temperature only spikes on a handful of days out of the year – and the answer, on those days, would be a resounding “Yes, Yes and YES” – it doesn’t really seem worth the expense.

Dog Days of Data

She told me that this summer she was taking a more scientific approach. She had started marking down the days when she thought central air would be justified. She was taking a conservative view, counting only the days when she thought she really couldn’t live without it. At the end of the summer, she and her husband will use the tally to decide if they should install central air for next year.

I loved the idea, but felt a slight twinge of envy that I hadn’t thought of it myself. Dispense with the anecdotal evidence! Make data-based decisions! Build the business case! Once again, a concept from the business world threatened to seep into my personal life, but I welcomed it with only a modicum of shame.

“I haven’t really been keeping track,” I said, “but we’ve probably had three or four already, right?” “Try 12,” she replied. Twelve? Good gravy! And that’s supposedly conservative. The data wins!

How many times have we let one sales rep’s impression of what it takes to win a deal influence our entire marketing strategy? How many times has the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) – one opinion, mind you – won out, leading to a copy rewrite that resonates with that person, but not with the target persona?

No doubt, experience plays an important role in decisionmaking, but when it’s left unchecked by hard data, we leave ourselves open to blind spots that can hinder our effectiveness.

I will be checking in with my friend this fall to see what the final scorecard looks like and to see what they decided to do. Did I mention that her husband is a general contractor? Maybe this will be the rare case where the cobbler’s kids actually have air conditioning … er, shoes.

I’m curious – what experiences have you had where the data has won? Lost? What are some of the nuances of using data to your advantage?

John Donlon

John Donlon is a Senior Research Director for Marketing Operations at SiriusDecisions. A recognized thought leader in marketing operations, he has over 20 years of experience in information technology, process improvement, and measurement and reporting. Follow John on Twitter at @SiriusJD.
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