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Marketers are human beings, and human beings need data

Human beings are wired to make connections from birth using intuition. Usually that is a good thing. But we are entering an era when marketers need to stop using their intuition and start using data. If they don’t, they will fall behind those that do.

When one of my kids was three years old (yeah, this was a long time ago), we took her to her second dental appointment. After the appointment, she asked where the party was. Yeah, we laughed, until we saw that she was serious. She legitimately expected that she would be taken to a party after her dental appointment.

At first, my wife and I were flummoxed. We explained to her that there was no party, but why would she think such a thing? Slowly it dawned on us that we had taken her directly to her friend’s birthday party right after her first dental appointment six months ago. She had one data point for dental appointments, and she intelligently remembered everything that went with dental appointments. Including the birthday party.

So, we were relieved to think that our daughter was a genius instead of insane, but it shows something that we all do. We overgeneralize from one incident or a few incidents. We connect things together that aren’t statistically significant. We especially do this when the incident is emotional, good or bad. Over the years, we learn not to associate birthday parties with dental appointments because we have enough of both that we realize that they are independent. But our instincts–or intuition–is to make connections, even when they make no sense.

Marketers suffer from this reliance on our lizard brain as much as anyone–maybe more, because many marketers went into the profession as a refuge from math. They are more creative than analytical, in many cases, and they tend to make connections based on their experience, rather than data.

Don’t let this happen to you. What was okay ten or even five years ago is hopelessly outdated now. Data is all around us, and the smart marketers are using it. The rest are slowly becoming less important.

It’s not that there is no place for creativity. There is a gaping need for it. It is just that we need to be willing to judge our creativity based on quantitative feedback, not interesting stories. Urban legend marketing is on its way out–fast. Don’t get swept out with it.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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