Four Ways To Make Good Marketing Decisions in Spite of Ourselves

Four Ways To Make Good Marketing Decisions in Spite of Ourselves

When we’re aware of our innate bias, we become better marketers. When we consistently interpret things based on our cultural norms and beliefs our bias becomes silent and we can make poor marketing judgements.

There is another kind of bias that can be even more insidious. It is called cognitive bias, and it is one that all humans share. When our cognitive bias kicks in, we have the tendency to make systematic decisions based on cognitive factors rather than evidence. As human beings we exhibit inherent errors in thinking when processing information. These inherent errors are the result of genetic predisposition that has arisen over time as we evolved as a species in order to help us survive.

In his research, Dan Ariely Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University points out: “We must challenge our assumptions about how humans behave,” Ariely says, explaining that “we have very strong intuitions about all kinds of things—our own ability, how the economy works, how we should pay school teachers. But unless we start testing those intuitions, we’re not going to do better.”

How does this kind of biased intuition impact us as marketers? Many times when looking back on previous marketing decisions, we can see that our judgement was biased and our intuition failed us. Here are four ways make good marketing decisions in spite of ourselves:

  1. Be aware of your own bias, and the individual bias of each of your team members. We have an unconscious bias but it doesn’t always stay hidden. Be aware of your first reaction when you encounter someone who is different than yourself. That will be a clue. What is your decision making process like when working with different groups. Do you have a consistent reactions linked to the nature of similarities in each group? That could be the clue of a bias.
  2. Expose yourself to other cultures and belief systems. A great way to do this is through travel. I’ve broadened by horizons and thinking process by immersion in the cultures of people in foreign countries. It allows you to genuinely step outside your own cultural beliefs when testing your marketing decisions.
  3. Don’t allow your decision making to be short circuited. Many marketers leverage the mental short cuts taken by buyers when they are influenced by cognitive bias. For example when a buyer anchors on the first thing they hear or see, it short circuits their thinking process and they use that anchor to reinforce their judgement about a product or service. That same cognitive bias can work against the marketer when we allow our decision making to be short circuited.
  4. Test your intuitions. In the May 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, there is a great article titled “Outsmart Your Own Biases“.  In this article, along with advice about testing out intuitions, there are several great tips including: a) Make three estimates; b) Think twice; and c) Take an outside view.

Our ability to reach beyond our biases will determine our success as marketers.

Willis Turner, CAE CME CSE, is an association management professional, speaker and author. Willis is the President & CEO of Sales & Marketing Executives International, the worldwide professional association for sales and marketing, established in 1935.

Photo Credit: Himanshu Singh Gurjar

Looking Through Your Window and the Customer Conversation

Looking Through Your Window and the Customer Conversation

What conversation is your customer having about the brand when they look through your window? Is it a conversation that other customers and prospective customers will have an affinity for joining?

It is often a good exercise to do a walk around and look at things from a customer perspective. On many digital sites we have admin access for the “back end” and we can also close that view or use a different link to see our social media site or web page as others would see it. The same goes for our physical presence. What does our plant look like from a customer point of view.

Years ago I was in the restaurant business. We had set patrol times to see what our physical plant looked like. This included the exterior of the building, the parking lot, signage, the refuse area, as well as the obvious points of access like the dining room, restrooms and lobby areas. Sometimes it was as simple as noticing that exterior signage wasn’t lit and most often the solution was to update the timer to accommodate seasonal changes in sunset and sunrise. After all, an unlit sign could mean many things to a customer, including a shop closed for the day.

I was recently reminded of this when I went used one of my favourite fast food drive through lanes. While I was waiting for my order, I had plenty of time to glance through the glass at the pickup window. What I saw was the side of a beverage machine that was not very clean. There were visible brown residual stains streaking down the exterior of the machine along with a partial view of a very soiled “Out of Order” sign. This of course begets the question, what does the remaining back of the house that I cannot see look like? Is it poorly maintained and unclean as well? When was the last time the shop manager took a look through the same window.

It is not always easy to get this outside perspective from the inside. Sometimes a good mystery shopping program will help you catch these defects, but usually a structured process for a frequent walk about will do quite well.

Really, though, the point I want to drive home is that marketing message created and the brand conversation enabled by this customer viewpoint is not the kind of dialogue that is healthy for your brand. It may be one small negative message that gets tucked into the recess of the customer’s mind. If there is another negative encounter the customer’s internal dialogue will attach the two experiences together, creating a more significant brand image.

So, who is responsible for this marketing message? Is it the cleaning crew, the shift leader, the shop manager, or the regional operations person? Developing a consistent and positive brand message can be as simple as empowering everyone in the organization to have marketing sense. In this case a first step would be using this as a learning opportunity by sharing the issue internally and having a discussion about the message this type of image conveys about the brand.

Willis Turner, CAE CME CSE, is an association management professional, speaker and author. Willis is the President & CEO of Sales & Marketing Executives International, the worldwide professional association for sales and marketing, established in 1935.