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Since Marketing Is More Than Pretty Colors: 7 Proven Decision-Making Hacks For Marketers

Erik Larson Jul 31, 2017 5:56:33 PM


Industry trailblazer Regis McKenna once declared, “Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.” Today that’s more true than ever. Marketing is the connective tissue and motivating force of a business, spanning from the 4 Ps to the 5 Cs, from creative content to cutting-edge technology, from advertising tactics to business strategy.

Because marketing is so central to business, it can’t happen in a vacuum. For modern marketers to be successful, they must partner with sales, technology teams, finance, vendors and many more day in and day out to deliver programs that resonate with customers and drive business results.

Along the way, marketers make thousands of business decisions. Yes, that includes the remarkably difficult choice of the right shade of purple for the new logo. But of course they go far beyond picking pretty colors. Marketers face constant pressure to make decisions that deliver results:

Which new markets should we enter this year? What customer segments should we focus on? What programs should we run this quarter? How can we increase traffic and leads by 25%? What is the right concept for this campaign? Which tradeshows should do this year? Which marketing technology should we implement? How should we allocate our marketing budget? What metrics should we track?

And each and every stakeholder involved in these decisions is at the ready to offer an opinion: “I don’t like that purple, it reminds me of a bruise.” “That sounds too corporate.” “This event is a better strategic fit.”

That’s why good decision making is critical -- because everyone is a marketer until results go south. It is essential that stakeholders are involved, committed and accountable to your decisions, and ready to react when the situation changes. How do you make all these decisions quickly and effectively, with everyone lined up and advancing in the face of aggressive competition?

Below are 7 science-based decision-making hacks to help you make better and faster decisions and keep everyone marching together to deliver results:

1 - Align goals with company goals

This one is (or should be) obvious. When planning marketing strategy, or determining quarterly plans and programs, make sure you are aligning with top line corporate goals. Start by writing down and prioritizing five pre-existing company goals that will be impacted by your marketing decisions. Listing out the top goals keeps decision makers focused on the most important outcomes. Without this list, teams are prone to rationalizing how their decisions align with big goals after the fact, rather than making the best choice up front.

2 - Use a clear structured process

Define a decision-making process and communicate it to stakeholders. Using a structured decision-makingprocess helps ensure buy in since everyone knows what to expect, what is expected of them, who will make the decision and how it will be made. The process can be as simple as this Harvard Business Review checklist, or you can use a platform like Cloverpop to step teams through the process and reinforce best practices along the way.

3 - Expand the options

Sometimes what needs to happen seems obvious. But a better choice is almost always there at the edge of your perception. Cloverpop decision research shows if you have the discipline to think through four alternatives for your decision, there’s a 56% chance you’ll come up with a better solution, and cut your risk of missed expectations by more than half. This exercise also helps to combat groupthink, forcing the team to expand their view of what’s possible beyond the obvious or least controversial choices.

4 - Identify the Gaps

Write down the most important information you are missing. We risk ignoring what we don’t know because we are distracted by what we do know, especially in today’s information-intensive businesses. Take the time to call out the unknowns and document them. Doing so will enable you to explicitly determine how to address the gaps - make a tough call, take time to collect more data, or perhaps settle on a smaller decision now to validate a bigger bet later.

5 - Be transparent

People inherently mistrust what they can’t see. So use transparency to build trust by documenting all decisions. Download our free decision log or try Cloverpop to keep a record of what options were considered, who participated, what was decided and the reasons why. Make it available to anyone interested.

This places more pressure on an inclusive decision process, since it will be clear who was left out. But that inclusivity pays big dividends, since stakeholders who know that someone with a similar perspective was part of the process are much more likely to support the decision. Having visibility, in and of itself, will help people get on board.

In addition, decisions that are logged, and visible to all, tend to become more data-driven, and execution and follow-through tends to improve. Teams also correct more quickly when decisions don’t go as expected. And common bad behaviors -- like conveniently “misremembering” certain decisions or reopening them for debate -- are reduced.

6 - Over communicate

Marketers know customers need to see or hear a message at least seven times before they take action and buy. Yet we tend to forget this lesson when dealing with internal customers and stakeholders. Share what you are doing and why. Tell them and tell them again. Provide periodic updates. If everyone knows the plan and how things are going, there will be less room for surprise and second-guessing later.

7 - Track and measure

Marketers track and measure campaigns obsessively, why not do this with the rest of your decision making? Keeping clear records of decisions enables you to track, measure, and assess your decisions, change course quickly when needed, and improve decision making over time. We are what we measure. Want to increase team decisiveness and improve decision making? Measure it.

Balancing Strategy, Creativity and Execution

Marketing requires a strong blend of strategy, creativity, and execution to be successful. It is rare for one person to excel at all three skills, and there are only 24 hours in a day. So marketing requires constant team decision making -- and these teams are composed of people across the business with different roles and agendas. The behavioral science underlyingCloverpop reveals the patterns for success -- opening up creative thinking to expand what’s possible, and locking down pragmatic thinking to drive alignment and rapid execution. And since marketing is everything, success is your only option.

This article was co-authored with Jill Soley, a product management and marketing executive and consultant working in Silicon Valley.