jan’s thoughts

Facts v Gut or Marketer v Client

Marketing folks often complain that despite providing solid sets of data, some of their clients still decide to go with their gut feeling. Marketers are quick to blame the client, because they toiled days and hours until they’ve finally come up with some meaningful insight.

They call their client “straight-up ignorant.” They want to throw them over the castle walls, pull up the draw-bridge and curse every single one of their known relatives until the client vanishes in the Eurasian tundra.

Depending on the quality of the marketer’s data set and their ability to judge the data correctly, going by “fact” or gut might not make a huge difference. (Yes, marketers should invest more time in checking their sources.)

But besides that, marketers sometimes don’t pay enough attention to what may be going on in their client’s head.

The client’s gut instinct is often an expression of some kind of doubt that has nothing to do with your good arguments. Maybe they’re under pressure from their higher-ups, who — against better knowledge — expect them to follow obscure guidelines in a holy corporate playbook, of which you’re totally devoid and always will be.

A simple, almost classic, example would be counterfactual decisions on ad spend. Imagine you report back that display advertising for company x has been largely ineffective in the last six months. Against your recommendations, your contact in the company insists on pushing more money into worthless display ads.

The client will say something like this: “With all due respect, you know I appreciate your input on this. But I believe we should push ahead with display because we put so much money into these amazing creatives.” (Obviously, as you found out, these creatives don’t work at all. But that’s also in the report.)

As an employee, you want to avoid personal embarrassment at all cost. Maybe they fought hard over several meetings to try out display ads. All they want to avoid in this case is the flood of “told you so”s, when it doesn’t work out. They don’t accept your recommendations? It might hurt your pride but I’m sure you can shrug it off. Save a client from corporate humiliation.

Or, the company may have already allocated budget to a specific type of ad (yap, not great, possibly not your fault), and now it would be a bureaucratic operation to get that budget where it would actually be useful. That’s unfortunately how some (larger) companies still work and is outside your influence. You will have to deal with it.

These are just two possibilities that have nothing to do with your extensively researched triple A report.

Next time a client ignores facts:

  1. Take a step back
  2. Make sure you explained your reasoning clearly
  3. Think about the client’s motivations which may be outside your influence

Most importantly: Don’t hold a grudge.

One day the client will come around to your thinking. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but one day - maybe.