Published on May 8th, 2018
It has always been the job of marketers to build brands, inspire demand, generate leads, and promote loyalty to a company, but nowadays, marketers have to do so much more.
They have to be strategic and logistical, making the most out of scarce budgets to achieve company goals and maximize the ROI of their efforts.
They also have to navigate new and innovative technology and decide which tools will be most useful for their brand, and with that new tech, they need to be statisticians, analyzing the past in order to plan for the future.
So, how do marketers balance the old and the new when budget, capacity, and structural organization restrict them?
By being great at making tough decisions.
Easier said than done, right? There is nothing more important to a marketer’s success than the ability to make strategic decisions. So why is this a such a challenge for most?
When you add a bit of pressure from the executives to hit certain numbers, we tend to get a little tunnel vision. We start second-guessing everything we do and are apprehensive to reach outside of the box when there are goals and benchmarks to hit. Experiments take a back seat, even when the potential to hit next-level numbers could be hiding in one of them.
We forget that most decisions are not permanent. Decisions can be changed or reversed. Sometimes whacky tactics fail, but sometimes those experiments can turn out to be groundbreaking.
Here’s how to approach making marketing decisions
1. Frame the Impact of Your Decision
There is a benefit to making fast and decisive actions, just don’t let them become rash.
Some decisions are bigger than others, so, understanding the cost or implications of that decision is critical.
A good choice now may be better than a great choice later, so if the choice at hand is something that is easy to change, make the good decision now.
Think about buying a computer, for example. You have a set budget for what you want to spend and you know what features you want, so you should be able to narrow your choices down relatively easily and make a decision.
You can always return or sell it later, with very little harm done.
Now, compare that to buying a new office space.
Your budget here will vary based on location, work to be done, moving expenses, etc.. Not to mention the company downtime that may be required.
A decision like this needs more thought as a bad choice can leave you with a space you are overpaying for and an unhappy staff.
Try the 10-10-10 Rule
Timelines definitely play a major role in your marketing decisions. Quick fixes vs long-term solutions are always a factor, especially when it comes to budget. The 10-10-10 rule can help change your perspective and affect the choice you make.
Ask yourself if you will be pleased with your decision 10 days, 10 months, and 10 years from now (or any time frame you want really, depending on the clout of the choice.) This strategy makes you consider the short-term, medium-term, and long-term consequences or, hopefully, benefits that come with your decision.
Using this trick can help you become more confident in making decisions faster because you've considered all time frames.
2. Take a Deep Dive
That being said, when making a decision, do your research.
The best decisions usually have some kind of data to back it up -- and as marketers, we all have more than enough data to go around.
...But Minimize Cognitive Bias
Be careful when you do your data “deep dive” that cognitive bias or pre-conceived judgments aren't affecting your actions.
Cognitive biases affect decisions we make every day and can have a large effect on your marketing decisions by making you unable to see a problem from multiple perspectives.
Especially when trekking into unexplored terrain, forego your biases and suspend your preconceived judgments when it comes to looking at your data.
Check out this list of some of the biggest cognitive biases that can influence your decision making, and stay clear.
3. Don’t Give Yourself Analysis Paralysis
Analysis paralysis is the state of overthinking when presented with too many options.
Many marketers tend to overanalyze and suffer from this state of total and complete inaction during their research, but doing something is better than nothing.
Find the middle ground of spending too much time thinking about every little detail (including worrying about all the little things that could go wrong) and making impulsive actions that were not adequately thought through.
Try keeping your most important decision-making metrics and facts to one sheet.
This concise format will help you focus on the most crucial information all in one place and not get distracted by unnecessary details.
Set a Deadline
How many times have you been told to “sleep on it” when faced with a big decision?
While there is some merit to this in emotional situations, don’t let it drag out too long. This can lead to overthinking and second-guessing that can make a big decision even more nerve-wracking.
Set a deadline for your decision.
This limit will help improve the decisiveness we all need as marketers, but keep you out of the realm of impulsivity.
One of my favorite quotes from our CEO, Bob Ruffolo, regarding this is “If you launch [a website] and it’s perfect, then you waited too long to launch.”
Now, your decision is obviously not always going to be a website, but the same logic applies.
Sometimes, it's better to set a deadline, see how your decision plays out in the real world, and get data to improve than keep investing time into something unchecked, only to have it fail upon completion.
Depending on the availability of your team, this deadline should also leave you with plenty of time to consult with someone as well.
4. Pick Your Team’s Brain
More brains are better
The decisions that work out best for marketers often come from a collaboration between people with the ideal combination of knowledge, skill sets, perspectives, and experience.
Don’t hesitate to get the right people involved. No matter what your position, you don’t know everything. Ask yourself what areas could you use some consulting on. Identify the areas of expertise that would help you approach a big decision.
When bringing the situation to others (especially sales), be armed with the right knowledge needed for everyone to be fully in the loop.
What is some essential background everyone needs? What steps or considerations have you made so far? Most importantly, what
You’d be surprised what a fresh set of eyes can do for your perspective.
5. Do the Thing
Obviously, at some point, a decision must be made. So, make it happen. Rubber meets road.
You’ve taken your deep dive, a thousand-foot-view, weighed the pros and cons, and now it’s time to make the call.
Regardless of if your decision was the greatest thing to ever happen to marketing, or if it was a total bust – the follow-through is most important.
Solid implementation of your decision may make the best out of a lackluster situation or maximize the potential of a great one.
Set clear expectations as to who is responsible for what, even if it all falls on you.
Having a detailed game plan for execution is essential. Include a timetable of what needs to happen when, and any clear milestones that should be hit.
This will not only give you a ton of data to work off of when you need to revise or improve upon what’s been done, but can also arm you to the teeth if you need to allocate more budget for steps down the road.
Be sure to manage your expectations here. The worst pitfall is to overpromise and underdeliver.
Especially with marketing decisions, things don’t just happen overnight. Remember, you spent a significant amount of time picking apart every detail before making this call, so give your well-thought-out decision some time before jumping ship.
Now Reflect & Improve
Now that you’ve made and implemented your decision, don’t forget to continuously look back and analyze the result. Regardless if your choice ended up being the right or wrong one, don’t skip out on reflecting on it.
Was the outcome what you expected? Are there areas for improvement? What would you avoid or change in the future? Even with lackluster results, there is SOMETHING you can take away from the choice you made.
Analyze the path you took towards making the decision too. Which of these tactics resulted in you making your decision faster, or in a more efficient way? In retrospect, were there any biases that affected your choice poorly?
Making marketing decisions doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking process. By breaking down every step and approaching everything from multiple perspectives, you can ensure that you learn something valuable from every decision you make.