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Striking the Right Balance Between Data and Gut

by in +strategy

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I’ve been curious about the answer to a particular question: which is more important in reaching the audience of my marketing career­—my gut or data? I’ve received responses promoting both arguments, but I’ve also heard that there needs to be a balance. Over time, I have come to agree that there does need to be a balance. However, a question remains: what is the right balance when it comes to relying on intuition versus numbers?

A quick disclaimer—I’m not providing a secret formula to calculate an exact percentages. Instead, I’m simply explaining how to balance the two based on a few variables. In actuality, the formula is always different.

Let’s look at a budget at a marketer’s disposal. If said marketer has a reasonably sized budget, she can purchase data from market research firms or, of course, simply do the research herself. In this instance, it’s fair to lean more on data than have the talent side use the data to craft creative stories that will attract consumers. Even if the budget is limited, it is worth building several buyer persona profiles when constructing a story. They provide specific, in-depth looks at portions of the target market while also giving an idea of how customers think, feel, and act in general.

Those who have the capital to support a lot of data research, but too short of a deadline will fare better by relying on instinct rather than data. The ability to understand how people’s minds and actions work is crucial to a street-smart marketer. The reason it’s important is because it’ll give the marketer a jumping off point for reaching out to the logical everyday thinkers.

In some cases, like business-to-business sales, there isn’t much need for data. A marketer isn’t trying to understand how and why hundreds of thousands of consumers are thinking what they are. Rather, marketers need to understand a very specific role within the companies they want to attract and understand those personalities more than anything. Those personalities have bosses to report to and different departments to keep in mind, which will affect their behaviors in the decision-making process. For example, a machining company that makes spindles for thread might want to target the purchasing department of textile businesses with facilities larger than 100,000 square feet to support the machinery. A lot more criteria goes into it what I just mentioned with the textile facility, but not nearly as much as business-to-consumer sales with tons of different individual personalities.

It’s fair to say there isn’t a methodical formula for striking the right balance between gut and data. Keeping different factors in mind could greatly affect the balance by tipping towards an effective marketing campaign or ruining the effort completely. Some questions are useful references. How much time is there until the deadline? How much money is there to use for a campaign? How much data is truly needed?

A marketer also needs to consider external variables like legislation, international trends within the industry, marketing regulations, and the position of the firm within the industry.

Keep all these things in mind and take some time to decide what is most important to the success of the campaign and the goals of the firm. Draw out all of the clearly defined goals and work from there to find the right balance.

Do you have an experience in which you chose to rely on either your gut or numbers? Share them! What were the outcomes? Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter to comment, or simply use the comment section below.

About The Author

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit - View more articles

Francois is a strategist who loves piecing the puzzle together for a creative big picture. Aside from skateboarding and running marathons, he loves learning about new renewable tech constantly hitting the market. His creative juices get flowing when he has Netflix running as white noise and is surrounded by natural light. Connect with Francois on LinkedIn or Twitter.