Successful people effectively sort their decisions into three buckets: small, medium, and big, according to decision-making expert Mike Whitaker in an interview with Fast Company “Small decisions impact you for a day, such as what you wear and what you eat. Medium decisions impact your life for a year or so, such as deciding to go back to school or take on a roommate. They affect your life, but they aren’t crash-and-burn moments.”

Bigger decisions are what set these winning decision-makers apart. Bigger decisions are made once or twice a year, according to Whitaker, and successful people use their goals to navigate to the right choice. Knowing your goals is key.

In this two-part series we’ll show you how to begin applying these best practices to your marketing decisions. In this first post we’ll paint a picture with broad brush strokes of how marketing decisions typically get made.

Method #1. Go with your gut.

You’ve been doing this long enough to know what feels right, and you seem to have an intuitive sense for how to allocate your resources. Hey, it’s worked for you so far.

Good for you. What does your gut tell you about leaving money on the table? Sure, you’re probably right some of the time. You’re also probably wrong some of the time.

There’s definitely a place for good judgment in the mix; on the other hand, “trust, but verify” is a cliché for a reason. If you’re not backing up your instincts with hard data, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

Upside. Decisions can be made quickly.

Downside. Lack of data makes it tough to know if you’re succeeding.

Method #2. Rely on subscription data.

When the numbers come in, you can see exactly what happened. It may take a while to get the info, but once it’s your hands, you can make something of it. Of course, these days, by the time those numbers do come in, everybody else has already moved on—customers and forward-thinking competitors alike.

Consider what Bill Mackison, consumer insights lead for Perfetti Van Melle USA, says he used to go through: “Collect data at the end of the year. Get my marketing mix results by April. Begin pre-buying in May. Kick off my plan for next year in August — when the data I have available is, at-best, from the December before, and at worst two years old.” (He doesn’t make that mistake anymore.) Read his story here.

So instead of being a boon, this approach to big data can instead be a big anchor holding you back: by the time you figure out how to act on what you’ve learned, your ship has sailed.

Upside. Decisions are data-based.

Downside. Decision timeframes are elongated reducing the value of your decisions.

Method #3. Use attribution models.

With digital driving so much traffic these days, you have to keep an eye on what’s working and what’s not. If you can assign credit (or blame), then you’ll be able to spend more wisely.

First touch, last touch, multi-touch—a huge number of variables are involved in tracking attribution, and almost as many models. But the simple truth, as spelled out in a recent Forrester report, is that “current metrics like reach, last-click attribution, and engagement fall short.” Plus, all hype aside, it’s unwise to put all your eggs in only your digital basket.

“Cross-channel attribution measures customer-level activity for trackable channels…but it fails to measure and incorporate the entire mix, such as the impact of mass media.” Oh, and by the way? Google recently “eliminated data access to advertising IDs, which are essential for attribution measurement.

Upside. Helps you make data-driven decisions.

Downside. Those decisions are in your digital channel only, so you’re not getting the full picture.

Method #4. Follow the agency’s recommendation.

You’ve worked with them for years, and their trusted partners. Hey, no one is perfect, but they’re the experts at this stuff, right?

Great—now you’re counting on someone else’s gut. Or relying on metrics that reflect their agency’s success, not yours; things like impressions, reach and engagement.

Upside. Effective assessment of your agency’s creative product.

Downside. Poor indication of the resulting business value.

Given these less-than-optimal options, what’s a marketer to do?

Method #5. Know what the heck you’re talking about.

You recognize there are lots of variables to consider, and you no longer have the luxury of picking a few data points to back up your gut. “Actionable data now” wins the day…and even more so, tomorrow.

When it’s your brand’s revenues and your decisions on the line you can’t afford to miss the mark. Next-generation marketing mix analytics are making data available across all your channels in real-time and helping you anticipate the financial impact of your decisions, rather than leaning on the traditionally soft marketing metrics that raise eyebrows in the C-suite.

  • Consider the food brand that followed the data to sack its football-centric TV buy in favor of an extended season that delivered a 169 percent increase in ROI.
  • Or the candy company that used deep analytics to cut through the sugar high of holiday spending and unwrap a balanced media buy that boosted sales by a healthy 10%.
  • Or the toothbrush maker that found its holiday spends were three times more effective than those that made after the stockings came down.
    The choice is yours.

Like we said, this is a simplified view of the marketing mix world. In reality, all of these decision-making methods have their place, er, at least most of them.

The question you need to answer with brutal honesty is this one:

Are you measuring what you value or finding ways to value what you’re able to measure?

The answer can mean the difference between success and failure in your marketing decisions.

Tune in next time when we look at right sizing your marketing decisions and pivoting in the face of wrong decisions.