Data Alone Won’t Guarantee Better Marketing Decisions

Business intelligence expert Kaan Turnali points to critical thinking as a key to the marketing decision-making process.

Better-Informed vs. Better Decisions-

If we have the data we need, why is it that it can’t lead to better business decisions? I was often asked this question in the business intelligence (BI) course I taught for a doctorate program—especially by those candidates with a marketing or finance background.

The concept of “better-informed” decisions is distinctly different than the concept of “better” decisions in business.

Better-informed leaders don’t always make better decisions, but better decisions almost always start with better-informed leaders.

Understanding the difference is important before we move on to discuss the role of analytics in marketing and different ways we can leverage data as a strategic marketing asset in future posts because we need to use data to support our arguments instead of using arguments to support our data.

Better-Informed vs. Better Decisions

Putting aside the semantic differences and nuances of meaning, these two concepts play a critical role in our marketing decision-making process regardless of whether a BI or analytics infrastructure exists. Exploring these two concepts–regardless of your interpretation—will further facilitate better engagements and result in tangible outcomes that can benefit the entire marketing organization, both in the short and long terms.

The concept is a simple one: When the final decision lies with us (humans and not computers), we either choose to ignore the data or choose to use it in our decision making—assuming, of course, that it exists and we can trust it. However, even the best implementations of marketing analytics solutions can neither change nor prevent uninformed or less-informed decisions if we choose to ignore the data.

This same principle equally applies to our personal lives as in better-informed patients or better-informed consumers. Informed patients are able to make better-informed healthcare decisions. Informed consumers are able to make better-informed buying decisions.

Humans Still Play A Role In Many Business Decisions

With the exception of those automated business processes, many critical business decisions are still made by humans (despite what many sci-fi movies portray). Whether we’re developing a marketing or content strategy or executing that strategy, leaders and managers still want to rely on insight derived from solid data points. Though there are many factors that play into the decision-making process, ultimately our goal must be to employ data-based analysis and to look at the evidence using critical thinking.

Data has to be solid, otherwise it becomes “garbage in/garbage out.” Do we have the single version of the truth? Do we trust the data? Do we ask the right questions? We need to be ready and willing to admit that we may be wrong about our assumptions or conclusion if we can identify flaws (supported by reliable data) in our initial assessment. We must be willing to play devil’s advocate. And maybe, we don’t blink but think twice when we can afford it. As the old saying goes, “measure twice and cut once.”

It doesn’t matter how we get there, data alone will not suffice—we know that. All of these variables will inevitably shape not only the final decision we make, but also the path we choose to arrive there. History is filled with examples of leaders making “bad” decisions even in light of ample amounts of data to support the decision making process.

Bottom Line

Better-informed decisions start and end with leadership that is keen to promote the culture of data-driven decision making. We may not be able to prevent all of the bad or flawed decisions, but we can promote a culture of data-driven decision making at all levels of our organization.

In business, better-informed decisions often start with a strong appetite for data, followed by a healthy dose of skepticism for it. If available, our collective insight becomes the guiding light for our decisions enhanced by data. In the absence of it—when we are left to decide by ourselves—we seek wisdom in our own experiences to fill the void where we can’t find or rely on data.

Where do you see the biggest challenge in making better-informed marketing decisions?

Connect with me on Twitter (@KaanTurnali) and LinkedIn.

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