Decision-making for better marketing and branding outcomes

Decision-making in marketing and branding makes all the difference between business success and staying stuck in the mire. This article offers marketing definitions you can adopt to help you better arrive at internal consensus, as well as resources to sharpen you day-to-day decision-making approach.


Decision-making in the real world

In a largely unstructured world of marketing and branding, strategic decision-making can often get messy, quickly. Even highly experienced, professional marketers tend to describe the same things and ideas in very different ways, just as they invariably approach projects with distinct methodologies.

To see what we mean, just ask a group of marketers what a term like demand generation means. You will get very different answers. And you can expect the confusion and miscommunication to grow if you ask marketers to collaborate with business colleagues unaccustomed with marketing and branding terms.


Step one, define your terms

Don’t assume people know or understand what you mean. Take the time to clarify how you think and talk about your marketing and branding among your stakeholders.

Define your terms for marketers and non-marketers alike. Make sure everyone understands the importance of key marketing concepts and words. Get everyone on the same page by using a common set of definitions.


Decision-making terms

A strategy is a plan. Marketing strategies almost always identify what you want to achieve and how you expect to achieve it. Marketing strategies often include audiences, business requirements, third-party research information, and much more.

Tactics are the activities and/or media channels used to best reach audiences usually identified in the strategy. Tactics include everything from new websites and ebooks to advertising campaigns and market research surveys.

In marketing and branding, goals are often quantified performance targets. E.g. “Reach the 100,000 subscriber mark in YouTube.” “Attract five new enterprise clients.” “Attract 50 new developers to our organization.”

Marketing and brand objectives are usually more open-ended statements of intent aligned to goals and desirable outcomes. “Build a vibrant brand community.” “Generate new, high quality b2b leads more cost-effectively.” “Celebrate our success.”

Metrics are units of measurement. All thoughtful strategies include metrics to allow for measurement, learning, and improvement. Most communication channels have their own metrics, such as Google Analytics web traffic or email open and click thru rates.

What are KPIs? Key performance indicators are the most important metrics that indicate success and deliver the best return on investment. Net new sales leads are a typical KPI in the world of business-to-business sales and marketing.


Step 2, improve decision-making

Once you have defined your terms this way, you are ready to drive the marketing and branding conversation forward with greater confidence and achieve more consensus. Now you can focus on improving your and your colleagues’ decision-making by embracing cognitive tools and frameworks.

Data-driven decision-making

Marketing and branding conversations should go beyond opinions, no matter how passionate the person delivering them. A data-driven business culture tones down the subjective decision-making. While you can’t make anyone smarter or more creative, you can certainly empower your people with tools to make better decisions.

Measure your sales and marketing

At the bare minimum, make sure your sales and marketer teams measure every activity they engage in, providing a transparent system of measurement and reporting. CRM systems such as HubSpot make this level of integrated reporting possible.

Use business and specialty intelligence

As long-time content creators for Microsoft as well as clients like BlueDot biothreat intelligence, we can also testify to the power of intelligence. You can use business intelligence software to analyze your organization from stem to stern, focusing on your most profitable activities.

Embrace mental models to reframe challenges

Better decision-making ultimately comes down to better, more logical thinking processes. We call these mental models. There are many ways to add more logic to your current thinking styles, but here are some we particularly like:

→ Gauge probabilities accurately

Use math and common sense to evaluate the probability of results occurring. Doing so improves the accuracy of your decision-making (and can calm you down, too).

→ Focus on secondary and tertiary consequences

It’s not just your actions that have consequences; those consequences also trigger consequences. Think carefully about the effects that come after the first round of consequences.

→ Invert the problem

Think in opposites to uncover hidden insights and courses of action. For example, rather than thinking about what you want to achieve, think about what you want to avoid; and rather than thinking about what you’d have to do to get that promotion, think about what you’d have to do to not get it — you’ll figure out what to do soon enough.

→ Perform a thought experiment

Before you take the plunge, play out your actions hypothetically in your head. Einstein was famous for his thought experiments, which helped develop his theory of special relativity.

→ Use a decision-making framework like PrOACT

PrOACT is a decision-making framework outlined in Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions. It stands for:
Problem: What problem are you trying to solve? (We don’t always get it right the first time.)
Objectives: List each of the objectives you hope to attain (or avoid).
Alternatives: List each of your available courses of action. (Don’t limit yourself.)
Consequences: List all the foreseeable consequences associated with each course of action.
Trade-offs: Pit your consequences against your objectives and determine which objectives you’re willing to forego.

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