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Why Business Owners Must Rely on Data (and Not Gut Feelings) When Making Marketing Decisions Business owners often rely on gut feelings and opinions rather than data and metrics when it comes to marketing decisions.

By Jackie Cullen Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Don't make marketing decisions based on gut feelings and opinions — here's why you must rely on data and metrics instead.
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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When it comes to marketing any business, data never lies. However, it is easy to let our personal tastes and inner voices prevail, even if we do not have the data to back it up. The business owner's opinions certainly have a place in devising their marketing plans, but they should never become an obstacle to success. And that is why I always use hard numbers to guide my marketing plans rather than gut feelings.

Opinions are great, but facts are better

Working with a variety of clients across the country, I see a variety of personality types, not only in the business owners themselves but in their businesses as well. I always want to respect my client's input. After all, they know their business and clientele best. However, most of the entrepreneurs I encounter are looking for a noticeable improvement in their bottom line, and to make that happen, they must be willing to accept that they do not always know best when it comes to marketing.

Often, the results the business owner perceives are not the whole picture. For example, they may believe that they are getting more "duds" than quality leads when in reality, the number of quality leads they are getting has increased month to month. This skewed perception may occur because negative experiences tend to leave a more lasting impression than positive ones do. The business owner may be overhearing snippets of conversations that lead them to believe that incoming leads are lower quality than what they would like, or their front-office staff may be talking more about the so-called "bad" leads than the good ones.

It could also be that quality leads are coming in but are not converting because the staff has not been trained well on how to handle them correctly. Whatever the case may be, many business owners will make a blanket statement about the quality of leads they are getting based on incomplete information and then jump to the conclusion that the marketing is not working.

Related: What Is Good Data-Driven Marketing? Here Are 5 Examples of What Big Data Can Do.

Business owners like to have a say in how their marketing looks and feels, which is certainly acceptable and very much encouraged, especially at the beginning when I am getting to know them. However, there comes a point when the marketing professional needs to take the reins, and some business owners have a hard time relinquishing control. They would rather rely on their own feelings and tastes to determine whether a marketing campaign will work or not.

They also fail to consider that their target audience may not think or react the same way they do — and that just because they find something appealing does not mean it will work from a marketing perspective. I see this often with highly technical services. The business owner, who is naturally an expert, wants to include a lot of industry-specific terminology in the marketing because that is what appeals to them as a professional. They do not realize that technical language will not resonate with their target audience, which consists of non-professionals who know little to nothing about their field.

Why data matters

Marketing is a science as much as an art. Especially today, with digital technology, there are countless ways to test ideas and track results. With modern technology, there really is no reason not to make marketing decisions based on data. In fact, I always test my ideas before implementing them on a large scale, because there have been times when I thought an image or an idea would be a hit, and it turned out to be a complete miss. Testing saves time and money and leads to more successful marketing strategies and happier clients.

I also use best practices and tactics I know that work from experience and previous testing rather than going with my gut or basing decisions on what I like or dislike because I am not the target audience, so my personal opinions are mostly irrelevant. I gather as much data as possible before, during and after a campaign and use it to make future decisions for my clients. And while my clients' feelings are always important to me, I find that numbers and revenue make a more compelling argument when deciding whether to discontinue a marketing strategy.

Related: 3 Tips to Achieve Growth in 2023 Through Data-Driven Marketing Strategies

Outsource the hard part

A sole proprietor may not have the means to establish an internal marketing department for their business, let alone the time and energy to conduct testing for every marketing decision they make. Business owners are spread especially thin without also having to take on the added burden of creating, implementing and tracking their marketing campaigns. That is why outsourcing all marketing to a professional who not only knows how to do those things but also understands how to interpret the data on the back end is always a good strategy no matter what stage of growth your business is in. Unless you have a marketing degree, it is unlikely that your expertise and experience extends to understanding marketing metrics and testing. Relying on a reputable marketing professional saves valuable time, expense and a lot of stress.

As a marketing professional, I appreciate my clients wanting to be actively involved in their marketing strategies, but I am also not afraid to hit them with some hard data when their personal opinions start to impede their success. The numbers will always tell the unvarnished truth, giving me and my client the ability to make better, more informed marketing decisions. The best and most rewarding scenario is when the client and the marketing agency understand each other's roles and work together to make choices based on facts rather than feelings.

Related: Remove the Guesswork From Growth With These 4 Marketing ROI Boosts

Jackie Cullen

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-Founder & President

With more than a decade of experience in corporate dental laboratory marketing and brand development, Jackie Ulasewich Cullen decided to take her passion for the dental business and marketing to the next level by founding My Dental Agency with co-founder Shawn Berg.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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