When it comes to making decisions about a brand or marketing strategy, we are total hedonists. We want more. The concept of balance is great for your life, but when it comes to insights, we don’t want any restraints.
Your brand and your company are too important to make decisions based on emotions or gut instincts. You need data. First learn and then decide. This really rang true for us during a recent client project. We worked with our client about two years ago on a large quantitative study of their target audience. Based only on the results of that study, we collectively determined what would be the best positioning strategy for their brand. The recommendation was put on hold due to some client organization changes. Now fast forward about a year. We picked up where we left off and additional research was approved to gain more insights before moving forward. Great call. After additional qualitative and secondary data was acquired, our recommendation on their positioning dramatically changed.
Were we wrong the first time? Not really. The best decision was made based on the facts we had before us. But now with more insight, we were in a position to make a better decision. So, yes, more data is better. But how do you know how much data is needed to make an important decision? How do you know when you have enough and can feel confident to make the call on what to do?
How Much Data Do You Need?
There is no hard and fast rule. How much insight you need to make an important decision is a balance between the level of impact the decision will have on your company and your level of comfort. Colin Powell on one end, said that when you have an important decision to make, remember the “40 to 70” rule. Never make a decision with less than 40% of the information you think you need. And never delay making a decision once you have at least 70% of the information you think you need. If you wait until you have more than 70% of the information you think you need, the opportunity has usually passed and someone else has beaten you to the punch. Then there’s Steve Jobs whose style emphasized intuition and often made quick decisions. But we often tend to forget that Steve hired the absolute best and brightest to discuss and debate the facts and ideas before a decision was made.
Our Recommendation & Process
We tend to use the 40 to 70 rule (and more toward the top of that range). Or if that feels a bit uncomfortable, go with 50 to 80. Here’s how:
First of all, you must establish a clear objective. Write out exactly what problem you are solving for. You’d be amazed at how something so simple can elicit a number of different responses from your team. Identify a singular goal. If you have more than one – that’s fine, but then you need to tackle each one on an individual basis.
Next, list all the information you believe you need to know to answer the question. It could be 5 things or 15. The main point is that, once you have this list, you should feel extremely confident in that if you had the answers to these questions you would feel very comfortable in making the decision. And here is where the rule comes into play – you don’t need all the answers – somewhere between 70% to 80%.
Finally decide on how you will get the data. You may already have some of the information internally or it may be easily attainable. Other answers will require some research. If you need to get the insights, how you do it will be based on how much time and money you have. A quantitative study, for example, will take a lot more time and money. Others may just need some secondary research (or maybe even a basic google search).
BIG MONEY CONSULTATIVE INSIGHT (free of charge of course): Never start with the methodology! Don’t start any effort of gaining insights with believing you need a focus group or a quantitative study! Start with the question and then determine the method. Think about how you will use the information once you get it. Otherwise, it’s like pulling out a hammer from your toolbox believing it will be the best way to get your answer when all you really need is some duct-tape.
Now that you have your insights, it’s decision time. Whether you are implementing a refresh of your brand or your new strategic plan, you will have the data you need. It’s better to move forward than either sit on the fence or endlessly look for more information to get to the right answer – the fact is, there is no guaranteed right answer, only a better answer. The strength and discipline of your team will play just as an important role in the successful implementation of your plan and the outcome you are looking to achieve, as will the decision you make on what to do.
What’s the best way to manage your team and implement your plan? We’ll leave that to another article – this one is getting too long already. And if you’ve read this far – thanks! That means we’ve reached our objective with this article.