When it comes to marketing, your opinion doesn’t matter. Don’t take it personally. Neither does mine. In the marketing world – the direct marketing world anyway – the only thing that matters is results: the cold, hard world of facts.
I’m always floored by people who think they’re operating on facts when they’re really relying on opinion. Take, for instance, the prospective client who recently called because he’d had fantastic results from one run of a magazine ad three years ago, and disastrous results in the same publication ever since. He couldn’t figure out why that should be or how to change it. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you make any changes to the ad?
Him: Well yes, I improved it.
Me: Did you change the size?
Him: Yes, I made it larger, so it should have worked better.
Me: Was the ad for the same product?
Him: Well no, the original product was too hard to make, so I offered something else. But people really need the new product I advertised.
Me: Did you change your follow-up methods?
Him: After the first ad, I sent a series of follow-up mailings, but postage was too expensive, so we stopped.
Me: So you changed the featured product, the ad size, your follow-up methods, and maybe some other things, and you expected exactly the same results as the first ad?
Him: I never thought about it that way. I see your point.
What surprised me most was not that he changed so many variables at once – but that he didn’t recognize that’s what he was doing until I pointed it out.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I suggest that another definition is doing everything differently and expecting the same results.
When it comes to advertising, don’t confuse fact and opinion. Isolate your variables and test, test, test. And when your budget or universe size doesn’t allow you as much testing as you’d like, acknowledge that fact, test what you can, take your best guess on the rest, and test more at a later date. Just don’t confuse opinion with fact and you’ll stay out of a pile of trouble.