The Crisis of “Assumptions” – in Marketing and in Managing Teams

Warning sign - Assumptions Ahead

The Crisis of “Assumptions” – in Marketing and in Managing Teams

Warning sign - Assumptions Ahead

There’s always a crisis somewhere – that’s a given. The crisis I’m addressing here is about the assumptions people are making about other people. It’s why a lot of marketing doesn’t work and why some teams don’t work well together.

Assumptions in Marketing

The old saying, “when you assume you make an ass out of u and me” is particularly true in marketing. While a certain marketing channel might make sense, one can’t assume everything. One great example of this is the fact that I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve heard a client say “I want to advertise on Facebook because everyone tells me I should – everyone is there.”

Making decisions about where and how to market based on assumptions is a recipe for failure. One of the best assumptions stories I have is from my days back at a Fortune 500 company. We make hardware and software that helped people with mail – good old-fashioned mail. Our hardware helped companies to create the mail – from printing to placing the printed materials into envelopes to printing the addresses on the envelopes.

Since we, in the industry, called machines that folded the paper “folders,” and the machines that put the paper into the envelopes “inserters,” we spent a lot of time, effort, and even money using those terms to market our products. Luckily, we had some internal Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts who knew enough to challenge our internal assumptions about how to market our products. Sure enough, they came back to the marketing team and told us that no one was looking for our products based on what we called them or what they did (folding and inserting). Instead, people were searching online for what they called it: stuffing envelopes.

This is why it’s really important to know your target market. Who are you selling to? What problem are you solving for them? Where do they go to research the answer to their problem? Who advises them? How do they learn? What does the decision-making process look like?

If assumptions are made about all these things, the marketing can be focused in a completely different direction from where it should be.

Why We Test

That’s where testing comes in. I test everything because what I’ve learned over my career is you may think you know, or your client my think they know – or, better yet, knew a few years ago – but everything changes over time. You don’t really know until you try it. In real life, not in theory.

This is why focus groups sometimes work but often miss the mark, because asking someone what they might do or what they think of something isn’t the same experience for them as asking them to do something, or spend money. Action talks. Money talks. What people think they might do, in any situation, is – an assumption.

Managing Teams

The same holds true in managing teams – small business teams or midsize to larger marketing, operations, finance, or legal teams. Everyone assumes that everyone else thinks the way they do. People often think that what motivates them will motivate others. Managers often assume that what they care about is what their staff cares about. And that’s often not at all true.

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in the management of Millennials in teams is the assumptions made – even if the managers are Millennials themselves! And then managers wonder why and how the morale and success of a team can be so low, or why employee turnover in some age groups is so high.

If you’ve had issues in any of these areas – your marketing or your teams/employees – please reach out and let’s talk about what you’ve been doing to date, what assumptions have been made (by you or others), and what we can do to test the ideas and move forward.

And if you hear of someone else having these issues, please share this post!

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