The World’s Most Advanced Mathematical Model: You

A few days ago, I had the privilege of recording an episode of the Inspiring Action podcast with my old fellow traveler Mark DiMassimo (I’ll share a link when it’s published).  Among other things, I discussed simple ways to bring data-centered thinking into marketing without making yourself or your team crazy.  Then Mark asked me a simple yet insightful question that honestly had never occurred to me: what did I mean by mathematical model?

OK, I would have preferred “what can you tell us about the rumors of your hook up with Sofia Vergara?” or “what was it like crushing a grand slam to win the World Series?” but the question forced me to articulate something most people gloss over.  We often talk about “the model,” but what does it actually entail?  If I wrote more clickbait headlines, I’d say “the answer will astonish you.”

Heavy duty mathematical modeling requires a sophisticated statistical approach backed by computing power and software know-how.  However, everyone reading this post has access to his or her own surprisingly effective model: your own brain.

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Groannnnn….mathematical modelsssssss…

In short, you think in math even when you don’t think you do.  Surfacing this sub-conscious math can make you a better marketer.

More specifically, when you think about marketing strategy, you think in terms of “most” or “some” or “all” or “none.”  As in, “most organic food buyers care about the environment” or “only some SUV drivers ever take their vehicles off-road.”  The assumptions not only have mathematical implications (e.g. “most” = more than half) but they also color your strategy.  If you sell organic food and you believe that over half of your customers care about the environment, then you’d probably want to address that concern in your marketing communications.

Bringing actual data into your strategy sharpens your model.

Por ejemplo, as a wee lad, I worked on the Cognac Hennessy account.  Despite the shout-out from Digital Underground, I thought of cognac as the ultimate old white man beverage.  I would have said, if asked, “old white guys comprise most of Hennessy’s business.”  In fact, I quickly learned that 75% of Hennessy’s sales at the time came from African-Americans.

Does converting “most” into “75%” require you to become a statistics-quoting guru to make use of data?  Hardly.  Here are two simple ways to make it work for you:

  1. Write out everything you know about your audiences, both statistics and inherited wisdom.  Use your own research or scavenge research from other sources to give some weight to the inherited wisdom attributes.  See, you know your target better already!
  2. Lay out your customer journey, the path your consumer takes from awareness to purchase to loyalty.  Mark out the decision points, the points at which the consumer indicates a higher level of interest.  Use conversion statistics (how many customers move from “awareness” to “consideration” based on the survey research, for instance) to give a mathematical definition to your funnel.

Once again, I stress that these informal models do not have the same impact as the kind trained statisticians can generate.  What they can do, however, is identify trouble spots in your marketing strategy and give you the insight to address them.

And, as far as Sofia Vergara is concerned, we’re simply good friends. Let’s leave it at that.

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