The Truth is Out There—Why are We So Afraid of It?
The first time I was asked this question it stopped me in my tracks. And that’s pretty hard to do since I am in marketing (you know, it’s all about the brand, the message, staying on track, etc., no matter what) and have sat in many VC (where every answer you give is subject to what seems like intensive psychoanalysis) and board (when you have to justify why a down quarter happened and make them believe that you can turn this around) meetings.
So here’s what happened. I was at a networking meeting and when asked about what my company did, gave my standard 30 second answer which is pretty much about helping companies create and sustain data-driven environments which will foster “better” decisions about their business. After a little back and forth about analytics and data and how these topics seem to be attracting more and more interest, I was asked this question: what happens if you find out that everything you’ve been doing is wrong?
Well then, you change what you’re doing based on the information you now have.
Easy in theory. Not so much in practice. In fact, a common theme at the Marketing Analytics 2010 conference in Boston was that when analytic tools come up with a reasonable forecast the company must have the nerve to act on it. The best way to describe this is the Jack Nicholson effect, coined by Eric King, president of the Modeling Agency, a predictive modeling consultancy: You can’t handle the truth. (For those of you not familiar with “all things to do with movies,” a famous quote by Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men.”)
Why all the angst? And believe me, I have been asked this question countless times as has pretty much the entire PatternBuilders’ team. Well, analytics is not just about coming up with a better answer. It’s about commitment from the top of the executive tree down to the feet on the street. You must be prepared and willing to change the way you look at and manage all aspects of your business. We call it creating and sustaining a data-driven environment.
Years ago, I conducted a customer satisfaction survey for a B2B, high-end software company. The results were not good. Our customer’s view of “us” was that we simply did not “care” about them, we did not return calls or emails in a timely manner, we appeared to have no problem escalation process, the list of issues went on and on. When I sat down with a key executive at our company to go over the results, her response was “what am I supposed to do with this?”
My reply: “We need to fundamentally change the way we do things.”
Easy to say, much harder to do. But here’s the thing, isn’t it much better to accurately know how bad things are? Once you understand your baseline, every improvement you make can have a profound effect on your business.
But the very first thing you have to do, individually and collectively, is to embrace the new truths that your data reveals. The truth is out there and there’s nothing to be afraid of.