3 Steps That Reveal Your Marketing Blind Spot
The brain is an amazing piece of biotechnology. Your eyes each have a blind spot. It's an area right in front of your eyeballs that the shape of the cornea prevents you from seeing. It's not right in the middle, but it's in an area you'd never guess you couldn't see.
The reason you don't realize you have a blind spot is because your brain addresses it. It takes input from both eyes, and fills in the blind spot with what should be there.
As marketers, you have a marketing blind spot as well. Only your brain isn't addressing that one, and it can lead to disaster.
"It's the greatest danger facing every single marketer in the room today," said Flint McGlaughlin, founder and managing director of MECLABS Institute, during the opening keynote of the annual Marketing Sherpa Summit, held this week in Las Vegas.
I had the good fortune to attend this year's show (It's a great event!) and I think McGlaughlin found a good way to explain a way of thinking that's been plaguing marketers for as long as I've been covering them.
The Marketers Blind Spot
It's one thing to be told you have a blind spot. It's quite another to see it in a room full of marketers. McGlaughlin showed creative treatment after creative treatment — emails, landing pages, shopping cart pages — and he asked the marketers in the room which one they thought would do better in a test.
I got half of them wrong.
In repeated testing that MECLABS has done in its case studies and research, "72 percent of the marketers chose the wrong treatment," claimed McGlaughlin.
It's a problem he's been seeing for years, one of the key findings from the years of research MECLABS has done.
"The more expert we become as marketers, the less expert we become as consumers," McGlaughlin says. "Something connected to that observation is at the heart of our problem."
"There are smart people around the world right now making very bad marketing decisions." And he explained that it's not because they aren't talented or they don't want to be customer-centric. "It is because they have a blind spot, and that blind spot is self-interest."
How Do You Fix It?
McGlaughlin has a whole book about this, so it's not a topic you're going to be able to teach in-depth in one 45-minute presentation. However, he did highlight a few steps all marketers could take to address their marketing blind spots, much like how your brain addresses the blind spot in your eyes.
1. Understand the psychological source of your disconnect. The better you get at your job as a marketer, the further you move away from understanding how consumers think and feel. Self-interest is going to color how you think of your creative, and so will success bias, company politics, and your own refining sense of creative (which, ironically, gets more out of touch with what makes regular people react as you become more and more of a — for lack of a better word — marketing connoisseur).
2. Recognize that you are overconfident. One thing that we should have learned from the creatives McGlaughlin had us judge was not to be confident. Yet, later in the keynote, he asked us all to make another content call, then how confident we were in our choices. For the most part, on a scale of one to five, attendees were confident at a three or four level. Pretty confident ... and most of us were wrong, again. You are probably confident about many bad calls. There is evidence that overconfidence is actually an evolutionary adaptation. You need to recognize that tendency to be able to address your own blind spot.
3. Embrace a consistent methodology to see through your disconnect. "By consistently embracing a way to see through your disconnect," you can begin to account for and address your blind spot, said McGlaughlin. It's not about talent, it's not experience — you need a methodology. MECLABS has developed the "conversion heuristic" methodology that helps get to the bottom of this, and it's that formula in the graphic at the beginning of this post. You can find other methodologies for blind spots in project management or corporate leadership. Here are a few for overcoming specific psychological blind spots. And of course, you have to test. If you don't test, and really test to optimize, you're essentially embracing your blind spot, not addressing it.