You may have seen this interesting visual story recently as it made the rounds.
It is a diagram of a World War II Royal Air Force plane showing where bullets had hit the plane. The purpose was to direct where extra armor should be placed to protect other planes. Makes sense, right?
As Mother Jones magazine puts it – ‘Obvious but wrong’. Hungarian-born mathematician Abraham Wald explained that because all of the studied planes had returned, the study ignored those planes that were shot down – – and therefore where the true vulnerabilities were (the engines).
This is a pretty good metaphor for a classic error in marketing – focusing on the easily studied while ignoring what really needs attention.
It’s like the guy looking for his keys under a lamppost rather than in the field where he lost them: “Yes, I did lose them over there, but the light’s better here”.
Studying only data at hand means you could be ignoring bigger opportunities that you can’t see. For example:
- Optimizing Instagram or Pinterest (or Google AdWords) can be of little use if your most valuable customers don’t go online that much
- Segmenting your target based on demographics can be very ineffective if your target is attitudinally defined
- Orienting marketing messaging to older buyers can be largely wasteful if the key influencers are their children
- Paying attention to only those customers who Opt In in LeadGen may be ignoring higher potential customers who are too busy to be bothered and for whom email may not be the best approach
- Spending a ton of money optimizing a trade show space may be less useful if only a small % of decision-makers still attend trade shows
The solution is to make sure you truly understand your customer, their key attitudes, influences, preferences and pain points.
Only then can you put your reinforcement where it really counts – – and sometimes it’s the customers you can’t see.