Human nature causes us to assume that others share our interests, fears and motivations. We tell ourselves: I am an intelligent and logical person – so why shouldn’t others feel and think like me? And if this is the case, I simply have to create promotions that reflect my personal preferences and the orders will flood in. This attitude is reflected in the following types of comments:
- That offer doesn’t appeal to me.
- I don’t like that color, so we shouldn’t use it.
- That marketing media/technique doesn’t work.
- It worked in the past, so we need to keep doing it.
- Nobody reads long emails.
- No one will buy if we market that way.
- I never use social media because it doesn’t work.
Let’s take the last statement as an example. Many people make the assumption that social media must not be effective because they don’t use it personally. Yet, in the past week, my wife and I have attended a concert and restaurant, each of which we heard about through social media. On the business side, I downloaded two white papers and registered for a webinar, all found through either LinkedIn or a blog. And two of our great clients discovered us through social media content. So the assumption that social media doesn’t work is not borne out by the facts.
As any good counselor will tell you, when you make assumptions about why your spouse, partner or friend is acting or communicating in a certain way, you are more often wrong than right. The failure to recognize this causes countless needless friction, not to mention lost friendships, business relationships and marriages. In the business world, the principle of false assumptions applies when you are dealing with colleagues, customers or prospects (in other words, all human beings).
What is the antidote to assumption fever? First, realize that it may be a problem and follow the advice of Isaac Asimov, who said, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Second, when you are in doubt about whether prospects will accept a particular promotion, test your assumptions. Test in small quantities using as little budget dollars as possible, but definitely test before rejecting a new idea. Even those of us who have been in the B2B marketing field a long time can be surprised in both positive and negative ways.
By the way, I talked about this tendency to insert personal preferences into marketing in a March 2012 blog post titled, When It Comes to Marketing, You are Not Your Prospect. If you found this post helpful you might want to also read that one.