marketing decision-makingResources are precious in Marketing. Time, budgets, tools, staff, alliances, suppliers, customers, opportunities — we make marketing decisions about all these precious resources on-the-fly and as part of our strategic plans. Some decisions are made collectively and lots of decision are made in silos. Instinct, mandate, experience, or convenience are key determinants in many cases, while other decisions are made with the guidance of templates, data, published best practices or collective wisdom. Any of these determinants may be on-target — or not.

The crystal ball for effective decision-making is more than a black box formula, and definitely more than throwing spaghetti at the wall. It’s a balancing act between strategic context and efficiency.

Strategic Context

Judgment of whether a decision was good or not depends on your intended outcome. There are many routes to achieve an intended outcome, but if you miss the mark, the route is either inconsequential or packs its own set of unintended consequences.

The trick is to be clear about the bigger picture surrounding your decision. The ultimate context is almost always “what’s in the best interest of our customers?”. Then there are subset contexts, starting with “what’s in the best interest of our company?” — which must be answered within the confines of your earlier answer. Subset contexts are concentric circles, working from the bigger picture toward subsequently smaller circles.


Judgment of whether a decision was good or not also depends on whether it yielded a return on investment. The denominator is the sum of all the resources listed in the first paragraph above. The numerator is the sum of benefits, both short-term and long-term. Some benefits are financial, while others set you up for success and synergies.

When the cost denominator outweighs the numerator, it’s a poor decision. And vice versa. Regardless, there tends to be a lot of room for improvement in efficiency: minimizing the denominator and/or maximizing the numerator.

In marketing and customer experience management, there are a lot of remedial uses of precious resources that could otherwise generate greater value if things are done right the first time at the value source.

For these reasons, it is important to conduct regular post-mortems and periodic decision-making reviews. Hindsight is 20-20 in most cases, and stepping back to make note of how things work in the concentric circles and the ROI equation is an important part of corporate stewardship and savvy resource extension.

The best decision-makers in marketing set themselves up for success through a thorough understanding of the strategic context layers — especially the outward-most layers that customers and the C-suite care about. They develop a thorough understanding of numerator components and cognizance of denominator components. They seek a balance of right-brain and left-brain inputs, respecting lessons learned and forward-looking analytics.

One of the keys to good decision-making is to nurture a learning organization culture. This involves finding ways to make it easy for lessons learned to be shared and absorbed, making it safe to take chances, and helping everyone get their heads around context and efficiency.

This post was inspired by the classic article, 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing, by Gary Katz, founder of Marketing Operations Partners and co-founder of ClearAction Continuum.

Other posts in this series:

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