Already failed your New Year’s Resolutions? Back to munching on the chocolate, crisps or having that cheeky 6pm G&T? Luckily (or unluckily) Lent poses another opportunity when we can all try to give something up.

So what bad marketing habit should we be trying to give up? I’m sure there are quite a few that spring to mind, but there is still one bad habit that many are still guilty of – guessing.

Marketing and comms can often get a bad reputation for being the ‘fluffy’ part of the business, too distanced from the financials or struggling to show a tangible ROI, and I’m sure we want to forget that Fournaise report revealing CEOs’ true feelings about marketers. We know it’s far from the truth, but it seems others need a little more convincing. So, this Lent, I’m proposing we give up the guesswork, and instead, take up something new – maths!

If this sounds like a horror story, don’t worry. I’m not suggesting you need to be an expert in linear algebra (though it’s a great asset for B2B marketers), nor do I want to conjure up your school nightmares about simultaneous equations (cost versus demand). But, for any modern marketer, PR or comms person, you don’t just need top marks in English, it’s now a requirement to have a firm grasp of maths.

So, for Lent, or just for fun for six weeks from mid-Feb to the end of March, let your mantra be “so what numbers prove this – let’s figure it out” and see what happens. It’s about time we finally kick the guessing habit.

Finding your inner data scientist

Data is today’s driving force of business, so we need to shift our mindsets from the qualitative to the quantitative. All marketers and comms professionals are trying to understand their audience and work out how best to reach them, and maths can help. You can record, analyse and reveal behavioural patterns and audience correlations to gain insights into the best way to convey your intended message. Before starting any campaign, you need to calculate those important numbers to determine what you need to do and ensure it will be successful.

Clearly, it’s important to gauge a ‘baseline’ of your campaign performance initially, but once you’ve got these numbers, you can experiment. Try creating predictive models. Test them out, assess the execution and results and move forward knowing you’re armed with the stats, figures and data to make an informed decision.

Marketing itself is becoming an increasingly complex equation. No longer do we have the luxury of reaching and targeting buyers across one channel – we have to manage campaigns across many! Similarly, marketers often have to figure out and evaluate their 10 priority channels, seven target personas, four different markets and three different product lines. There are an increasing number of variables, so how can you scale, engage and keep it altogether? And all without going over budget? The answer, you need to test, evaluate and refine. In Zuckerberg’s language – ‘fail fast’ (or better still, experiment wisely and succeed fast!)

I’m aware that this will all be easier for some than others, but marketers are now being trained up to be mathletes – it’s part of the curriculum. If you’re still in need of a kick start, why not test yourself with this A-Level revision quiz for marketing maths? You can start with the simple percentages first – working out market share, revenue and growth – before progressing to full on algebra.

Justifying marketing to the big dogs

Hazarding a guess no longer cuts it. Beyond using data and analytics to shape messaging and campaigns, showing we can speak the language of numbers and spreadsheets will also help to prove our worth and get buy-in from the top.

Even with your A-Level revision, you may feel overwhelmed by the influx of statistics and analytics, so be sure to just focus on those elements that relate to overall company goals and KPIs. Fundamentally, it’s a combination of helping get the right message to the right audience, knowing how much that will cost, and showing what return it will bring. And that means using the right metrics.

Metrics like the cost per page view or cost per follower are important to analyse for marketing decisions, helping identify issues or gaps in your process. But let’s be honest, in the wider business picture, they’re not so important. If you want senior management to invest in your plans, you need to justify the costs and show the returns.  If you might like a little shortcut to success, why not use the Hubspot Marketing Metrics?  These free Excel templates outline those essential C-Suite metrics and help make sure you’re focusing on what matters and what others in the business care about.

But keep a balance 

As the old saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t let the numbers completely take over. In the long-term, neglecting creativity would also be a bad career move, and potentially just as disastrous for your business or clients. Marketing and comms is still a creative industry, and instinct still has its time and place. Inspire, don’t just calculate.

So, keep hosting brainstorms, let the crazy ideas flow, tap into emotions – you are still marketing to humans, not robots (just yet). Try out new means and platforms, pilot new methods. Then do the maths. Once you’ve let your imagination and thoughts run wild, bring them back down to reality and make sure you’ll actually get the results you want. It’s the modern-day equivalent of the Roman tradition of brainstorming whilst drunk and scrutinising the same plans while sober! Ask yourself, what will it really deliver? What impact will it have?

You should always grant yourself the opportunity to experiment. After all, chance encounters can be great, and no marketer should ever run the risk of always doing the same thing and letting campaigns go stale – but don’t let it be a ‘shot in the dark’.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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