The Power of Intuition in Marketing
Updated: May 3
It’s almost inevitable in this day and age: Any conversation about marketing will naturally gravitate towards the subject of data and how it informs those efforts. Business decisions should be based on objective metrics, after all. Data certainly can inform better decision-making, particularly related to marketing initiatives. But, like it or not, marketing also has a bit of an artistic, or subjective, side. If it didn’t, for example, focus groups designed to test creative concepts wouldn’t exist.
Even though a focus group can torpedo a sound creative marketing concept and vice versa, most conclude subjectivity should have a limited place in marketing. In my view, effective marketing requires both subjective and objective input. That said, data doesn’t account for people, emotional responses, and human interactions – all of which absolutely have a place in marketing. In my experience, relying more upon intuition when relating to other humans generally leads to better (and measurable) outcomes in a marketing context.
But, before all you data-devotees start sliding into my DMs, let me explain.
It’s no secret intuition often gets a bad rap. For one, many of us often don’t trust it and kick ourselves later. Countless leadership coaches preach that success is dependent upon listening to your inner voice. The ability to uncover a brand story, read a room full of decision makers, and the power to identify which messages will resonate with an intended audience, for example, isn’t always rational.
In-house marketing leaders navigate various facets of the role at any given time: the oversight of the brand; the ability to craft impactful communications; interactions with business leaders; management of internal teams and external resources; dealings with media, clients, and influencers; and more. The common denominator is people and this is where intuition – not data – can be incredibly invaluable.
Let’s explore how intuition impacts the success of marketing & branding efforts:
1. Uncover the story. Most of us have an ear for an interesting story. It’s the stuff Netflix is made of. A little drama and intrigue sure can go a long way. When you’re crafting a narrative for a brand, you’re listening for the “so what,” or the reason your intended audience should care to hear more. For the story to be compelling, it also needs to be genuine and authentic – what’s unique about you, your way of doing business, your offerings, how you treat your clients / customers? – and how can you get these concepts across in the various places the audience is interacting?
A common mistake is to “bury the lede” – an adage I learned back in journalism school, which basically means not placing the most important part of the story upfront. If you use intuition as a guide and put yourself in the shoes of the audience, the relatable elements of the story become clear. You can then use those elements to craft the one or two sentences central to the brand story. While this is a learned skill and a high level of proficiency in communications is helpful, over time, you can improve your ability to intuitively listen not only for what’s most important, but for the piece that will also have the biggest impact on your potential clients and customers.
2. Read the room.
In any organization, people are involved – whether they be clients, customers, business leaders or colleagues. It’s useful to consider how you are perceived in these interactions. When presenting a new idea, product, or concept, how receptive is the audience? Do you notice a smile or a grimace? Is there lively engagement? Are questions being asked? How does the energy in the room (virtual or in-person) feel? For even the most gifted intuitives, it’s sometimes difficult to assess, but keeping these questions in mind should help gauge the audience’s receptivity.
Remember, different stakeholders have varying opinions, wants and needs. It’s critical to recognize the bias and tailor your approach accordingly. For example, a CFO will want to understand the ROI of a given investment, while a CIO is likely focused on how it will impact the organization’s technology systems. If you consider the range of perspectives upfront, as well as the likely emotional responses associated with those perspectives, you can adapt your communications, develop more meaningful connections, and, in turn, be more persuasive.
3. Identify the pain and provide a solution. Many of us enjoy a good challenge. In marketing, it usually looks something like this:
“I don’t know how to tell my brand story.” “How can I reach more potential clients and customers?” “Which social media channels are important for my business and what do I post?”
It may take more than one conversation to surface these questions and concerns. Each dilemma also requires a bit of insight into the client, their business, and their specific objectives to provide the most appropriate solution.
It’s important to establish long-term relationships to identify “pain” and offer assistance. When doing so, your intuition immediately comes into play. How does this interaction make you feel? Is the conversation effortless or stilted? Do you have difficulty finding things to talk about? How much do you have in common? How comfortable are you providing honest feedback?
Some of my strongest professional relationships have not been built on conversations about marketing; in fact, most want to know what I baked over the weekend. Invest in your connections and leverage your intuition to guide you in building them. You’ll also likely gain a better sense of the challenges at hand and provide better answers in the context of more established relationships.
4. Anticipate feedback.
We covered how to read the room and prepare specific communications for specific audiences, but it’s also important to anticipate feedback – or pushback – and how you will respond to it. Your intuition can be a significant guide in determining where potential “landmines” exist. This can then allow you to strategize not only how to avoid them, but also how to craft solutions to confront them head on, if necessary.
For example, put yourself in the shoes of the various people with whom you are interacting and see the challenge from their perspective. How does it impact them personally? What potential issues will be on their radar? Why will they support / not support a particular idea? Being empathetic to the needs of others helps to build more genuine relationships based on mutual understanding and trust.
5. Skip ahead.
The most value a marketer can deliver is in mapping out the next 3, 5, 10 steps related to a given strategy – well in advance. Look ahead and offer ways to solve problems others aren’t yet anticipating. Experience is the best teacher, but don’t discount the power of your intuition in “seeing” what lies ahead. Then, offer suggestions on how to best seize opportunities and mitigate potential risks. This can help to earn trust, exude confidence, and strengthen relationships.
The power of intuition can be quite valuable in marketing & branding efforts – whether we consciously recognize we’re using it or not. When it comes to human interactions, intuition is a critical tool in establishing meaningful connections that, in turn, can lead to better outcomes. It may not be as directly measurable as data, but skilled marketers cannot deny the fact that strong relationships almost always lead to successful results. In my experience, the ability to build impactful stories, winning marketing strategies, and genuine connections is based on the level of openness to be guided by intuition. Are you listening?
Do you recognize the importance of intuition in marketing & branding efforts or other aspects of your business? Share your thoughts in the comments.