Our perspective at VantagePoint

Why marketing is like brain surgery

A friend of ours — let’s call him Bill — heads to the brain surgeon for a bit of intra-cranial work. The surgeon prods, probes, does scans, completes research, and comes back to Bill with a recommendation for how to best proceed: brain surgery next Monday morning.

And Bill’s response? “Well, I see your point, but you haven’t had to live with my head like I have. Plus, there are some findings you aren’t aware of. And, my wife sort of likes my hair like it is right now, and I don’t think I want to shave it for the operation. Thanks for your recommendation, but I’m going to ask you to operate on my ankle instead. Oh, and can we do it tomorrow, rather than waiting until Monday? One more thing — I’ve got an extra utility knife in my workshop, so I’ll go ahead and do the preliminary incision before I show up at the hospital.”

Extreme, you say? No one would do that, you say? Why doesn’t Bill just listen to the professional, you say?

I couldn’t agree more. And yet it happens to us marketing “surgeons” far more than we would like. And yes, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to compare brain surgery to marketing, although you could argue that your life — or that of your business — hangs in the balance in both circumstances. But the evidence is strongly in favor of allowing your marketing advisor — and your brain surgeon — to do the job you’re paying them to do.

You see, if you’re working with a good marketing agency, they have your best interest in mind. They aren’t out to rob you blind; they aren’t out to destroy your company. They really, REALLY want your business to succeed. That’s why they make the recommendations they do.

And we find, time and again, that when clients follow our recommendations, they are successful. A few examples (with names removed to protect the innocent):

* a direct mail piece we created, which went from concept to reality in 4 days, without any client changes whatsoever, got an 80% response rate and a 40% conversion rate.

* an event we planned, which had only one client change in the entire process, netted nearly $500,000 in sales for the client.

* an ad we created, which had just 3 small client changes, was honored by readers as the ad with the highest impact.

* an integrated campaign we created with minimal client revisions netted a 30% click-through rate to the campaign microsite.

Will clients have insight we don’t have? Sometimes, yes. Will clients have internal political battles that sometimes impact marketing? Regrettably, yes. Will operating on the marketing equivalent of an ankle have the same impact as properly performed brain surgery? No, it won’t.

Evidence shows strongly that whether in surgery or in marketing, the closer we can get to the ideal procedure, the better the patient — or business — will be.


  • Jaclyn says:

    Great post, Dave. What a good comparison!

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