ALL OPINIONS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

I once worked for an advertising agency at which every logo design and brochure had to pass an incredibly difficult test. At the end of the workday, one of the partners would put the piece in his briefcase, bring it home, and show it to his wife. As a result, we produced a lot of work that looked alike, usually using the same two or three colors (which I assume also dominated their home’s décor).

You might chuckle at the idea of a high-powered advertising executive basing his decision about what was best for client needs on Mrs. Executive’s personal likes and dislikes, but are you guilty of the same approach?

When you have to make a decision about a logo design, copy for an ad, or the graphic approach to your new website, do you show it to several people “to get their opinions”? Does that small sample (which probably isn’t representative of your target audience) influence your decision? Are the factors that motivate the folks in the surrounding cubicles the same ones that appeal to your real customers?

Sure, everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s opinion deserves equal weight. I remember bank executives brushing aside a particular product benefit as “unimportant” and “meaningless.” To them, the benefit was inconsequential. To the target audience — whose average income was barely a quarter of that of those executives — that benefit was a powerful budget-stretcher.

If your attorney or CPA counseled a particular choice, you would be likely to follow her advice. After all, you’re paying her fees because of her specialized expertise, right? The professional graphic designers, writers, web wizards, and others who develop your marketing materials have corresponding levels of expertise in their own chosen fields. If they tell you a particular approach will be the most effective, they’re basing that opinion on their experience and expertise — just as your attorney or accountant would do. Would you ask your cubicle neighbor or third cousin to second-guess your CPA on a tax matter? Why let their taste in color override a designer’s professional recommendation?

For example, I’ve had clients tell me not to use postscripts (“P.S.”) in direct mail letters because they don’t like them or they think it’s silly to include them. I don’t use postscripts because I’m fond of them, or because I think they’re pretty. I use them because test after test has proven that they dramatically improve the response to mailings. Large companies that invest millions in direct marketing constantly change variables to see which produce the best results, and a letter with a P.S. that restates the offer or highlights some kind of bonus invariably generates more sales than a letter that lacks one. So should I trust someone’s gut feeling or millions of dollars of measureable results? If I were making the investment with my own money, I know which I would choose.

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