Balancing cold hard reality and eternal optimism

What does Harry Potter have to do with marketing? Turns out, plenty. Especially if you're focused on the wrong numbers.

Balancing cold hard reality and eternal optimism

"You're too negative" ... "No, I'm extremely realistic!"

Being smart doesn't prevent stupid decisions, but critical thinking does. Be an amiable skeptic: treat your beliefs as hypotheses to be tested, and refine them based on evidence.
— Adam Grant

In the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised. Seeing his deceased parents reflected, Harry becomes captivated by the mirror. He is cautioned by Albus Dumbledore, who says, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

Dumbledore explains to Harry that, "The happiest man on Earth would look into the mirror and see only himself, exactly as he is."

What does Harry Potter have to do with marketing? Turns out JK Rowling has a cautionary tale for all marketers, especially for those mesmerized by the wrong data.

It is unfortunately too easy to be captivated by the wrong metrics. Perhaps your CEO wants data to prove a hypothesis to close the next round. We might congratulate ourselves for delivering 1M DAU's. If this is a good number for you, it might even feel great. But what happens when we remove bounced sessions, single visit session, geos that don't generate revenue? What happens when our 1M is actually 100K, or even 10K?

A "realistic optimist" will happily accept this reality. She'll be curious about why this is the state. She'll focus on what she needs to do to fix it, or, even whether it needs to be fixed at all. She will look how she optimizes for those 100K returning visitors. How she reduces the bounce rate, how she gets single session visitors returning to the site.

Marketers who are realistic about their circumstances, and optimistic that they can change them, will always out perform those who become immobilized by illusory top-line numbers. This is especially true for marketing teams of one.