Be a mathematician

“I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do.” – Frank Gehry


One of my pet peeves is a client confusing what they want to do with what they’re trying to do. Often times, the two are different. Well, this usually isn’t the problem. The problem becomes when they stop listening to your suggestions. They stop listening to the very person they hired (as and expert).

Marketers should always be presenting solutions to clients that achieve their marketing/communications objectives. We shouldn’t be tools for our clients and just blindly do what they tell us. However, I’ve come to learn that providing solutions just isn’t enough. To be really good, stop being a marketer and become a mathematician.

Mathematicians (the really good ones) don’t just present a proof for a solution, they often craft the proof into its most elegant form.

From the wikipedia entry on mathematical beauty, a proof is elegant when it has these characteristics:

  • A proof that uses a minimum of additional assumptions or previous results.
  • A proof that is unusually succinct.
  • A proof that derives a result in a surprising way (e.g., from an apparently unrelated theorem or collection of theorems.)
  • A proof that is based on new and original insights.
  • A method of proof that can be easily generalized to solve a family of similar problems.

I’ll use two of the characteristics to illustrate how thinking more like a mathematician will make you a better marketer.

Minimal Additional Assumptions

As solution providers, we should aim to present solutions that require the least number of outside resources and, of course, at the lowest cost. I was tasked to take a documentary film about entrepreneurs across Canada. Naturally, a project of this scale would require hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the solution I came up with involved university students being the main drivers for the event. This group of people has engaged interest in the entrepreneurial scene and are motivated to learn skills that will help them graduate with a job. Best of all, they often are willing to work for free. The way I envisioned this project coming to fruition is an small, core team of university students will liaise with me to coordinate the event.

Solutions should require the fewest resources and minimal investment.

Succinct Proofs

All the best solutions are often the simplest. A client of the firm I work for needed to know whether online traffic translated into offline traffic into the sales office. I identified that a segment of the audience isn’t willing to go into the sales office because there is no perceived value versus gathering information online.¬†We then created a page specifically targeting this group to convince them visiting the sales office is an experience you won’t get from viewing a webpage. We put many tracked actions on the page to gage the visitors intent on visiting the sales office. Adding a simple page like that helped us better measure how effective our online advertising was. Ultimately, we were able to correlate online traffic with sales office traffic.

Keep solutions simple.