I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes. Have been since I was a very young child. I was reading a friend’s review of the complete works on Goodreads and I thought, "Would Holmes’ services be necessary today, given that so much information is available via the Internet?
For example, Holmes claimed to be able to identify 243 types of tobacco ash and I, in a matter of seconds, found a monograph on the subject in the Journal of the National Medical Association.
Despite the instant availability of information, I would opine that Holmes’s talent would be as much in demand today as it was in 1887. You see, Holmes’ fame lay not in his encyclopedic knowledge but rather because of his skills in deduction. If he were merely a repository of unconnected facts, he would have been "Rainman." That type of talent comes in handy when you want to win bar bets, but that’s about it.
Deductive reasoning, though, is the new table stakes for business leaders. I just read an article on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for admission to graduate school, noting that one of the essay portions in this academic rite of passage is due to be replaced with a section on integrated reasoning. The rationale: "Today's businesses and organizations demand managers who can make sound decisions, discern patterns, and combine verbal and quantitative reasoning to solve problems. The Integrated Reasoning section will measure these skills," according to the article.
Integrated reasoning. Deductive reasoning. It’s the same thing, an erudite way of saying that business leaders today are up to their eyeballs in data, and the ability to combine information from disparate sources and draw meaningful conclusions is paramount.
According to Ashok Sarathy, VP of the GMAT program at the Graduate Management Admission Council, "It seems that it wasn’t too long ago that executives would rely on experience and instinct to make decisions. Now, they don’t make a move unless it’s backed up by reams of data and stacks of market intelligence."
Focus, my fellow marketers, because this is crucial insight as we strive to appeal to those business leaders. First, we must keep in mind that our prospects are up to their eyeballs in data so we have to cut through the clutter and direct them to salient information―something my friend and colleague Ryan O’Neil calls "motorcycle marketing."
Secondly, we must keep in mind that our prospects undoubtedly will be gathering information from a multitude of sources, making it nearly impossible to control the message. So, our communications must be focused. And by that I mean no room for error.
Just imagine that the estimable Mr. Holmes is on the receiving end of our marketing efforts. If we have even one erroneous "fact" in a webinar or whitepaper, it’s safe to assume that it’ll be noticed and our audience will be incredulous and dismissive.
On the other hand, it’s also a good bet that information presented in a straightforward, thorough and thoughtful manner will be appreciated and given more credence.