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Assumptions, Assertions, and Tests (3 Critical Steps in the Marketing Process)

To create an effective marketing campaign, your team must make assumptions, state assertions, then discover facts through testing.

Marketing has always been a blend of art and science, and this remains true even in the digitally sophisticated age we live in.

It’s an art because when you start a marketing campaign, it’s based on assumptions. To be clear, let’s define this term.

Assumption: a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

The key part of this definition is without proof. When you start a marketing campaign, you won’t have proof that it will work.

You attempt the campaign because you feel certain it will work. You’ve analyzed who you’re targeting and believe you’ve uncovered a gap in the market that you can fill.

This brings us to a second important term, which is assertion. Let’s define this term.

Assertion: a statement that you strongly believe is true; a confident or forceful statement of fact or belief.

The key here is the word statement. An assertion isn’t just an idea in your head (which an assumption could be). It’s a statement you make with confidence.

Assumptions and assertions are educated guesses, coherent theories, and explanations that remain tinged by slight uncertainty. You can’t be sure an assumption is true.

In fact, when you make an assertion about how you think a marketing campaign will work, it’s only useful if it’s falsifiable. In other words, it must be possible to prove it wrong.

This is an important point because unfalsifiable assertions are untestable.

Many successful athletes believe divine intervention helped them win the championship. But this is not a useful assertion because there is no way to prove it’s not true.

You might use superlatives in your copy like “world’s greatest”, but this is an unfalsifiable assertion. It’s not an educated guess about what might work better. It’s copywriting hype.

Same goes for the subjective opinions of your inner circle. You may feel your product is the best, and your mom may agree wholeheartedly. But you can’t put those assertions to the test with the goal of making quantifiable improvements.

Some people get into the entrepreneurial lifestyle because they think it’s their destiny to be independent, successful and wealthy. But try making this assertion to a venture capital group…chances are they’ll require a more tangible concept.

Fortunately in the world of digital marketing, most assertions are falsifiable. In fact, the best ones are set up to be tested and verified.

All of this underlies some of the most fundamental steps in marketing.

You start with an idea that’s based on an assumption. Through observation and research, you develop an offering you think will fill a gap in the marketplace and solve an active problem for a certain group of people. You believe people will pay money for your product, but you also realize that you don’t have proof they will.

Next, you assert your belief. You make a formal statement saying you think your assumption is true and that it will be worth investing in the idea to find out.

Then, you run campaigns and test your assertions. You capture data that gives you factual evidence. You embrace assertions that are proven, and eliminate those that prove inaccurate.

Remember that:

  • An assumption is not a guess or hunch. You have a valid reason for believing your idea is correct.
  • You must make your assertion with confidence and clarity. You can’t just have an idea, you have to communicate it to the right people.
  • Your assertion is only valid if it’s falsifiable. There must be a basis for your assertion that can be tested.
  • You need a plan and tools to capture data to verify your assertion.

You can move forward on intuition, faith, hunches, or even outright guesses. Maybe you believe it’s your destiny to be a huge success.

But the only way to verify this assumption is to move forward based on hope and luck.

The problem is that hope is ineffectual as a strategy and it’s impossible to build a consistent process based on luck.

Assume, assert, and test. Those are the steps that recognize you could be wrong but do everything possible to prove you’re right.

That’s how you make it in a competitive market.

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