Forget the elephant in the room, focus on the HiPPO

We’ve all sat in that meeting. Years of first-hand experience, reams of exciting ideas and campaign proposals backed up with pages of data. In enters the HiPPO. 

No, not the large semiaquatic mammal but the “HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion”. The buzz is quickly shot down with decisions based on emotion, theory or a “one-size-fits-all” solution. 

Suddenly the room falls quiet, tension mounts and everyone leaves the room feeling deflated (not to mention the potential damage caused to the business). 

The HiPPO theory originates from a study by the Rotterdam School of Management which found that projects led by senior managers had a lower success rate than those run by more junior employees. It transpired that staff felt more comfortable offering opinions, challenging assumptions and giving feedback based on fact in teams where senior managers were less present.  

So, what does this mean from a marketing point of view? 

The problem with letting the HiPPO take the reins is that you then end up ignoring data to back up any decisions. For example (in the most basic terms), you could be deciding how to personalise your email marketing efforts based on location. A HiPPO might say that your target audience is based in the USA, however, your Marketing Manager (armed with a map of email opens) knows that the majority of recipients are based in Germany. The HiPPO declares their assumptions and the Marketing Manager instantly feels unable to showcase the real-time data. 

This could lead to incorrect information or irrelevant news being given to your target market, who will no doubt quickly shut off. Loss of relevance? Loss of clients. 

A HiPPO is also likely to ignore the wisdom of the crowd, therefore neglecting knowledge from front-line staff. 

How do you deal with a HiPPO? 

  1. Increase awareness of the HiPPO effect and have open discussions about data based decision making 
  2. Remove the spotlight – try and encourage less senior employees to speak up and have their say! 
  3. Present data in a visual, hard to ignore way 

Are you a HiPPO? 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’ve had X amount of years experience so I know best.” You’ve got to where you have for a reason – you’re good! However, listening to your team is key to ensuring you all make the best decisions for your business. Don’t let the power go to your head and learn from the people you’ve painstakingly hired and trusted to do their job. 

Need a hand with figuring out the data from the bias? We create marketing strategies that directly align with your sales numbers. If you’d like to talk more about developing your marketing strategy, get in touch today on 0345 241 3038. 

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