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Data. Artificial Intelligence. Machine learning. Analytics. Is there anything left to human instinct?

Tom Henell, former head of Lifestyle Marketing for Spartan Race - the world’s largest obstacle course race with over 200 events each year in nearly 40 countries - says yes - instinct is absolutely a viable component of the marketing world.

He credits instinct to be one of his keys to success as one of the founding partners of North American Professional Liability Insurance Agency (now McGowan PRO, which was named by Inc. to be one of the fastest growing privately owned companies in the world - for 5 consecutive years.

McGowan PRO is a professional insurance company that serves accountants, CPA’s, investment advisors, etc. Tom says that in the early .com days, as one of the startup's founders, he was a pioneer in content creation. Using Hubspot emabled him to create a perception in the industry as a thought leader, without relying on a large marketing staff or budget.

Fast forward to 2017, when Tom took over Lifestyle Marketing at Spartan Race. His mission was to turn the event based company into a lifestyle brand. To do this, his team created life.spartan.com to engage their current visitors, as well as an acquisition tool to bring in new consumers.

When I asked him about how he suggests to personalize the way marketers structure their segmenting process, he gave the follwing 3 suggestions:

  1. Focus on what value you bring to the customer - when you direct them to content they see ensure it is relevant to your consumer.

  2. Identify your marketing strategy, and then find the tool that accomplishes your strategy. This requires intuition in how to effectively use that tool.
    The tools he found most helpful in his endeavors were Hubspot, Bounce Exchange, and Opt-In Monster. However, he quickly added,

"The tool is only as good as the marketer."

  1. Offer value - not just discounts. In the eCommerce store on Spartan, there are not just a bunch of offers, but rather helpful information for their consumers, such as "6 Things you need to know before you buy your next pair of shoes."

He'd love to be able to measure emotional connection. "We think we know who they are. We think we know what they think about our brand, but we don't."

"If we know what our customers did, we'll know what they're going to do. That takes away the instinctual part of it. You're always workign in the past, you know what they did. You don't know why they did it, and you don't know what they're goin gto do tomorrow. and you don't know what they wish they could do - because they only have a certain number of options."

Data helps to understand where our assumptions are accurate or inaccurate. But it doesn't tell what your strategy should be.

The glass could be half full or half empty, depending on how you interpret the data. Data should be used as a tool to support your strategy - but it shouldn't lead your strategy.

How does this instinct get developed? By experience - understand how things work and operate. Tom says that "The best marketers have the best instincts. ...People who are too dependent on data either arent trusting their instincts or they don't have good instincts." Try new things out to hone those instincts and how to react.

Tom is currently out developing his instincts on what he's calling a "City to Summit" journey, which will take him from downtown Boston, MA, through the inner city, out to the suburbs, and then to the wilderness, landing him on testy Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. He's hoping to hone his marketing skills by traversing and interacting with so many different socio-economic areas along the way. Tom Henell can be found on LinkedIn HERE

Listen here to the audio from Britney's conversation with Tom Henell, former head of Lifestyle Marketing for Spartan Race - the world’s largest obstacle course race with over 200 events each year in nearly 40 countries!

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