This post is part of the Agile Marketing Mantras Series, a collection of favorite quotes about the importance of agility and iteration.  Inspired by Silicon Valley Product Group's

Lessons From Leaders


"Data beats opinions."

Data is factual and objective.  Opinions are subjective, biased, and difficult to defend.  Okay, hold on, you say.  What about that statistic that says that almost all statistics are made up?

It's true that data points can be presented and interpreted differently -- the same set of numbers can be manipulated to tell a specific story based on what is emphasized or ommited.  Or the source of the data may be suspect.  In these ways, data is factual but not always objective, since it's often at the mercy of the person sharing the data and whatever his agenda may be.

However, when used with integrity and a sense of curiosity about finding the truth behind the numbers, data is a valuable source of information about customer behavior.

With metrics, the user is telling you what he cares about, what he doesn't, what he wants to purchase, what triggers him to purchase it, and when in the process he gives in or gives up.  You have to ask the right questions and "slice-and-dice" the data appropriately to find the underlying story, but once you do, the insights you find can be powerful and informative.

On the other hand, opinions without external facts can be written off as unfounded and whimsical.  But when you use data to support your opinions, you add a layer of legitimacy to your idea that can help persuade your colleagues or customers.

Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape, said, “If you don’t have any facts, we’ll just use my opinion.”  Now you know the importance of facts -- so now you can assert your opinions confidently and with conviction.