Marketing: Science – Art – or Something Else?
There is a perennial argument in business over whether marketing is a science or an art. Those that fall on the side of science will tell you that the best marketing takes place when the targeting is well researched, propensity models are built and the key performance indicators (KPIs) are firmly planted. The art proponents rail against this “too static” stance, and claim that it is only when a finely nuanced voice, combined with the correct color palette and the specific imagery that speaks to the target is presented, that success can be had.
And then there is the “something else.” For quite a while, fans of the “throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks” school of thought led this category. Mail everyone, email everyone, be clever, add the words NEW and IMPROVED, and customers will flock to your product or service.
So what is the correct answer? Is it science, art or something else? The answer is yes – it is science and it is art, and good marketing is also something else: It is process.
Without process, you basically have is non-repeatable chaos. You may be successful in your endeavors, but you will be hard pressed to understand what created that success, you very likely won’t be able to make it happen again, and—very important—you sacrifice efficiency and scalability.
Good marketing is a continuous loop with each cycle starting at the end of the last cycle. You must plan, execute, track and then measure your results in order to effectively plan, execute, track and measure the next initiative. And so on.
Let’s look at the marketing process:
Step 1 –The Plan
Planning is crucial. It impacts every part of your marketing. Who is your target? What is the message that will motivate that target to take the desired action? What tactics should be implemented? Will your budget allow use of multiple tactics to boost the impact of your message? How will you track and measure results? Do you have the resources to successfully execute your programs as well as track and measure the results?
Specific objectives need to be clearly identified during this step. Without clear objectives it is difficult to create the scientific side of marketing, such as creating KPIs. A sales message is very different from a brand enhancement communication. Knowing the goal sets your feet on the right road going the right direction.
Target audience identification and segmentation key to this step and to your overall success. Once the target and segments are determined you can begin to build in the art of marketing with communication strategy that creates a view of each segment and identifies key benefits that motivate purchase of your product or service.
Once you begin to segment, you can create needs-based models to help craft the messages to be delivered to each target group.
All of these pieces – the objectives the target and the segmentation – are key elements of your plan, and they will help define your performance metrics.
Step 2 - Execute
The best plan is only words on paper without strong execution. The plan is the guide—the treasure map with “x” marking the spot. Execution requires a timeline, clearly defined roles and responsibilities and communication with the channel. Client buy-in is a must – whether the client is internal or external. Each milestone should be reviewed and approved by your client.
Your plan is the blueprint; your execution makes the blueprint a reality. Your execution must be on point to insure that accuracy to the plan is enforced. In addition, clear and accessible records must be kept in order to “fuel” the next step.
Step 3 – Tracking
How many calls did your messaging drive? How many sales were converted from those sales? Did version “A” drive a greater response than version “B.” What call to action resonated the most with your target groups. In fact – where did your sales come from?
When your records are complete and accessible, you can accurately report on the results that will allow you to measure and analyze.
Step 4 – Measure
When your plan was built, you developed the KPIs that would determine the success or failure of your campaign. Once the results are tracked you can compare the actual results to your projections. Historical trends based on results from prior campaigns will allow you to see how “tweaks” to your programs have influenced the numbers.
Step 5 - Analyze
Finally, we analyze. This is where the hard work and adherence to the process can pay off. It is at the analysis step that the effectiveness of the message as it relates to the target can be assessed. The results of your efforts taken in context provide direction and better understanding of your market.
If there are tests within the target groups, adherence to process and solid execution allows visibility into the results that will help your shape future marketing efforts.
And now we are back at the beginning of the never0ending loop of the marketing process. Next, we plan, execute, track, measure and analyze—and repeat.
Yes, marketing is science. Yes, marketing is art. But you can’t get optimally effective in your marketing efforts without the additional “something else:” the process. It is the best way to improve your marketing and in turn improve your results.