Monday, March 26, 2007

Marketing as Art and Science

An analogy that I've used with younger marketers is one that is worth considering.

I love art, especially painting and sculpture. Marketers love to debate whether marketing is an art or a science. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth over time. Ultimately, I suggest that marketing is both art and science. Science measures the impact of the art. Scientific thinking also guides the rigor of marketers as they apply a defined process, and iterate learning cycles to fine tune tactics and maximize performance. Art applied gracefully to strategic thinking leads to breakthrough concepts, which can power any strategy to higher levels.

Marketing students often ask how brand marketers today determine which tactics to use. After all, it's become a cluttered consumer environment exploding with consumer messages. A story is often told of Michaelangelo approaching a block of stone and creating a magnificent scultpure (think of the David). Michaelangelo reportedly says he simply removes everything that does not belong in the final creation. Marketers can apply this thinking. The more clear the marketing vision and the more defined the strategy, the clearer the tactical decision becomes. Remove those tactics that do not fit with strategy and the result will be a clear approach to the tactical solutions.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Marketing metrics: Process vs Progress Measures

It is amazing to see how often business owners, salespeople, and marketing professionals confuse process with progress, especially when it comes to evaluating the success of a marketing initiative.

One important distinction in the use of marketing metrics that should always be made clear is the difference between process metrics and progress metrics. What does this mean? Process metrics report on either activity generated by the team (e.g. we’ve spent six weeks building the marketing site for the promotion and the will be ready to launch in five days), or on actual consumer behavior change within the total selling cycle. Think of the latter as progress moving consumers or B2B purchasers through the buying cycle, perhaps from an initial prospect to a qualified prospect. Progress metrics are more tightly tied to the business results, and are generally more readily interpreted by those outside the marketing organization. Inquiries generated, sales produced, number of existing customers cross-purchasing the new product line, are examples.

The line between process and progress metrics is not always perfectly clear. For example, increasing the number of qualified customers may be a process metric when viewed as part of the complete customer relationship cycle. In a business with a clearly defined historical conversion rate, this can be treated as a progress metric (really, qualifications x conversion = sales).

When considering measurement of marketing program results, give consideration to the choice of metric to be used. Both process and progress metrics are valuable tools. It is important to understand the distinction, if only to maintain the rigor of your thinking. The closer you can get to measuring progress versus process, the stronger your evaluation of the program.