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Measuring Marketing: Finding Balance Between Art & Science

Posted December 7, 2022
Measuring Marketing Performance: Finding the Balance Amidst the War Between Art & Science

Tim Parkin, Global Marketing Advisor, Consultant, and President of Parkin Consulting, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Tim shares his insights on the extremes he’s seeing in terms of measuring marketing performance, why 100% art and 100% science don’t work, and how marketers can create more balance in measuring performance.

Tim works with marketing executives from all across the world as an advisor and consultant, and primarily focuses on helping marketing teams optimize performance and accelerate growth.

 

What extremes are you seeing in the market today when it comes to measuring marketing performance?

We have been seeing two extremes for quite a while now. Everybody’s jumped on the data bandwagon and they want to measure everything. Alternatively, we are seeing some kind of resistance of sorts where going by gut is good enough.

At the start of this chat, Tim spoke briefly about this war between art and science in measuring marketing performance.

“I love this idea of the war between art and science because I think as marketers, some crave the science aspect and others crave the art aspect. We want both. We want to have it both ways. And I think in today’s environment which is changing, it’s not that we have to necessarily choose one or the other. But we have to decide how to coexist and how do these things work together peacefully.”

 

Why does 100% art or 100% science not work?

You might be highly creative. You might try a lot of different things. You might know the market’s always changing and try to change with it. You might go with what feels best. However, this doesn’t always work for people. Tim explained why.

“There’s a couple of reasons it doesn’t work for people. The first I’d say is startup mentality for a lack of a better word. The ego mentality that I know what’s best. I know my customers. I know the market. Maybe, I think I’m the customer and so I am going to self-express. This is a form of self-expression that I do what I think is best and know is best and it’s either going to work or not. Yet, the reality is that there are data points and elements that we need to consider and incorporate into that. For example, Bay Mar is an organization that does usability research on ecommerce sites. There’s a lot to do with how your site is structured, how it looks and how people interact with it. 

“So just to go with your gut and say it is all art and I do what I want. Well, people are people and accustomed to these standards that are put in place with how we interact with and perceive things and the other messages in the market. So as much as we want to just be self-expressing all the time and just do what we think is best, there are acceptable ways or different responses that are hardwired and encoded in people because of the culture, the society, the market etc.”

Tim also talked about the other extreme; wanting to use data to do everything and not being comfortable moving forward without that data and the negative repercussions of such an approach to measuring marketing performance.

“This is one I have fallen for myself. I come from a programming background, a software development world. Not so much the marketing side. So I wasn’t the most creative person. I think very much about processes and data and things of that nature. It’s really easy to fall into this trap since as a marketer, the promise of digital was that we can measure everything. That we can track things, that it is black and white. However, it was never really true as much as we believed it. In today’s world, it’s certainly not true. So we are constantly searching for this silver bullet. This holy grail that we can measure everything and connect all the dots and somehow have the perfect picture. Should we make decisions or do any real marketing? So we spend so much money and effort trying to measure every single thing and put all the pieces together when really it’s untenable.”

I’ve seen both extremes for sure. I think the art side in the past for me has been a little bit more common than hyper-science. What I have noticed is intellectually, people will get behind the science aspect and want to participate in that. But, I’ve got to blame the vendors out there a little bit for overselling their products and what’s possible. As we know, digital doesn’t  equate to trackable data 100% of the time. And when we don’t understand the nature of our data and we oversell it to the rest of the executive team we put some egg on our faces because then we need to walk back some of the statements previously made. 

Tim agrees.

“I think you are spot on there with saying digital doesn’t necessarily equate to trackable. And I think you’re right that vendors are marketers themselves and they’re selling us this promise, this holy land that we can’t attain, that we can’t reach. Let’s pretend for a moment that we could get all the data, that we could put all the pieces together and could track everything which we know isn’t possible. Even if you could do that, there’s another step there that many marketers aren’t equipped for. That’s analysis. What do you do once you have seen the full picture? How do you react to that? How do you respond to that? What does that mean for you? That is a skill that many organizations are severely lacking. Most of my clients are billion-dollar plus, have huge marketing teams and even they don’t have these skills to fully analyze and understand the data that’s set before them. So even if we could get all the data, making sense of it is a whole other world and a whole other challenge that many of us aren’t prepared for.”

How can we create more balance between art and science in marketing?

Tim also offered his thoughts about how marketers can create more balance between art and science in terms of performance measurement.

“I think that it is foolish to think that creativity and data are mutually exclusive. I think they’re one and the same. I think we can still be creative in the context of data and that’s important. If we are focused on data, not creativity, our marketing’s going to be bland and boring and we will have the same thing over and over again. This is what you see with these AI tools that write copy for you. It’s fascinating. I think a lot of marketers thought this would solve all content problems. You could just push a button and it will write the content for you.

“But when you start to look at it, when you do this often, you’ll see that they’re writing the same things, they’re regurgitating other copy rephrased. I think that’s the science approach. That’s the pure data approach. Let’s just analyze and rewrite this.  We have to remember that marketing is about people. We have to be human. This is a problem a lot of B2B companies have. They can’t be human. They’ve to talk in buzzwords and terminology and things like that. I think creativity and data go hand in hand. However, we have to look at the data from the human side and we’ve to look at creativity and remove our egos to see what’s really working. How are people responding to it because it’s about people, not just us, but the customers we are actually trying to serve.”

I think people need to keep in mind that there’s both quantitative and qualitative data. You’ve got a product that’s for marketers by marketers and you’re convinced that you know exactly what language is going to resonate. If you are not listening to those customer calls, listening to opportunity, close interviews, you are missing out on a lot of context that could improve your marketing. Tim concurs.

“One of my favorite questions to a new client is when was the last time you talked to your customers? And you get the best responses to this question. People say, we talk to our customers all the time. I think the last time we talked to them was the end of last year or maybe it was a couple of months ago. You know that’s like recent. The one thing marketing does, the one thing customers do is change. Everyday they are changing. There’s competition. There’s new messages out there, new platforms are coming up. TikTok wasn’t all the rage just a little while ago. Things are constantly changing. So if you’re not talking to your customers to the point of on a daily or weekly basis, you are completely missing the boat here. One of the things I talk a lot about is customer proximity. This isn’t a new idea, but whoever’s closest to the customer wins. It’s about understanding your customers truly and following them as they change because they will change. And being able to react and respond to that in a timely manner. That requires both data and art and creativity to do that well.”

For more content on measuring marketing performance, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.