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Balancing Marketing Science & Marketing Art

Today, more and more firms are taking an outside look into the marketing organization, seeking ways to optimize what has traditionally been thought of as a purely creative process. The danger is that these projects often get hijacked by technology initiatives that subsume the organization, according to a Forrester Research study.

Firms should start marketing optimization by considering the following:

Recognize that there's no single technology or service provider that can do it all -- Although many technology vendors and service providers claim to offer marketing optimization solutions, no single vendor does it all, and firms should be wary of vendors that make the claim.

Evaluate the marketing process to identify optimization opportunities -- Firms taking an outside-in approach to marketing optimization should start by evaluating the marketing life cycle to identify optimization opportunities that: 1) improve the efficiency of marketing processes and 2) improve marketing effectiveness and return on investment.

Calculate a baseline of current performance and set specific goals for improvement -- Optimization is an ongoing exercise, not a one-time project. Firms should start by establishing a baseline of performance for each activity or process that they plan to optimize. Once firms establish the baseline, they can identify goals for improvement and implement a control-test-learn methodology.

Process improvement, analytics, and technology can all help optimize discrete marketing activities or campaigns, such as which online advert will garner the best response. But firms on broader top down mission must recognize that marketing optimization is not a single solution or one-time project but an ongoing effort that focuses on continuously improving the marketing process. Forrester believes that few marketing organizations have the discipline or skill to effect this change.

Therefore, companies should consider the following recommendations:

Reach out to internal process experts for help -- Process management philosophies like Six Sigma and Lean Management are widely embraced across industries. Marketing should work more closely with internal groups to help with cost models, metrics development, and sourcing of financial data that drive analysis and measurement of the optimization efforts.

Be prepared for organizational change -- Firms that seek to optimize across their marketing activities often find that organizational -- and historical culture -- change is required. Analysis driven optimization may yield results that are totally counterintuitive to accepted conventional wisdom.

Be vigilant that creativity isn't re-engineered out of marketing -- Top-down focus on marketing optimization is another sign that left-brain marketing principles are beginning to dominate the marketing process.

As the laser focus of process re-engineering and optimization philosophies begin to take hold, marketing leaders must be prepared to defend the creative disciplines that are instrumental to building the emotional bond between a brand and its customers.

I believe that a key task of marketing leadership is to seek an appropriate balance between marketing science and marketing art. Granted, that may be easier said than done. Regardless, an equilibrium will be rewarded by improved performance and bottom-up commitment.

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