Marketing as A Science

One of my credos is that marketing must first and foremost be a science. That’s not to say we marketers are discovering big, universal truths over here, the way mathematicians or physicists might be. But it is to say that we’re using the scientific method to find little, local truths about how you can best succeed in your business.

First, start with an hypothesis. This is the creative part of marketing — designing a logo, choosing a corporate color palette or type face, or writing the copy for a particular ad. This is where many marketing agencies stop, and why to most people marketing is an art. Certainly, these activites don’t seem like creating a scientific hypothesis. But each of these seemingly purely creative endeavors has an underlying, implied, testable hypothesis.

Let’s take the example of writing copy for an ad. When the writer puts pen to paper, he is (consciously or not) hypothesizing that the words he’s choosing will be more effective at getting potential viewers of the ad to act than some other set of words he could have written. That underlying, implied hypothesis is the reason not to stop with the creative part; the reason to treat marketing as a science.

There’s a lot of technology out there to let you test every one of your hypotheses. Take advantage of it, and when the results come in, use them as part of a continual improvement process. Here’s a real example from a company at which I used to work (though the names have been changed to protect the innocent).

We thought we were in the business of selling widgets, and we wrote an on-line ad to help sell widgets. But it turned out that widgets were sometimes called thingamajigs and sometimes thingamabobs. So, when we first ran the ad, we ran it with a very limited release, to control costs, and with three versions of the ad copy — one each with widgets, thingamajigs, and thingamabobs. As it turned out, ten times more people clicked on the ad for widgets than the ad for thingamajigs, and 100 times more than the ad for thingamabobs. However, it also turned out that those who clicked on either of the latter two ads were ten times more likely to buy the product than those who clicked on the ad for widgets.

This is why it’s so important to understand your marketing goals, and how to measure those goals. If the goal was to get customers to click on the ad, then the ad for widgets was clearly the correct one. However, if the goal was to get people to become customers, then marketing dollars spent on the thingamajig ad were 100 times more effective.

Little things — changing a single word, changing the typeface on your web site — can sometimes have a profound effect on your results. Never neglect to measure, and put the scientific method to work for your business.


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Chris Richardson has strong opinions on just about everything. Just ask.