When the marketing team sits around the conference room table, trying to plan a project or outline the next year's budget, the attendees usually fall into one of two camps: the technical, analytic types and the creative, intuitive types. Both struggle for dominance, so let's step back and talk about the contributions of each before we decide how to balance the two disciplines.
To me, analytics is the base for any new marketing activity. Until we establish a goal, we can't know the direction to take or when we need to "recalculate" (like an annoying GPS device). Analytics gives marketers the ability to improve and maximize the impact of their efforts. It's not just about leads and conversions; analytics also measures our brand strength, as noted by Avinash Kaushik He says: "A lot of digital analytics focus on direct response (e.g., conversions, leads, etc.). But there is an additional valuable, and sexy, focus of our marketing to which we don't give enough analytical love: branding!"
Inputs from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, QR code analytics and your own automated or manual tracking methods provide you with ammunition that, if used diligently, can bring down expenses as budgets are spent on speaking to the right audiences at the right time—when they are looking for you. Here is the type of information you could acquire using analytics.
Examine media consumption habits of potential customers:
- What are the traffic sources on your website/blog and do they reach you through search engines and/or social media?
- What is the social media activity of target audiences?
- How strong is the response to your email and/or direct mail campaigns?
- How much traffic, leads and conversions are you getting from events and trade shows?
- What inquiries are generated through print advertising? Understand what potential customers want by studying their activity on your website:
- Which and how many pages are the visitors checking out?
- How much time do they spend on the website?
- Are they looking at your work (e.g., photo galleries, case studies, testimonials, etc)?
- Do they access white papers and other tools or offers?
- How many of them fill in the contact form or ask for quotes? Uncover who are they and where they were during the interaction:
- What are their demographics: age, location, etc.?
- Which day and time did they visit you?
- What is their preferred platform of interaction (i.e., laptop, tablet or mobile)? Determine which communication vehicles work best for you:
- Which landing pages get more clicks through Google AdWords campaigns?
- Which Facebook posts get more Likes?
- Which blog posts draw more views and comments? Listening through analytics not only helps you market more effectively but also enables you to stay ahead of competition and keep your customers satisfied by paying attention to:
- Everyone who voices an opinion about your brand, product or service
- Competitors to know their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Clients and stakeholders who express needs
Creativity, on the other hand, is crafting the message, selecting the media to deliver it and evoking emotion in potential customers. A customer experiences a myriad of feelings while going through the purchasing cycle that ranges from skepticism and anxiety to interest and excitement. We hope they ultimately get to addiction! A marketer's job is to address and draw out these emotions with the right message and the right channel, whether we're talking about expensive shoes or computer parts.
Here are some classic marketing approaches discussed by MarketingProfs that are effective and result oriented:
- Direct interaction with stakeholders for quick decisions
- Brand communication through a position of authority by using celebrities and bloggers, etc.
- Word of mouth marketing to loyal customers by using social media
- Flanking techniques like content marketing, advertising and SEO
Marketing needs creativity to position the brand effectively and communicate the benefits to prospective customers. It is a skill that uses facts and perceptions to inspire hope. In their article Creativity on Marketing: An Acquired Skill, Martin and Rodrigo emphasize creativity in marketing is not a luxury, it needs to be nurtured and that requires time—not just snippets of time within a multi-tasking environment, but focused, dedicated time. As a recent Harvard Business Review study found, the likelihood of creative thinking is higher when people focus on one activity for a significant part of the day and collaborate with just one other person (wouldn't we all love to be able to do that!).
Consider these examples of organizations "wiring in" creativity time to business practices:
- At 3M, the technical teams are expected to allocate up to 15% of their time to projects of their own choosing.
- At Google, the time allocated is 20% (which is more an attitude and culture than a rule).
To develop effective messaging you have to confirm how relevant it is and whether the message resonates with your target audience. At the same time, you have to highlight your strengths while downplaying those of the competitors.
You must also be creative by using all available media and tools for best visibility and mileage:
- Showing the message where it is most likely to be seen
- Using multiple channels to get repeat views by the same audience and increase response rates
- Placing key content and/or calls to action where they will spur action
Here is an example of outdoor advertising used by Audi to show off their brand ambitions through an experiential marketing installation in Copenhagen which they called the Audi Spheres. The giant spheres were filled with a range of interactive and futuristic technology that represents one of Audi's brand priorities: lightweight design, electric cars and their impact on the environment.
Another example of contextual advertising took place in Paris when Tropicana illuminated a billboard using energy produced by oranges highlighting the connection between the execution and the product (orange + vitamins = life); a simple yet effective communication idea, isn't it?
While creative can be impressive and get lots of views for a company, we need to deliver the bottom-line results for those campaigns. Plus, we need to make rational decisions based on facts if we want to capture and grow market share. This principle applies to businesses of all sizes.
That's why I agree with the concept that creativity is applied after analytics. If you follow the buying journey and think about how to get your message across creatively at each point, you can vastly increase success. Therefore, creativity based on facts is the best approach. Analytics provide boundaries to guide and prioritize creativity, not stifle it.
Let us know what you think. What have you learned while planning and implementing marketing strategy about analytics versus creativity?