The best marketers I employed in days past as a honcho in a corporate environment were pretty much always from a professional background of some type. Those with engineering, science, architecture training, and with a bit of sales thrown in were almost always better marketers than those with marketing degrees.

Having just a 40 year old (had anybody heard of marketing 40 years ago) marketing degree, this both intrigued and disturbed me, and it took a while to understand “why” it was so. It became clear that those trained in the professions had an instinctive approach to problem solving, commonly called the ‘scientific method’. By contrast, those with just marketing degrees tended to jump from problem definition straight to a final solution, missing all the nuances and understanding to be gained from the interim steps, and often getting it horribly wrong as a result.

“Lean thinking” 35 years ago was just a babe, an approach to operational improvement that has transformed the way manufacturing operations around the world are run, and delivered huge benefits to our way of life. It is absolutely based on the scientific method.

More recently however, it has been realised that lean thinking has applications far wider than just operations, and office work flows are rapidly transforming as a result. The next obvious cab off the rank is marketing, traditionally a qualitative, smoke and mirrors part of a business, and marketers have been their own worst enemy.

It often seems marketers sit around, drink coffee, and go to lunch a lot, and as a result of allowing that perception to survive, (and it has been true in an unfortunate number of cases) , we get what we deserve.

If people do not understand the role of marketing, particularly those who allocate resources and measure performance, no wonder there are problems, but there are some pretty simple solutions taken from lean thinking.

Have an objective

Map the processes

Form hypothesis

Test and measure

Rinse and repeat.

From the perspective of managing this process, it is essential that two criteria be met:

  1. There is great transparency of the whole process across functions, everyone these days is “in marketing”. Leveraging the resources available by the collaboration enabled by technology will evolve as standard practice, for which transparency is essential.
  2. It is OK to be wrong, you can learn more for your mistakes than from what works well, but to learnĀ  there must be understanding of the flaws in the tested hypothesis coming from the failure. In addition, there needs to be a robust process of due diligence both before and after the experiments are done. Saying it is OK to be wrong is not a license to be sloppy, as I have seen from time to time.

Marketing has been very late to the technology table, and as a result the size of the gap between the ‘leading edge’ and what most small and medium businesses are doing is huge, and getting progressively ‘huger’. There is a real danger of just leaving it in the too hard basket, but that would be a mistake.

Marketing technology offers the opportunity to leverage resources and widen the impact, the core principals of marketing remain unchanged, indeed become more important as we increase the leverage that can be applied. For small and medium businesses these technologies are the competitive tool-box they have been seeking.

It is my prediction that inside a decade technology decisions will be driven by marketing. If you cannot locate, understand, engage, and deliver value to your customers in a digital world, you will not survive. This post from the ‘Martech’ guru Scott Brinker detailing the 2016 marketing technology landscape says it all.

Lets see how that goes as the technology landscape continues to evolve.