Marketing By The Numbers


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At its core, marketing is a numbers oriented profession.

We segment the market and size it. We worry about demographics and demographic trends. We do statistically significant market research (or, at least, we should). Marketers are given to counting the number of hits, likes, connects, and follows. We are constantly looking for new and more effective metrics. And on and on.

But marketing should not be a “paint by numbers” profession.

In the 1950s, there was a “paint by numbers” craze. People would buy sets with pictures of old masterpieces, landscapes, whatever, which were devoid of color and broken into dozens or hundreds of squares, triangles, and every conceivable geometric shape – each of which was labeled with a number. Each number corresponded to a colored paint in the set. So if people followed the color assignments and stayed within the lines, the end result was (supposedly) a representation of the original art. Voila! Instant artist. No talent required.

And that, I fear, is what is happening to marketing.

More and more, marketers are buying into templates and guides and models. We are told how to achieve social media impact – and that we must. We are told how to engage the mobile marketplace – and that we should. How to develop effective content. How to blog. How to set up Webinars. How to succeed at SEO. The list is virtually endless.

It’s as if the marketplace is just a large canvas broken into tiny parts. And if we paint each piece with the right color and stay within the lines, we will have an effective marketing program.

I don’t think so. I think that what you end up with here is not an old master but a picture of Elvis painted on velvet.

For marketing to be as sophisticated as the consumers and business customers of today requires careful thought, sensitivity, the ability to listen (and learn), and creativity.

Templates and “how to” guides do not lend themselves to creativity.

They may be a good place to start for the novice.

But if you are responsible for marketing – in a real company, in a real marketplace, with real customers, and real competition, it is your job to think outside the box. Painting by the numbers and staying within the lines won’t yield profits.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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