Is Marketing Hard?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal observes that math and science is very popular among incoming college students until they actually start taking classes and discover that it is hard. It goes on to state that more students drop out of math and sciences than any other subjects, and that they also attract the fewest number of transfers than any other subjects.

marketing is hard

What does it mean when they say a subject is hard? The article describes one interesting criteria – where students can’t achieve a good grade in a subject even when they do their best. People like to succeed at things, and if you find you can’t excel even when you work hard and do your best, it can be rather frustrating. I can sympathize – while I did fairly well in college as an engineer and computer scientist, there was more than one class where I was thrilled to pass with a C-minus (I still sometimes have nightmares about thermodynamics).

I’m told by our marketing experts, that marketers tend to fall into two categories – the marketing artists who work by intuition, and the marketing scientists or “data geeks” who prefer hard and truthful numbers when it comes to both evaluating and planning their marketing efforts.

Well, I may not be a marketing expert, but I know one thing. If you’re dealing with hard and truthful numbers, it doesn’t matter if it’s engineering or marketing – it’s science. And that means it can be hard. It can be hard to interpret and manipulate numbers and statistics. It can hard to figure out whether the numbers you are seeing are accurate, or are impossibly out of touch with reality. It can be hard to design and manage the complex systems required to acquire, manage and analyze marketing and sales data.

There are no magic ways to avoid this. Not that there aren’t temptations. There are plenty of tools that promise instant answers, and if you don’t know what questions to ask, they’ll provide those as well. But hard problems don’t lend themselves to simple tools and simple answers (if they did, Salesforce would not have grown to be the large and complex feature rich platform that it is). Simple tools with simple answers can lead you to results and decisions that are no better (and even worse) than guessing.

So what’s a marketing scientist to do? Following the example of the students and switching to an easier career is one option. Facing the challenge, knowing that it’s going to be hard and you’re not always going to get things right is the other. The good news is you’re not alone – you can reach out to the other marketing scientists, both marketers and tool and app vendors, who understand and are facing and solving the same problems. It may be hard, but at the end of the day the answers you come up with will be a lot closer to the truth than you will reach any other way.

Dan Appleman

About Dan Appleman

As Full Circle Insights’ CTO, Dan Appleman brings a broad technology experience to our customers. In addition to having supported over 30 Salesforce.com implementations with technology solutions, Dan is also the author of the book "Advanced Apex Programming for Salesforce.com and Force.com" and has been a speaker at Dreamforce since 2012. Previously, he was the founder of Desaware, Inc. a developer of add-on products for Microsoft Visual Studio, a co-founder of Apress publishing, and the author of numerous books and articles.