Marketing Career: Don’t overlook these 4 marketing fundamentals


Technology is becoming more and more essential to marketing – from marketing automation platforms to complex databases. In fact, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan has predicted CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017.

While this focus on technology can be helpful to marketers, the danger is that it causes marketers to become technologists instead of, well, marketers and overlook the fundamentals of marketing.

To help get back to the building blocks of marketing, I turned to Bob Kemper, Senior Director of Sciences, MECLABS, to help you understand how some of the fundamental teachings you read about on the MarketingExperiments blog were initially developed.

The mechanics behind how MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingExperiments) teaches marketers may have become more structured since its beginnings, but the philosophy is still the same, according to Bob.

In the earliest days, Bob said, “we were kind of feeling around for what it is that marketers needed to know, and didn’t know.”

Research Partnerships are an important element of today’s MECLABS that took time to develop into their current, structured format. In the beginning, it was a much more informal conversation with Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS.

While the logistics have changed, Bob said the essence of the approach is the same, and “there’s a continuity of approach from the earliest days,” he said, only with a refined set of processes. 

Bob discussed four fundamentals.


Fundamental #1: Ideal customer

Working with Research Partners, Bob said the team would look at a page together, and identify “what today we would call an ideal customer.”

It wasn’t as well defined at the beginning, he said, and discussions centered on questions like, “tell me about your best customers, those that you are most able to help – who are they, how do they think. When they arrive at this page, what’s in their minds?”

This process evolved over time toward what’s now referred to in the MECLABS Offer/Response-Optimization meta-theory as “customer thought sequence.”

Theory into practice: You should focus on your ideal customer while crafting your value propositions at four levels, and then use them to keep every member of your company focused on communicating and delivering on those value propositions through not only your marketing, but also your sales, customer service and product development organizations.


Fundamental #2: Thought sequences

“It’s principally about the process of decision making — about what to buy, from whom to buy, and how,” Bob said.

Flint has always had an approach that adopts the frame of reference of “a customer arriving at your conversion funnel, in whatever form it might take, and addressing it as a thought sequence,” Bob said.

Theory into practice: By understanding how your customer thinks, you can create more effective landing pages, offers and campaigns.


Fundamental #3: Redefining marketing 

“[Flint] would conduct consultation calls with marketers … reviewing their current landing pages and conversion paths together, and make recommendations based not upon the operational ‘here’s what has worked before,’ or ‘I’ve done this,’ but based upon the philosophical principles of human decision making,” Bob said.

Marketing began to be viewed as a process for gaining insights about what compels people to make the choices we do, instead of the more established method of constantly pushing onto customers. The focus became placing value at the forefront, not “convincing or cajoling, but rather simply revealing the truth,” Bob said.

This revelation of the truth to consumers centers around whether or not your business has a value proposition, he said, and if “you are truly the best for some significant group of people who are definable, who are discernible.”

That shift in thinking became the basis for how MECLABS approaches marketing as “a revolution of thinking, a complete reversal, a dichotomy from even professional marketers coming out of business school,” he said.

Theory into practice: are you conducting your marketing in a rigorous fashion and using A/B testing to learn how and why your customers make the decisions they do? For example, you can review the MECLABS methodology for discovering what really works in optimization.

Fundamental #4: Marketing as messaging

Starting out, Bob said traditionally, marketing had been viewed as the art of convincing people to buy your product or service, rather than your competitor’s, whether or not it was actually the best suited to his or her specific needs.

Flint’s approach turned that thinking on its head, according to Bob.

“What he discovered through extensive real-world experimentation, was that real efficacy – measured as maximum rate of final conversion — stems more from being able to communicate clearly than persuasively,” he said.

Bob added Flint codified this key principle as “Clarity trumps persuasion!”

But clarity about what?

Among the earliest of MECLABS’ contributions in the marketing discipline was the use of heuristics to convey fundamental principles.  Among the earliest of those heuristics was the “MECLABS Conversion Index, which used mathematical notation to concisely lay out both the names of, and relationships among the factors that contribute to maximizing the probability of conversion,” he said.


The Conversion Index

C=4m+3v+2(i-f)-2a — it named five key factors that drive the probability of Conversion (C).  They are the prospect’s motivation at arrival (m), the clarity of expression of the Value Proposition (v), the efficacy of incentives employed in the conversion path (i), the magnitude of ‘Friction’ manifest in the conversion process (f) and the level of anxiety induced in the prospect by the process (a).

Each of these factors was categorized as either a “Value Contributor” or “Value Inhibitor,” depending upon whether an increase in its magnitude would serve to increase, or to decrease the probability of conversion, according to Bob.

“As we explored, experimented, and reflected more deeply about the expression and the meaning of value, as it related to a prospect’s decision making during the conversion process, it became clearer that ‘Value Proposition’ is innately person-specific,” Bob said.

As a consequence, he added, so is the optimal message – the one that most clearly expresses value to that person.

As a natural consequence of this discovery, Bob said it became clear to maximize the rate of conversion for a given process, it had to begin by gaining a deep understanding of the ideal customer.

For this supremely important persona, there is simply no better product or offer available to them than yours.

“If I cannot identify at least one such significant-sized group, then I should expect to settle for mediocre conversion performance, at best,” Kemper said.

Once the ideal customer persona(s) is known, then “the nature of my job and objective as a marketer suddenly and dramatically changes from crafting a convincing message to revealing the objective truth,” he said.

Theory into practice:  So, while technology may help facilitate messaging, effective marketers recognize to rise from just incremental, to truly breakthrough conversion performance, they must lead with customer wisdom and purposeful messaging, then engage technology just as purposefully to maximize the efficacy of those messages.


Related Resources:

Credibility: 9 elements that help make your marketing claims more believable

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions

Value Proposition: Congress has a value exchange problem … do your marketing offers?

Conversion Optimization: The MarketingExperiments year in review

Marketing Research Chart: Is value proposition testing part of your lead gen strategy? 

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