During the Mad Men era, advertising was much more of an art than a science. When Don Draper tried to sell his clients on a new campaign, more often than not, he relied on his good looks and gift for storytelling to beguile clients. Sure Sterling Cooper occasionally threw in a few focus groups to test out concepts, but the dozen people they polled were hardly a representative sample.

In short, it was never truly possible to measure the impact of a campaign.

Today, art remains a critical component of marketing. But it’s married to hard science. Because much marketing is now online and online marketing is imminently trackable, marketers can easily measure results. In addition, analytics tools make it possible to look for deeper meanings and uncover hidden trends.

The Advent Of Agile Marketing

Marketers are using this ability to obtain accurate feedback on their campaigns to take a page from the software developer’s handbook. Software developers are increasingly using agile development techniques originally popularized for use in mobile app development. With agile development, programmers quickly create an app with a limited number of key features, deploy it to customers, solicit feedback, incorporate suggested changes, and then repeat the process—all in a short period of time.

Developers deploy applications much more quickly than with traditional “big bang” deployments that deliver hundreds of features at once. And, because developers revise their apps continually based on feedback from end users, the applications are much more likely to offer what customers are looking for.

Similarly, marketers are increasingly using an agile marketing approach. They now try things, see what happens and change their marketing on the fly. For example, Maia Tihista, Vice President, Global Marketing for Flexera Software noted, “We try different tactics for our email campaigns to see if open rates improve. When we run nurturing campaigns, we use marketing analytics tools to see what’s generating pipeline and bookings and make adjustments accordingly. For example, we might find that one solution has a long buying process and buyers want to consume technical content. We can easily determine what papers work better for them.”

Course Corrections

Constant monitoring allows marketers to pinpoint necessary course corrections quickly. For example, Sowmya Murthy, Head of Marketing, Technology Product Group for Unisys is constantly testing whether her messaging hits the mark and makes changes as needed. “We monitor ferociously as we roll out campaigns. We talk to customers to determine whether a particular problem area cited in campaigns exists or matter as much as we think it does. If an issue turns out not to matter so much, we scrap that piece of the campaign and focus on areas where we’re hearing about problems. This allows us to course correct on a regular basis.”

In one example Murthy said, “One of our messages that we used in an email campaign wasn’t nuanced enough. Open rates improved dramatically when we made our messages sharper.”

Murthy rolled out the improved messaging not only within the original email but to other downstream elements of the campaign such telemarketing scripts. “We use our findings to influence not just one area of a campaign, we apply them where applicable along every point in the road to the sale.”

Mixing Art And Science

Of course, it can be easy to go too far and base campaigns on data alone. But the best campaigns retrain their spark of inspiration, using analytics to measure whether that spark translates into sales. For example, Andrew Spoeth, Head of Social Media Marketing for CA, noted, “As a social marketer, it’s an exciting time because you can be creative and analytical at the same time.”