Let’s face it, you already know the answer to that question.
Instinctively, you know whether you belong with the black-clad Bohemians sipping coffee and absinthe in the cool cafes, doodling in your moleskine and staring into space as you dream up your latest creation …
… or whether you’re more at home with the gadget-toting geeks, crunching numbers, running tests, comparing data sets and outputting conclusions robust enough to survive rigorous peer review.
It’s not a conscious decision or something you can change — you know in your gut which tribe you belong to.
If you’re most comfortable writing a captivating blog post, interviewing a fascinating guest for your podcast, or storyboarding a cool video, chances are you’re a natural Marketing Artist.
But if you’d rather optimize the keywords in the blog post, analyze the podcast’s subscriber growth rate, or split-test the conversion rate on the video landing page, you’re more of a Marketing Scientist.
There’s no right or wrong answer here — both paths can lead to success.
The Marketing Artist’s way
If you choose this path you succeed as a marketer by making the most of your creative talent.
Whether you’re a writer, artist, illustrator, photographer, film-maker, musician, speaker, or other creative specialist, content marketing — one of the biggest trends in modern marketing — is your natural medium.
Here’s my definition of content marketing:
Media content that doesn’t look like marketing but functions as marketing.
Crucially, this kind of content has independent value — it should help people right out of the gate, whether or not they buy anything today.
It needs to be original, compelling, entertaining, remarkable and/or useful enough for people to want to share it with their friends, comment and interact with the creator, and subscribe for more of the same.
And who’s the expert at creating this kind of original content? Umm, that would be you.
Because creating media is what comes naturally to you, you have an unfair advantage at content marketing. You can write (or paint, or design, or talk, or play music) all day long, knowing there’s plenty more inspiration where that came from.
And believe it nor not, companies across the globe are tearing their hair out right now, because they realise they need to start creating this kind of content, instead of bombarding people with the same old sales messages.
That’s right: in the era of content marketing, your creative skills are in big demand. No wonder Brian calls 2013 the year of the online writer.
Your achilles heel:
You love creating content — it’s so much fun, a part of you would happily do it for free. Which means you can get sucked into creating for its own sake, without stopping to measure whether it is actually getting you closer to your goals.
Too much art, not enough science, and you could end up actually working for free. (Nothing wrong with that if it’s what you want to do. Just don’t kid yourself that it’s marketing.)
The rigorous science of marketing
As a Marketing Scientist, these are the tough questions you are hard-wired to ask — and equipped to answer:
It’s all very well churning out blog posts and firing off emails and Tweets, but what’s the impact on the bottom line?
Are you targeting the right keywords?
How do you rank compared to the competition – and why?
What’s the clickthrough rate? The conversion rate?
How well optimized is your sales funnel?
How’s the keyword density on important pages?
What’s the ROI of your PPC campaigns?
How about the time ‘invested’ in social media?
Are your profits being eroded by inefficient systems?
You have the tools for collecting and analysing the answers to these questions. And the kind of brain that spots important patterns and extrapolates their implications for your business.
Once you’ve done the analysis, you know how to optimize your search presence, conversion rates, business model and processes, for maximum efficiency and profitability.
You understand the pain of poor browser compatibility, and the pleasures of a well-executed eye-tracking study.
You have the ability to take a popular website or piece of content and make it not only more popular, but profitable.
Your achilles heel:
Logic and numbers will only take you so far, because business is fundamentally about helping people — and people are driven by emotions.
To capture their attention, enchant them, educate them, build trust and authority, and get them to take action, you need to combine hard science with the ‘soft skills’ of an artist.
Now, you need the best of both worlds to succeed
For a long time, it’s been possible to succeed by mastering either the fine Art or the pure Science of marketing.
For every blogger who had such a passionate audience she didn’t need to bother with SEO, there was a PPC ninja who could get enough of the right keywords at the right price to make a tidy profit.
But the world is changing, and becoming more complex. Black-and-white distinctions are breaking down and competition is hotting up.
Marketing Artists are discovering that their sizzling content is no longer guaranteed to bring them the same number of shares, subscribers, and sales as before.
And a statistically significant percentage of Marketing Scientists is reaching the inescapable conclusion that they could exponentially increase the ROI of their PPC, SEO, and A/B testing — by integrating creative content into their marketing strategy.
Because the truth is, marketing is neither an art nor a science. It’s both.
And the present convergence of content, search and social means you can no longer rely on the emotional appeal of your art, or the logic of your data – if your business is to achieve its full potential, you need to combine the two disciplines.
For example, as writer and poet, I’m firmly in the Artist camp. Blogging to attract links and shares? No problem. On-page optimization? For years, my answer was “Maybe later.” Then I started using feedback from Scribe to revise key pages on my sites, and was pleasantly surprised to see what a big difference a few small tweaks could make.
If you’re a Marketing Scientist you need to understand the principles of effective content creation – how to grab attention with a headline, hold it with a compelling story, educate people to the point where they become customers.
Like the PPC wizards who have stopped sending traffic straight to a sales page, and started sending them to an opt-in page for a valuable educational series, delivered via autoresponder, before making the offer — and seen their conversion rates soar.
If you can’t beat them, work together
Now, we’re not saying that a poet can reach the level of a professional SEO specialist, or that a data guy or gal will become the next
Chuck Palahniuk Brian Clark. But that’s not necessary.
Simply by educating yourself in the basics of the complementary discipline, you can make big improvements on your current performance. And when you can ‘speak the language’ of the other tribe, you can collaborate with its members more effectively.
Copyblogger Media is a perfect example of a team of Marketing Artists and Scientists working together to build something bigger than they could do in isolation. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide who belongs on which side. ) Maybe your team could benefit from a similar mix.
And if you need an extra little nudge to start talking to your opposite number, remember the growing importance of social signals in SEO. In the brave new world of search and social, Artists and Scientists are finding they can’t afford to sit at their desks and beaver away in solitude.
The rise of Google Plus as a content-sharing, rank-enhancing, author-crediting, network-building social backplane means the brightest and most forward-thinking Marketing Artists and Scientists are both converging on a shared social space — which, happily, also provides an ideal forum for them to learn from each other.
So … which camp are you in?
Are you a Marketing Artist or Scientist?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your preferred style?
What are your plans for balancing your style with the opposite approach?
Let us know in the comments …