Can our marketing data and customer insights provide meaningful value without the practice of iteration? This is not a remarkable or profound question. The answer is simply, no.

For many years marketing and communication efforts have pulled from a mix of evolving best practices, pop culture and whatever data we could get our hands on. We as marketers have assembled campaigns that have consistently broken through the din and found resonance with our audience. As times and culture have changed, our tactics have followed suit.

Over the past 15-20 years, we have amassed a staggering volume of data and insight as our ability to collect them has been multiplied by an order of magnitude. Yet, for all this information, we have trouble taking advantage of its full value because iteration is still not a widely embraced practice.

As of the authoring of this post there at least 172,479,283* different methodologies, data points, and algorithms available to inform marketing decisions. With all that power our batting average should be much higher than it is. This is where the marketing folks pause and argue that our batting average is pretty high. They are right and here’s why.

What was described in the first few paragraphs of this post illustrates an industry-wide philosophy and practice of iteration. Over the most recent ten or twelve decades of human culture, marketers have keenly honed their ability to read the terrain and derive meaningful insights from even the smallest data point. Marketers have evolved to be naturally iterative. So much so, that if they cannot iterate, they cannot thrive.

Marketing is a practice – if it were medicine or law. And, as with any practice, if it is done in earnest, it will provide a near-constant flow of new discoveries that provide a path to sustainable success. Put more simply stated, if we iterate we will succeed.

With so much data and input, there is a challenge to make informed decisions quickly. This often delays or even prevents us from getting work in market. The simple fact is that the faster you get your message and tactics in the market, the faster you’ll get feedback from your market. Then that’s when you can begin the powerful work of iteration and optimization. Unfortunately, we often do that work before we even put something out there.

Among clients and leaders, there is a tendency to grade marketing efforts as pass/fail. As a result, a fear exists. If we put something out that we are not 114% confident in, we will fail. That failure is then compounded when it is judged as fatal.

Success is too often measured completely on what is gained and does not generally include what is learned. If we can adopt a greater focus on iteration and testing we can make our short-term tactics better and our long-term goals more attainable. Which, in turn, makes all our efforts more sustainable.

Remember that even soft metrics are powerful. Communication is a two-way street and we need to employ more active listening to compliment and amplify our messaging. If we don’t, it’s a struggle, not a practice.

For more on Iterative Marketing as a practice visit

*This number is not statistically significant and was, in fact, made up. The point here is that there are a lot.