Using the Scientific Method to Create a Growth Marketing Strategy

Published on: | Updated on: | Rachel Canter


Marketing is mix of art and science (that’s we why love it!) 

So why aren’t more people using the scientific method to develop growth marketing plans? 

Reminder: What is the scientific method? 

Used by scientists since the 17th century, the scientific method is the procedure used for most scientific experimental work. It consists of 5 steps: 

  1. Defining the problem 
  2. Making observations 
  3. Forming a hypothesis 
  4. Conducting an experiment 
  5. Drawing conclusions 

That’s the question posed by Jana Lass, VP of Marketing at CloudApp, in this week’s Growth Marketing Chat. Lass pulls from her own STEM background to explain why the scientific method can work so well when it comes to marketing. 

She also debunks popular universal marketing truths (maybe data does lie!) and uncovers hidden truths about the role of marketers as communicators, artists, psychologists, and scientists. 

I think that experience that I had in STEM has very much influenced my philosophy in marketing, in that I am a huge proponent of leveraging the scientific method in building marketing plans.” -Jana Lass, Vice President of Marketing at CloudApp 

The Science and Art Secrets of Growth Marketing 

Join Lass as she details the best way to use the scientific method to iterate on marketing efforts and reveals the hidden truths of marketing, including: 

Watch the full interview to learn more about how to master the science of marketing! 


Video Transcript:  


NICK: All right. Welcome everybody. Today we have a very exciting guest Jana Lass vice president of marketing at the CloudApp, CloudApp is a visual work communication tool that helps teams share information through instantly shareable videos and screenshots. Jana welcome to Growth Marketing Chat. 

JANA: Great. Thanks for having me, Nick. 

NICK: Really excited to have you today. So before we dive into it, Jana, can you maybe give us a high level overview of your background and your journey through marketing and how you ended up at this role as a VP of marketing? 

JANA: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say compared to some others, I have had a bit of a non-linear journey into marketing. So I actually at university started studying biochemistry. But I also have a very creative side to me. So I, I did some specialized studies in high school around visual art. So after a few years at the, the college science at U N L V, I decided to switch my major to marketing because it was becoming this, you know, it was the rise of search engine marketing and, and all of that. And it was becoming this really beautiful mix of both art and science that I didn't really see in a lot of other majors or functions that I was you know, able to have access to. So, you know, because of that, it was like this cool analytics plus psychology plus creativity. And that's really what drew me to marketing was, was being able to kind of, you know, appeal to both sides of my personality. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and, and, you know, I guess I, you know, couple, couple different jobs throughout there, but my marketing career really started while I was in school honing that was about 16 years ago. And I started in real estate marketing and that was right before the bubble burst 

NICK: Great timing. 

JANA: So fantastic timing there. But it was great because, you know, when the bubble burst, it was really hard, it taught you to be really resourceful. And when I finally graduated, I knew that I wanted to be working in tech. So I was, you know, just a great time to pick up everything, move out to the bay area and be in Silicon valley and being there. I actually ended up I as an early employee at Marketo and I was on the corporate marketing team and we were really helping to evangelize that message and all this new wave of modern demand, gen marketing automation, and like this data driven marketing philosophy, which obviously not only built my DNA as a marketer and, and throughout my career as a marketing leader, but, you know, also was just this like really amazing intersection of all these things coming together. And it was also where I got bit by the startup bug. 

I love running around with my hair on fire, but it's, it's where I learned. I love working for really a early stage organizations. And since then, you know, I've, I've worn pretty much all the hats in marketing at different times because I've worked for early stage organizations, but I've, I've really had just a wonderful career and been really proud to work at a lot of companies in the early days, like Sumo logic, Upwork cloud near and help, you know, kind of build them. And, and I'm super excited to, you know, do the same with cloud app. 

NICK: Amazing, amazing. That's a really kind of an Orthodox path to a leadership and marketing role. But it's, but it's really cool. And how did your sort of diverse background contribute to your kind of skills in your philosophy on marketing? I mean, coming from biochemistry, I'm sure that's, you know, heavy, heavy science, heavy stem background into the through real estate and now into kind of SaaS and, and tech marketing. 

JANA: Yeah. I think, you know, that experience that I had in stem has very much influenced my philosophy, I guess, in marketing, in that I am a huge proponent of leveraging the scientific method in building marketing plans, running AB tests. And I probably drive my teams crazy because I'm always talking about, Hey, focus on impact over activity. And when we wanna test things or try things or develop a plan or forecasting, whatever it might be as one. I know there's a lot of organizations that, that feel like this agile methodology just like do things and be reactive, but you can't do that without having a plan, even if it's like, and I think it's mark Rover that says NASA has this thing that's plans with which we will deviate.  You have to have a course somewhere that you're planning on going to, even if you have to make quirks corrections all the way along the way and say, okay, we're like, we're learning from this. 

And actually in order to get where we wanna be going, we need to make this deviation, but like adopting that kind of scientific methodology as we're going through those activities in execution, whether it's marketing tactics, you know, small things like button experiments, copy, experiments, whatever it might be is having that, you know, Hey, we, we've got this question, we're trying to answer like really a question. We're not just doing it because we wanna do it. You know, there's really a bigger question and an impactful question we're trying to answer with this test. You know, we have a hypothesis, whether it's gonna be correct or not yeah. On, on what we think is gonna happen when we run this test, you know, we test it, we, we put, you know, parameters around it. So it's not just an AP test running forever an experiment that's running forever. 

Right. And then when that comes to an end, you're really analyzing those results and saying, okay, here, here's the conclusions. And there's both qualitative and quantitative analysis that goes into that. And that's where you can then rinse and repeat. Okay. Here's what we learned from that. We're seeing the impact we aren't, and you can't just rely on data <laugh> I think that's what a lot of people tend forget. Well, the data doesn't lie. It doesn't give you the whole truth either. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so you have to have qualitative analysis and soft correlations that go along with that. And I think that's where a lot of my stem background has kind of played that role in what I do in marketing. And then obviously, you know, working during some of the tumultuous times in mm-hmm <affirmative> the market, then it also taught me to just be really scrappy work with what you have and mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, don't let perfection get in the way of progress. So, 

NICK: Yeah. Yeah. No, I couldn't agree more spoken like a true scientist by the way. I couldn't agree more I, I think, you know, the key is to, to test intelligently and, and to then make sure that you're actually implementing those insights that you're getting from those learnings, cuz that's also hard, a hard thing to do. The implementation and changing course constantly is, is, is, is, is hard. Something that you kind of touched on there that I think is, is often maybe undervalued or undersold is that marketing is such a multidisciplinary kind of disciplined, right? That the, the AB testing and, and everything that we learned through the marketing process, because it, it really pulls directly from market data is valuable to all the other departments in the company especially product customer success sales, obviously. Can you talk a little bit about that? How marketing really kind of interconnects with the rest of the, the departments, especially the, the, the, the AB testing and the multivariate testing that teaches us so much about market response. 

JANA: Yeah, absolutely. Is one that's. Another reason why I love startups is you are so fundamentally connected with the cross functional groups. And as you kind of grow up into bigger organizations, which I also have a couple fortune 500 organizations in my past as well, is that that starts to get more siloed and segmented. So you lose those connections. Whereas an early stage company, it's very easy to iterate, communicate, stay connected, be in each other's, you know, meetings and standups to communicate, Hey, this is what we're doing and why here's what we're seeing from it. And really that those observations and reports are able to be shared with, with everybody. And actually, that's one of the reasons I love cloud app is because you can have those little videos where even if you're not trying to like everybody's calendars, can't coordinate. That was always a challenge I had. 

And others just, okay, like, well, sales is busy on this and this. So products often, you know, Prague or whatever, how do we get everybody together so that we can like have this meeting around this, but like being able to pull everybody together and say, Hey, here's the, the observations here's, here's the test we run. Here's why we ran it. Here's the observations that we had. And then you workshop around what the next iteration of that is. And that's not just, you know, we always talk a lot about sales and marketing alignment, but you know, engineering alignment is huge as well is understanding the product roadmap and where that is going. Being able to give feedback to the product team, making sure that your marketing plans and go to market strategy is aligned with the product roadmap. I have worked at companies where coming in the product roadmap is one thing, the go to market strategy as a whole other thing. 

And it just, there's a complete disconnect between the two. So taking that information in that kind of observe and report section and making a conscientious effort as not only a leader, but even just as the functional independent contributor to bring other people together and make sure that we're proactively, I have a huge, I guess, pet peeve around silos and black boxes is always be advocating for yourself and your work and what you're doing, even if it's like the thing with hair on it that maybe didn't turn out how you expected it to like tell people about it is, Hey, we did this thing and it didn't work out. And this is why we think why, and this is what we're gonna do differently because like, we all take that information and it's like the rising tide floats all boats, like we're all in this together. And mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, that's one of the things I love about startups is it makes it so much easier to do that. 

NICK: Yeah, no, I, I also, I, I work directly with a lot of startups. I've, I've been in startups and that's one of my favorite things as well. And as a marketer, you know, the, what we learn is often so counterintuitive and, and I love that about marketing because it's, it's, you're constantly testing yourself against the real world response and then if you're, if you're, I think a marketing leader and a good team member, you contribute that knowledge within the organization. And you know, other basically cross-functional departments can, can benefit from 

JANA: It. Yeah. I would say one of our, our big unspoken responsibilities as marketers is kind of as internal communications. We not only have to do that within marketing, but we also have the responsibility to help other teams do that for themselves. And that includes like customer success and support and helping like, you know, customer stories or feedback. Like we've got a, a wonderful product sales customer success feedback, slack channel, that's just those day to day conversations that everybody can share. And making sure people get visibility into that, you know, maybe not everybody checks that all the time and, and making sure we, we call intention to that and that internal communications, I feel like it's one of those jobs that marketers don't get enough credit for, but is definitely in our, our realm of responsibility. 

NICK: That's a really good idea. A slack channel to communicate kind of stories from the, from the front lines. That's awesome. I'm gonna I'm steal that. You mentioned something right before we, we got started that you, you, you don't agree with kind of all the established pervasive wisdom in the marketing world. Can you talk, can you expand a little bit on that? What, what are some kind of unquestionable truths in marketing that you don't agree with? 

JANA: So, and some of this comes from a place of guilt, right? In like early 2000 tens, all of the marketing automation vendors really talked a lot about marketing attribution, you know, earn your seat at the revenue table. What does that attribution, you know, prove it, what channels work, you know, and that you can really you know, tie everything down to every single touchpoint and, and just map it all. And like these really con complex attribution models. And right before this call, he said, some of it comes from a place of guilt because that is it's, it's unrealistic. In some ways, you know, I'll be like marketing attribution is a lie, you know,  but you know, it, it's not in some ways, but it also kind of comes back to that scientific method. And you, you can't just look at the data one, especially in the environment we live in, where GDPR people don't wanna be tracked anymore. 

There are tons of touchpoints that we will never really know about unless somebody chooses to tell us about that and to try and operationalize. Those is really just, I, I think unrealistic. And so when you're looking at things like attribution some I find simplicity is best, but it is not the whole story. And so don't try and make it the whole story. And I think there are a lot of, you know, agencies for vendors that sold that story with the intention of, Hey here's software and a tool that allows you to do that. But it was, it was never really possible in the way that we kind of created the value story for it. And, you know, with GDPR and a lot of the, the privacy things that we experience now, it will never truly be possible for them to say, okay, like, this is the exact value we get from this channel, because the buying journey isn't linear either. 

It's all over the place. Similar to my career journey. It's all over the place. And there are so many touch points that one you can't correlate to that individual record or that account that, that took into a part, there's all kinds of buyer roles that maybe aren't even a part of the, you know, account record. So if you talk about like sales ops and all of that, if they're not given the right account role, you're not gonna be able to get your attribution model. Right. You know, there's so much human element that is just not taken into consideration. And I like, I like to point to PR as one of those is, yeah, you can never truly attribute an accurate ROI to your PR activities. You can do correlations like, oh, we saw a, a spike in direct traffic, or we got, you know, this person, or maybe this opportunity that closed told us it was because they saw our PR release or this article that was placed in Forbes or whatever it might be, but you can't really put an attribution and number on that because it's, it's everywhere. 

And I know there's a lot of talk about like the dark funnel now. It doesn't mean that you ignore the data. It just means it's not the whole story. And all of that is not new. It's existed for really long time. It's not new concepts that people are talking about with demand creation and all that. It's called brand awareness and it's been around forever. Yeah. And it's called customer marketing and it's been around forever. And it's just, it's, you know I think a great example of there is no single bullet channel, so let's stop creating the narrative that there can be, everything really needs to work like a symphony together to create true impact. So just how you prioritize those activities, make sure you're trying to take in the holistic picture instead of just a, a granular aspect of it. 

NICK: Yeah, no, I think that's, that's a great take and, and very refreshing because you know, anybody who's promising absolute accuracy and attribution, you know, we know it's, it's not possible nowadays, that being said still doing your best to track everything and then comparing it to, to trends of the past and comparing it to the top line results. I think helps you get, get a really a full picture. And I think a theme of this conversation has also be has, has also been the, the qualitative along with the quantitative, you know, absolutely customer you know, stories from customer success stories from the sales team, anecdotal data is not, is not worthless. It's, it's very important actually. And, and obviously heat mapping and, and session reportings and things like that can really tell can, can help complete the story. 

Awesome. Awesome. What are some important skills that you had to teach yourself learn along the way that you think looking back have made you more effective? 

JANA: Absolutely. So one of them is like absolutely invaluable to my career was learning marketing operations. Learning Marketo. And I did it at a time when there was no Marketo community. There was no, you know, like you taught yourself a lot of that so, yeah, it was going to my coworkers at market. Like, how do I do this? Okay, let me try and figure this out. So basically kind of learning, marketing automation, learning best practices around email marketing, you know, and campaigns programs and how those all fit together was I would say a core part of marketing operations. And especially as we know it today, it's become a lot more strategic. But I think understanding how to execute at that very knobs and levers stage really is as a marketing leader, I feel like I try my best not to put together plans that I don't believe that my team can execute on. 

And in order to do that, I have to kind of know how to execute. And the marketing operations gave me the best picture across all channels, whether it's events or paid or SEO of really how to incorporate that operational thinking and bring all of those pieces together. So that I'm not saying, Hey, we can do this in 24 hours. It's like, actually, no, it takes all of these things. And we need to make sure that, you know, this happens and this happens, otherwise we won't have this reporting or the sale, the leads won't flow to sales in the way that they need to, because we need time to set this up or whatever it might be. So that's, that's one, I probably drive designers crazy because I do have a little bit of a visual arts background, you know, I did study graphic design and, and visual art. 

So that's, I think that's another one is, is, well, well, like having an aesthetic yeah. Has, has helped is sometimes I'll look at something and be like, okay, aesthetics are a personal thing. And you learn that very much when you're doing critiques. You know, in school. And so you have to say, is this my personal preference? Or is there something fundamentally off about it? And I think being able to separate those two things has also, oops, I talk a lot with my hands, as you can talk  has also been really important to, you know, kind of the, the minutia of campaigns and, and visual aspects and you know, that part. So I would say those are, those are two skills. And then obviously I think we probably beat that horse to death a little bit, but that scientific background and being able to understand and analyze data from a research perspective that is one thing, especially with where marketing is going. If you can take a marketing research course where they talk both about not just the data analysis, but the what and why, and the qualitative stuff as well. I think that is something that a lot of marketers miss these days. And so I would highly recommend that for anybody is, is specifically around marketing research. 

NICK: Excellent. Excellent. That's a great recommendation. And, and, you know, I could, I could definitely relate on the visual and driving design. That's crazy. I, on the other hand have no visual or artistic background at all, but I feel like I've looked through so many ads and so many landing page, maybe tests and multivariate tests. And now my taste is based on CRO best practices. Like, I feel like CRO has like, made me like, you know, rounded buttons and like, you know, things that convert better. So when I see something that's purely aesthetic, I always ask. Okay. But is that gonna convert? It's beautiful, but is it gonna convert? So I don't know if that's always great, but that's kinda the professional twists and turn 

JANA: But that stuff always changes too. That's true. Things get old. So that's why you always have to be testing that always be closing, always be testing, Trademark copyright. I'm sure somebody get somewhere... 

NICK: Check the domain right after this. If you don't beat me to it I feel like we can talk all about this stuff. But unfortunately we have to, we have to wrap up if you could leave us with one kind of actionable tip or, or like a tactical recommendation, something that our audience can implement this week or, or this month. 

JANA: Yeah, I think I'm, I'm just gonna have to go back to familiarize yourself with the scientific method. And I would challenge them to use that the next time that they want to run an AB test in, in the exact seven steps that it exists in. Right. Make your observation, ask your question, research, the, the topic area, look at, you know, kind of what data exists around it, formulate a new hypothesis, you know, say, test your experiment, give it concrete, start and end dates, and then go back and analyze it with that qualitative and quantitative look and see where, see where it gets you. 

NICK: Absolutely. why we don't have to reinvent the wheel if we have, you know, the scientific method got us, the computer and the internet, which is how we even. So let's not, you know, reinvent the wheel. It's, it's, it's always the golden rule. So it's a great way to end. Really appreciate your time. Johnna. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

JANA: Yeah, absolutely. Have a great one, Nick. Thanks for having me.