Software is essentially a manifestation of some manual process in hopes that it can automate some small piece of information management (unless we’re talking about software for design or related purposes).
Marketing, in much the same way, is a type of information management, with the explicit goal to get information in the hands of a customer so they can make a decision to purchase. It can attract, influence, education or even walk the customer through the buying process.
So if marketing were a piece of software, how would they be alike?
Imagine if the entire world were a database, or even better, a data warehouse with tons of diversely structured tables. For marketing, each table would be a customer segment, a market opportunity, an advertising channel or any number of avenues that need to be measured.
A marketing strategy for each of these database tables is like building joins or schema. You are looking for relationships between this discordant data and trying to hone in on a more targeted effort or customer list. A more targeted customer list reduces the risk in spending a lot of marketing dollars on unproven approaches to capturing your market. If we’re talking databases, a focused schema lets us hone in on specific data, and define clear processes for it.
The core app, maybe it’s an API or what’s on your app server — that’s like your marketing engine. This includes the people and tools that make the operation go. It’s constantly being optimized (hopefully) so that you get a better return on your investment, but also just to be more tactical. What you’ll also find is that what might seem completely different (email, social, advertising) are actually part of a holistic, multi-channel, parallel processing effort. You’re going to distribute the same stuff but over each and each has unique ways to measure success.
And the UI is like your messaging. It’s what’s going to compel a “user” to understand and get value from whatever marketing you’re doing. It’s also your brand so you want consistency and memorability. When someone sees your marketing, you want them to already have a familiarity with it to reinforce the relationship so they don’t have to “re-learn” a bunch of messaging you’ve already fed them.
One last thing: You gotta have conviction for what you’re doing. Just like you can’t design an application that you don’t believe will benefit the user, you can’t move forward with a marketing strategy that doesn’t imbue a sense of vision and value. If you’re literally using canned material you copied from a competitor, people see that and know you’re just a poser.