Time: Marketers’ most precious resource & ways to maximize it
As marketers' jobs become increasingly fast-paced and 24/7, columnist Scott Vaughan shares four ways to help you overcome the time challenge and meet ever-growing expectations.
It’s August. The perfect time for a summer holiday break. But wait, there’s no time. We’ve got programs to deliver, content to craft, nurture tracks to build, new martech to scope and implement, and endless stuff to get done to execute against second-half 2017 pipeline and revenue targets.
What happened to the summer slowdown? It no longer exists. Business is always on. That means marketing has become a 24/7, high-acceleration profession. And overnight, time — NOT data — has become marketing’s most precious resource.
I work in marketing for a high-growth SaaS organization. From our own experience and talking with hundreds of marketers, cycles just keep getting faster, customer expectations higher and the list of things to do longer. In addition to daily hacks, we’ve been brainstorming — inside and outside our company — on how to better use our time to meet ever-increasing expectations.
The conclusion is that we must change how we approach our days, drop some bad habits and make tough choices about what we focus on. Here are four things we see working to tackle marketers’ time challenge.
1. Know where to apply ‘good enough’ marketing
As a group, B2B marketers are high achievers with incredible attention to detail. We obsess over every detail from the colors used in our social images to our website pages to each line item in our quarterly business reviews. But here’s the reality: Not every project or task has to be done perfectly. In fact, most don’t.
The world isn’t going to end just because a caption on an image in your collateral or the fourth paragraph in your blog isn’t ground-breaking. Each of us can calculate the hours wasted working on stuff that really isn’t going to make any meaningful difference.
The key to making the most of your precious time is differentiating the tasks that require 100 percent effort from those where 80 percent, for example, is good enough. The adage, “done is better than perfect” applies to so many areas of marketing. You just got eight to 10 hours a week back using this mindset and approach.
2. Prioritize business-advancing initiatives over simply getting tasks done
Most of us work off a list, coming to work each day with a set of tasks we must knock out. They’re often deadline-driven, set by ourselves, colleagues or our boss. They can include repetitive things we’ve always done and always done the same way — without questioning their value.
While there is tremendous satisfaction from checking things off our “to-do” list, it’s time to reassess our priorities. A smart approach is to ask every day, “What are the initiatives, projects and tasks that will have the biggest impact on the business?” Focus on these first and foremost. We must shift focus from the day-to-day tasks and redirect our time to programs and projects that will transform our contribution to the greater organization.
In addition to assessing and prioritizing regularly, we should measure and reward marketers and teams based on outcomes versus task completion. A prime example today is marketers being evaluated on hitting customer revenue and upsell goals rather than the task of generating MQLs (marketing qualified leads), which turns into a time suck for the entire organization.
This refocus of tens of hours a month ensures our precious time is aimed at marketing’s direct contribution to the business.
3. STOP doing stuff that can be automated
Getting to observe hundreds of marketing organizations and how they work, I’m blown away by how much time is spent on “marketing janitorial” work. This is especially true when there are pretty good marketing technology and viable process hacks that are accessible in the marketing community.
One of the best examples is around the lead data processing that exists within demand marketing. Marketing tasks like scrubbing, formatting and standardizing lead data line by line and manually uploading spreadsheets into our marketing automation systems is the norm.
STOP. Not only is it a horrible use of resources, but it’s burning out our marketing talent. “Marketers did not go to college to be data janitors,” exclaimed more than one frustrated HR leader.
The good news is that there are plenty of tried-and-true tools that can be efficiently implemented and used to do this work. Automation — applied thoughtfully — will help you scale your capabilities, reduce marketer burnout and redirect marketers’ time to the innovative, customer-delighting initiatives.
4. Just say no!
The last mindset shift is my favorite and the hardest — saying “NO!” This can be especially tough when it comes to addressing requests from your boss or the executive team. However, this straightforward, consultative approach to prioritization is appreciated and valued by execs.
One problem — saying “no” is not in our nature. Moreover, in many organizations, accolades are handed out to marketers who can get tasks done. The reality is, the “no” play often yields bigger results when used appropriately. This effort requires empathy, thoughtfulness and finesse.
Rather than abruptly and literally saying “no,” or worse, ignoring requests for projects to be worked on, the better approach is to understand “why” and “why now.” Once we understand, we can recommend alternative approaches or more impactful areas of focus by making a business case for game-changing initiatives.
Take control — the clock is ticking
It’s time to take back control of how we spend our time in marketing. With growing expectations and a finite amount of time, we marketers must make smarter choices, rethink priorities and shake up where we focus. I’m not sure time is ever on our side, but I’m confident we can use it more wisely to achieve bigger and better things. The time is now!