You might have heard about the rule that marketing managers should spend about 95% of their time thinking about marketing and 5% of their time thinking about management. While this is a perfect recipe for success in business school, it can lead to disaster in the real world where individual success depends on the success of the entire marketing team.
However, marketing doesn’t live in isolation. Unsympathetic markets, unpredictable competitors, and changing company initiatives all conspire to disrupt even the most well-thought-out marketing plans…unless you have a disaster survival plan.
Let’s take a look at five common marketing management disasters and how you can prevent them using concrete survival tips:
1. End Demand Drought with Continuous Innovation
Creating demand and driving sustainable revenue growth is the primary charter of every B2B marketing organization. However, these things are easier said than done. There are times when generating demand is as simple as ramping up campaign spend, but sooner or later, almost every campaign or channel will run dry without fresh ideas. Ending a demand drought requires marketing innovation, and marketing innovation requires the ingenuity of skilled marketing managers.
Survival Tip: Source New Ideas Broadly and Routinely
Sustainable revenue growth cannot rest entirely on your shoulders because ingenuity simply doesn’t scale. To prevent recurring demand droughts, you need to systematize marketing innovation. New marketing ideas, both big and small, should be sourced, brainstormed, prioritized, tested, measured, and assessed on a regular basis. Successful new ideas will then become ongoing marketing programs, and innovation should shift to marketing program optimization. But this shift must not be at the expense of new idea innovation. If you want to be a revenue rainmaker, you must build a marketing innovation machine.
Consider sourcing new marketing ideas broadly and routinely by conducting regular surveys with your sales team and customers, sending out feedback forms, and soliciting suggestions from throughout the entire company. Regular interaction with sales and customers, both active and passive, is critical for sourcing new ideas. Customers are the ultimate source of ideas, and sales may be closer to them than marketing. Make sure you are closely in tune with both.
2. Prepare for a Flood of Work
Marketing managers plan campaigns, content, product launches, promotions, and events to capture the attention of busy buyers, but this also routinely stretches their team’s bandwidth. If you don’t brace yourself for these foreseeable floods, your team will drown in a sea of work and the quality will suffer. Marketing management at scale is a process, not a project, and marketing managers must master important process management principles to open the floodgates when the tide runs high.
Survival Tip: Define Marketing Workflows and Handoffs
Handling a deluge of work with limited marketing resources requires scalable, efficient marketing production processes based on increased standardization, automation, and quality. The more your marketing production processes resemble a factory, the more marketing output you can generate per team member. Most marketing projects, from websites to trade shows, require the coordination of cross-functional marketing teams and a complete marketing automation platform that supports scalable, automated campaigns that can be personalized for each prospect and customer.
While people-centric processes cannot be fully automated in the same sense as running campaigns, their production capacity can be dramatically increased by standardized workflows, formalized hand-offs, deliverable templates, reusable assets, and proactive management of resource bottlenecks. Once standardized, routine tasks can be automated and end-to-end processes can optimized through continuous improvement.
One way you can dramatically increase the efficiency of people-centric marketing processes is by focusing on the handoffs. Define specific process stages, such as draft, copy, design, proof, etc. and create outlines and templates for deliverables that get handed off at each stage. Track marketing projects by stage to ensure a smooth workflow (just like you would with the purchase funnel). Once you are tracking the flow by stage, you can address the bottlenecks as the flow changes. As the volume of work rises, finding and managing these bottlenecks will dramatically lessen the impact of the flood.
3. Ground Yourself Against Unexpected Shocks
Budget cuts, competitor moves, PR crises. Sometimes, unexpected bolts from out of the blue shock a well-organized marketing plan into complete disarray. When things change rapidly, does your marketing organization absorb the shock and rebound nimbly? Or, does it end up in a panic that puts everything else on hold until the crisis passes? Insulating your marketing organization against sudden shocks requires a flexible management process that expects change and adapts quickly.
Survival Tip: Employ Agile Marketing Sprints
If you find it difficult to plan because you are constantly dealing with unforeseen changes, then you should consider adopting agile marketing best practices, such as working incrementally. For example, if you know your marketing plan will change each month depending on various factors, don’t make rigid plans that extend out several quarters. You can break big projects up into smaller ones that fit into your known time horizon, and then set long term goals and prioritize your backlog of projects accordingly.
If you work incrementally, you can fit projects neatly into weekly, bi-weekly or monthly work sprints. Then, you can strive to complete projects assigned to the current sprint and realign priorities for any changes as you plan the next sprint. Sprints increase your flexibility, strengthen your focus on tangible results, and establish a regular heartbeat within your marketing organization. And with them, when lightning strikes, you only have to adjust your priorities, not your plans.
4. Clean Up Toxic Waste
Most marketing departments are under-resourced and over-committed. And we all know very well that there is no time for do-overs. Unclear objectives, assignments, agendas, hand-offs, and communications lead to endless marketing rework and countless hours spent in useless staff meetings. Busy-work that eats up precious marketing resources and time without moving things forward is a toxic waste of time that can seriously undermine your team’s performance.
Survival Tip: Use a Marketing Collaboration Platform
Cleaning up waste from rework requires clearing up day-to-day management activities. Luckily, this doesn’t require a lot of overhead. Rigorous work habits and simple process rules will often do the trick. Make sure your strategic marketing goals are clear, so you don’t waste time on unimportant projects. Create modest project plans with a special focus on deliverable hand-offs to coordinate cross-functional teams, and make sure every project and deliverable has a single, clear owner. Also, it’s a good idea to bring an agenda to every meeting and record issues, decisions, and action items.
While email, chat, and social media are great for one-off conversations with your team, they lack the context, depth, and continuity required for purposeful collaboration. Generic project management tools likewise are good for an isolated project here and there, but they are not specifically tuned for marketing, and they lack an integrated view of all marketing projects that allows you to balance projects across channels, key initiatives, industries, geographies, etc. Consider a marketing project management platform that links conversations, documents, workflow, priorities and decisions directly to projects for greater efficiency.
5. Fight Marketing Blackouts with Complete Visibility
If no one knows what marketing is doing, then the natural conclusion is that marketing isn’t doing anything terribly important (and we all know this just isn’t true). Moreover, when different groups within the marketing organization don’t know what other groups are doing, it’s impossible to provide your prospects and customers with a unified experience. Unfortunately, most marketing plans, projects, and performance reports are hidden away in spreadsheets, documents, email inboxes and other poorly lit locations.
Survival Tip: Publish a Marketing Calendar and Roadmap
To end a marketing blackout, make sure your team’s work is visible to the rest of the organization. Keep everyone informed about upcoming marketing promotions, projects, and events by sharing marketing plans throughout the company, and share high-level roadmaps, monthly marketing calendars, and regular updates with all stakeholders. Within your team, make sure you clearly communicate your marketing plans, the status of work-in-process, and marketing performance reports. This will help you evaluate whether projects are properly balanced, prioritized, and integrated by highlighting critical strategic dimensions such as market segment, channel, product, buyer persona, and strategic initiative.
Without the right tool, consolidating and communicating marketing activities is pure overhead and can be quite labor intensive. The best practice is to use a marketing calendar that is tied directly to your marketing project management system or marketing automation platform, so everyone on your team can access real-time information.
These are just a few of the marketing management disasters that can derail your marketing department. Some are unavoidable, some are not. But the key to surviving these potential disasters is to be prepared. Strong marketing processes, established systems, and prepared team members are the key to handling, and even thriving, when these potential disasters pop up.
Have you survived a marketing management disaster? Share your tips in the comments below!