This is an exciting time to be a marketer. A new solution hits the market every day, and there are a multitude of solutions available for any problem or goal your company may have. Just ten years ago, companies had only a handful of marketing options. Today, they have hundreds.
However, you simply can’t compete for every customer in every channel. Therefore, the wisest choice is to focus deeply on only a handful of initiatives rather than seeing how many initiatives you can roll out at once. A 2010 economic study aptly titled “Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin” found that spreading effort among many active projects decreased both workers’ performance and the average speed of job completion. Simply put, trying to do it all is dangerous and unsuccessful. A focused company, one that invests in its core business and most profitable customers and prospects, will almost always outperform an undisciplined company that attempts to be everything to everyone.
In a survey of 350 marketing executives in multiple industries, nearly all respondents agreed that they needed to invest more wisely in capabilities. They were all on the right track in terms of wanting to set the right priorities. However, when asked to rate eight marketing capabilities on a scale of least important to most important, 50% of the respondents rated five or more of the marketing capabilities as most important. The executives wanted to set priorities and have a plan, but they seemed to think that they could dive into several priorities at the same time. In effect, they were setting themselves up for failure.
DECIDING HOW TO INVEST YOUR COMPANY’S TIME AND MONEY
There will never be enough hours in the day to explore every marketing opportunity. Deciding how to invest your company’s time and money can be overwhelming. However, consider that your time (and your team’s time) is limited. The opportunity cost of working on the wrong tactics is high. In many companies, time is even more valuable than money, and wasting time is even more harmful to the company’s prospects than is wasting money. Businesses too often focus on the wrong priorities. Their leaders find themselves scratching their heads six months later, lamenting the waste of considerable time and money with no results or tangible assets to show for it. You must set priorities with your team, and those priorities must be the right ones.
HOW TO SET THE RIGHT PRIORITIES
First, determine your company’s marketing objectives. Is your company’s main objective to build existing customers’ top-of-mind awareness of your company’s new products or services? Or is it to find new prospective customers for your core product or service offering? Or is it to appear more credible as a provider in new markets?
As you can see, your company’s possible objectives—and the corresponding marketing initiatives—are endless. Before jumping into tactics like most firms do, gather your leadership team at least once a year to talk through your company’s short-term and long-term business objectives.
When those objectives have been set, figure out how marketing can help in achieving those goals. The role of marketing should be clearly defined, with a plan for the use of specific tactics during the upcoming months. By sitting down to determine the urgency, timing, and allocated budget of each marketing initiative, you’ll ensure that your company has set the right priorities to maximize the ROI of its total marketing spend.
By following this structured approach, your company eliminates the chance of trying to do a little bit of everything, which is almost as bad as doing the wrong things. As a result, your team’s energies will be much more focused and productive.
DIVE DEEPLY INTO A HANDFUL OF WORTHY INITIATIVES
Instead of working on ten marketing initiatives, for example, and giving none of them the time or money they deserve, focus on diving deeply into a handful of initiatives at a time. You must complete these initiatives fully, in meticulous detail, to achieve their full effect.
For example, if your company implements a CRM tool, such as Salesforce.com, the proper time must be spent to introduce it to your salespeople with the necessary rigorous training and to design the right reports for the VP of Sales or the CEO to review. If your marketing team writes content for an email campaign, it also must map out a detailed drip campaign to distribute the content, including custom landing pages and calls to action. Only in being exceptional will your company develop loyal brand evangelists and outperform the competition. Instead of chasing your tail and boasting about how many initiatives are being rolled out simultaneously, take a step back, focus on just a few initiatives, and devote the proper time and money to them in order to achieve their full potential. Many times I have witnessed a client finish a round of strategic thinking and believe that the marketing mission was complete. In reality, it was just beginning. Rather than chase the new, shiny object, the best marketing strategies are executed in the details, with strenuous emphasis on follow through.
Evaluate which of your company’s marketing initiatives are the most important, taking into account both ROI and your company’s long term goals. For each initiative, you should also consider the stage at which your company is currently. Even an initiative with slightly lower ROI may be worth continuing if its grunt work has already been done and it is no longer consuming substantial amounts of time or money. In general, you should choose three or four initiatives to prioritize, and put the rest of the initiatives on the back burner. If your company has a key objective for the current or upcoming quarter, every employee should be focused on that objective above all else, no matter the other demands on his or her time. Check in with your team on a regular basis to see what they are prioritizing and to ensure that they don’t get sidetracked on less important tasks. Above all, when your company’s marketing initiatives have been chosen, make sure that you and your team go the “extra mile” with them.