Too much to do, and not enough time to do it.
Sound like a familiar plight? Well, you aren’t alone.
Marketing executives peg not having enough hours in the day as one of their biggest challenges, according to a 2017 report from marketing software company Conductor. This roadblock ranked directly behind having the right team and insufficient budget.
Since you can’t work 24/7, you’re always looking for new ways to streamline your workload and make time for things that have impact. And trimming the fat from your and your team’s workday is a lot easier said than done.
The Trap of Doing Something “Just Because”
I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not me! We’re always careful about re-evaluating our processes on a consistent basis. We don’t do anything just for the sake of doing it!”
It can be hard to admit this sort of fault. Nothing illustrates how easy this trap is to fall into better than the age-old meatloaf story.
That anecdote goes a little something like this:
A mother is cooking meatloaf with her teenage daughter. Each time they make this recipe, they cut off the ends of the meatloaf before putting it into the oven.
“Mom, why do we always cut the ends off?” the teenage daughter asks. The mother ponders that question but ends up with no answer. So, she defers to her mother who then defers to her own mother.
As it turns out, the ends used to be cut off because the original chef didn’t have a large enough pan for the entire loaf—a tradition that just kept being passed down.
This story illustrates how easy it is to keep an outdated (and totally unnecessary) practice, simply because it’s always been something you’ve done.
Now you may be thinking that your team can easily avoid this trap. However, you’ll be surprised. There’s a notorious three-year itch amongst marketing professionals, making it a field that has one of the highest turnover rates. When someone goes, their way of doing things gets passed down to the new person and so on and so on and so on. Before you know it, you’ve fallen into the meatloaf trap and your team is saddled with inefficient methods.
Even if you’re frequently welcoming a lot of new faces on your team, it’s important that you focus your attention, time, and energy into what matters and eliminate those extraneous efforts that don’t actually move the needle.
How can you effectively separate the wheat from the chaff? These four helpful tricks should get you started on the right path.
Saving Time: How to Eliminate Extraneous Efforts
1. Ask the Tough Questions
Each and every marketing campaign or initiative has one major, overarching goal driving it. You want to acquire new customers, for example.
That’s a big, meaty objective. But it’s all too easy to lose focus when you get swept up into the day-to-day tasks and projects that are involved in that campaign.
When you get stuck in the daily minutiae, you won’t be looking at how all those smaller pieces fit within the larger strategy and play into the endgame. You’ll end up wasting time on fruitless tasks and projects rather than on impactful work toward the major objective.
When you have a potential new task or project as part of a campaign, take the time to step back with your team and ask this one straightforward question:
How does this contribute to our goal of [X]?
Will that series of blog posts get more eyeballs on your content and drive greater brand awareness? Will hosting that free webinar add more warm leads to your pipeline that sales can follow up with?
If you and your team answer those questions with slack jaws and blank stares, it might be time to reevaluate the potential benefits of that effort.
However, this isn’t something that you can only do for potentially new tasks. You can apply this same concept to existing projects and processes as well.
Set aside some time when you all can sit down, weed through your recurring to-dos, and figure out which ones are actually pushing you in the right direction. You’ll be surprised with how many tasks are really time wasters.
2. Re-Evaluate Your Meetings
Meetings suck. They only throw my workday off track. Nothing ever actually gets accomplished.
Those are common complaints. And, honestly, they have some merit. In one survey of 2,000 managers, respondents claimed that 30% of the time they spend in meetings is actually just wasted.
This meeting problem is exacerbated on marketing teams, where meetings are commonplace. One study shows that marketers spend an average of 13 hours each and every week in meetings.
The same study also states the average marketing meeting lasts an average of one hour and 42 minutes—35 minutes longer than the average across all departments.
So, what can you do? You won’t be able to do away with meetings altogether. They may be dreaded, but they’re a necessary evil..
We’re certainly not suggesting you cancel all your team’s meetings to get an extra hour or more back in your day. Our recommendation is to play calendar Tetris, figuring out what meetings are necessary and which aren’t.
Here are a few tactics to help you out:
- Take a magnifying glass to every recurring meeting and determine if it’s actually productive. Ask yourself honestly if it’s turned into a scheduled check-in that could easily be completed over email.
- Set a rule that no more meetings will happen without an agenda emailed out ahead of time. Create an agenda template that your team members can easily use for their own meetings.
- Limit your participants to only those that need to actively contribute.
- End each meeting with clear action items so everybody knows what next steps to take. More importantly, follow up on those action items and see if they were completed.This will reassure everyone that their time wasn’t wasted.
One more tactic? Provide everybody with enough information on the meeting so they can decide if they need to attend or not.
Find out more about this strategy in David Grady’s enlightening TED Talk:
3. Leverage Data and Analytics
Modern-day, tech-savvy marketers are quick to whip out their data nerd card. At any mention of analytics and metrics, they’ll say how they use data to drive every one of their decisions. But is that actually the case?
Plenty of research indicates that marketers aren’t quite as smitten with data as they like to believe.
According to a survey of 257 marketing executives, a whopping 45% said they lacked the necessary capacity to actually analyze big data—which means all of those valuable insights are often untouched and unused.
“Not only don't marketers get data, they don't get what consumers want in communications,” states Erik Sherman, who reported on the survey for Inc, “Until they sharpen up, you can count on more spending—with lackluster results.”
Another study provides another rude awakening. In a survey of almost 600 marketers at the DMA Annual Conference and Exhibition, 53% said that they don’t collect enough customer data.
Additionally, it was revealed that most marketers don’t go beyond the basics of data collection to gain the insights that will actually help them make more informed decisions.
How the heck does data relate to your time? Well, think of it this way: If you aren’t making use of the metrics and analytics at your fingertips, you’re making uninformed choices that invest time in the wrong tasks or initiatives. In the end, you’ll have wasted everyone’s time, including your own.
What metrics you need to look at can vary based on your tasks and campaigns. But some general things to pay attention to include:
- Conversions: Which of your marketing efforts are converting? Which aren’t?
- Churn: Which customers are returning? Which aren’t? More importantly, why are they leaving?
- Email Open Rates and Subscriptions: Are people interested in your message? Do they even open your emails? Are they signing up for your newsletter? Or are you getting more unsubscribes?
- Return on Investment: Is the money your spending on advertising worth it? Or, should you consider switching strategies?
With so much data out there, that only scratches the surface.
Leveraging the available data will empower you and your team to zone in on next steps that actually contribute to your bottom line—thus eliminating those extraneous, unsupported efforts.
4. Streamline Your Technology
Technology is a huge benefit to marketers today, particularly productivity and project management tools. But too many tools and systems can actually bog your team down.
For example, say a team member needs to enter information into an Excel spreadsheet, and then duplicate that information in your project management dashboard, an email, and an IM. If that’s the case, then you’re not being efficient with all of your tools.
According to a report from Conductor, 67% of marketing executives feel they sift through too many dashboard and reports to gain critical insights.
Another study highlighted that, on average, marketers use more than 12 different tools—and some use up to 31 (which sounds totally overwhelming).
Additionally, 61% of marketers state they want better integration of their tools and improved processes for sharing data amongst their tools.
If you think the technology you leverage on your own team could use some streamlining? Take the time to talk to your team members to determine if there are any tools you’re currently utilizing that only slow down your processes and if it's time to rejig your marketing asset management.
Additionally, assign some point people to dig into your existing tools a little deeper to figure out if there are ways to better leverage the technology you’re already using. Is there a feature you haven’t even touched? Is there an integration that could help you seamlessly connect more of your tools?
Chances are you’ve only scratched the surface on what your tools can do. Doing more research might help you eliminate some bloat from your roster of tech solutions.
Over to You
If you’re eager to eliminate inefficiencies in your marketing team (and, honestly, you should be), these four strategies will set you off on the right path:
- Ask how certain tasks contribute to the larger goal.
- Re-evaluate the productivity of your meetings.
- Better leverage your data.
- Streamline the tools and technology you use.
But one of the best things you can do is to have a frank conversation with your team. Where are they frequently running into bottlenecks? Are there certain repeated tasks they consider to be a waste of time?
Remember, they’re the ones on the front lines day in and day out, so they’ll have some great insights into how your work can become more efficient.
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment and see how new things work within your own team—whether it’s a new tool, an adjusted process, or something else entirely. A little trial and error will help you land on a winning formula that keeps your team productive and happy.