Doing the little things right can add up to huge success down the road. However, in our complex lives as digital marketers, it can be difficult to remember everything we know we should be doing.
For this reason, building habits can be a way to automatically do these things without having to remember. Habits can be hard to make, but they're also hard to break once they're set, which is why it's important to foster good habits and not start bad ones.
Making habits stick is its own field of science. Behavioral psychologist Gregory Ciotti recommends a mix of "macro goals" and "micro quotas":
- Goals should be the big picture items that you wish to someday accomplish.
- Your quotas on the other hand are the minimum amounts of work that you must get done every single day to make it a reality.
I certainly don't know all of the secrets of getting habits to stick, but I do know lots of marketers who can share some sage advice on the daily habits that have made them successful. Maybe you'll find one or two that you'd like to incorporate into your professional lives.
John Durham, CATALYST S+F
Every morning, I dedicate 30 minutes to reading the trades -- and have been for 25+ years religiously. I must know what people are thinking and reading. I also routinely share articles to a 50-person reading list.
Tal Halpern, Datapop
Remember to always ask "Why?" when you start on a project. It will help you keep in mind the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish, consider the needs of those that are involved, and help you assess if you are approaching it in the best way or not.
Kent Woolson, AdParlor
My best tip for anyone in marketing is preparation. Before picking up the phone when calling a potential client, do some background. What is their work experience? Look up LinkedIn, go to their current company's website and spend some time. Read case studies if available. Find some personal background information on Facebook, but don't get creepy!
Kelly Miller, BrightTag
Professionalism: Every email deserves a response. Too often, in our industry, professional etiquette falls by the wayside. Everyone is inundated with emails while trying to get their daily tasks completed and may decide that some emails do not warrant a response. Any response -- even a note to set timing expectations, a pass to the more appropriate person, or an honest, "I am so sorry but I can't help you" -- goes a long way. Ironically, relationships and professional etiquette is never a focus in this business, however it is the one thing that can take you the furthest.
Jeff Ferguson, Fang Digital Marketing
Work while you're working by firing off a salvo of tasks to your employees, co-workers, and clients first thing in the morning. Then attack the first big thing on your to-do list without checking email again until you're done, while the rest of your team accomplishes their responsibilities.
Rebecca Keen, Cramer-Krasslett
My tip: Have fun at what the day brings you, smile often, laugh a lot, and dance. In the words of Baz Luhrmann ("Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen"), "Do one thing every day that scares you." Life is short. Don't take things too seriously, and be human.
Adam Kleinberg, Traction
My daily habit is pretty simple, actually. I try to sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee, open up my schedule, and make a list of the things I need to accomplish that day. It's so easy to get pulled into a whirlwind. You often feel like the course of your day is determined by a bunch of meetings people threw onto your calendar that don't align with your priorities. Well guess what? It's your time! I sit down for a few minutes of calm, assess what my day looks like, make sure it aligns with my priorities (not someone else's), and make space if I need to. I make sure I have enough time budgeted to do the things that I really need to do -- and feel less stressed and more productive throughout my day.
Kraig Smith, PReturn
Close the loop…with yourself. We should all think critically about how to improve results by developing the habit of auditing our own performance and setting goals at least annually and quarterly. For those of you nodding in agreement, ask yourselves the million-dollar follow up question: "Do you set deadlines and other tactical concerns aside to complete the circular process?" Last year's goals and the progress made against them should influence goals for the new year, but we don't always prioritize closing that loop with ourselves.
Mark Naples, WIT Strategy
I try to read something outside of our trade pub echo chamber before I make any decisions on behalf of clients. Feels like I need to start my real brain before I start my industry brain, you know?
Tracy Northcutt, Microsoft
Allow yourself to be inspired by marketing. When I was a toddler, I would be watching the latest episode of "Sesame Street" and would immediately drop everything I was doing when a commercial came on. When I was eight years old, I memorized the entire "Lee Press On Nails" commercial and would parrot it back to anyone who would listen and be impressed with my pitch. (I still know it by heart.) I have always been enthralled by advertisements, and to this day, watching infomercials on a late Saturday night is one of my favorite pastimes.
Start paying attention to marketing campaigns that are targeting you, and constantly think of how you may be able to leverage bits of pieces for your own marketing initiatives. Like a child, allow yourself to again be open and inspired by marketing. Who knows? These seemingly bothersome and inconvenient messages just might spark your next big idea!
Brad Hawk, Leapfrog Online
Attack the day by starting early. As difficult as it can be sometimes, it helps me to focus on the big picture and what lies ahead. So much of digital marketing happens in real-time now, and it keeps me ahead of clients, ahead of new challenges, ready to position our team for success.
Sara Rennich, Kelly, Scott, Madison
I make it a habit to continually build open communication with our vendors, especially with platform-based technology partners. Many times I find they hold back criticism, due to a "client is always right" mentality. However, by expressing the desire for feedback and continually asking for ways to improve, I receive strategic ideas and tips for my campaigns.
Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo
My motto is "Never go to bed with an angry inbox." I always make sure I've read all my emails before I shut my eyes at night. I don't always respond to everything, but I mark things for follow-up as needed. As a marketer, you never know where your next big opportunity is going to come from, and I've found that, many times, it's sitting right there in your inbox and can't wait until tomorrow.
Peter Cornell, Yahoo
Every day, pick an ad or other intentional media engagement by a brand (tweet, FB story, etc.) that doesn't make much sense to you and ask others what they think is going on. Don't constrain these conversations just to the marketing people in your life -- often times talking to folks outside of the marketing world will yield the most interesting insights.
My daily habit
Finally, I'd like to share my own best tip: Clean out your inbox. My goal every day is to clear my inbox. If I need to respond, then I do. If I need to schedule a meeting, then I do. If I need to address this item later (such as read a white paper or go through notes), I set up a meeting on my calendar with myself and do it at that time. By the time I leave the office, the only items left in my inbox are ones in which I'm waiting for a response. When I get in the next day, I check my inbox and follow up on any emails from the day before.
Yes, it's hard to do, but I've found that work can pile up like a landslide if you don't go on the offensive. It's a constant battle, but your colleagues and partners will appreciate the responsiveness and you won't get bogged down.
"Business man with four arms," image via Shutterstock.