I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of marketers on both the client and agency side over my 15-plus years in this business. It is part of the fun of agency life. I meet many different marketers, and as a part of that, I can compare and contrast different styles, environments, and outcomes. From that experience, I have found that some marketers get more done than others. Again, part of that is the environment that they're in, since some places have more obstacles to productivity than others. But, aside from that, here are some qualities that I have observed that may help you get the most out of your tenure in any organization.
This quality may seem that it should go without saying; however, there are nuances that make it important to note. While some experience comes directly from time "in the field," other experience comes indirectly from those around you and perpetual learning. Plus, that experience may not always come from marketing, specifically, but rather through years of getting things done. I have run across many young marketers who are wise beyond their years who, I later found out, had many years of work experience through entrepreneurial adventures while still in their teens -- or others who can cite details from seemingly every business book on Amazon. Experience can help smooth the bumps of nearly any undertaking.
There are those who operate from fear and others who operate with the expectation that all will work out. Sometimes getting things done just requires jumping in and making it work. Many marketers are paralyzed by over-analysis for fear that they may overlook some detail or they may get in trouble. Those who are most productive often get enough information to move the ball forward and keep an eye on the riskiest aspects along the way. Granted, things can go wrong and some environments are not conducive to risk-taking, but the most productive marketers fix problems as they go along rather than try to avoid them altogether.
Complex jobs require help. No one can accomplish big things or many things alone. However, to do that, you must trust others around you to pick up part of the work. Too often, a lack of trust takes the wind out of any sails that may move the business forward.
In order to trust, the most productive marketers hire the best talent they can find, inside or outside the firm, to support their efforts. Good people get a lot done well. When we've worked with productive marketers in the past, it is only as a result of a really strong and capable team around them.
Great managers, in any department or function, help the business scale. Too many top- and mid-level marketers overlook the development of this capability and spend time developing their strategic thinking and creativity rather than the blocking and tackling of people management. By developing their people, the marketing function can execute on great strategic plans and creativity, rather than just aspire to it.
Communication is a subset of management and leadership, but it needs to be called out. In any case where we've been the most successful in developing sustained campaigns or shifted a client's business in improved directions, it came along with strong communication in all directions and forms. Strong one-to-one is key in the case of reporting up and down the ladder, as well as in groups so that complex organizational structures are all on the same page.
One minor but important example that I loved was a client CMO of an 80-plus marketing team that quarterly distributed and spoke to laminated copies of its one-page strategic plan to everyone -- agencies included -- so that we all had something to point to that showed where we each fit in, and laddered up to the items we needed to accomplish together in those three months. This type of communication is rare but critical, particularly for those outside the four walls of the business or who are in the field.
Buy-in from above and laterally is part of making something like this work.
The ability to simplify
The most productive marketers keep it simple. They have a few important things that they want to get done. They knock them out and then move on to the next set. They know how to say "no" and empower others to say "no" as well.
Not spending all your time in meetings
Everyone has this challenge to overcome. A day is easily filled end-to-end with meetings. However, sometimes you need time to get work done and/or interact ad hoc with those who are trying to support the marketing function within your organization. All too often, marketing leaders are stuck in endless meetings with only text messages as their form of external communication (where largely the only value is to indicate that they are still alive and aware of the mounting messages in their email inbox).
Watching the customer
The best marketers take time to observe their customers. Too often marketers are stuck behind spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, thereby missing out on the important interactions they can have with live customers. Hearing directly from or observing customers (outside of the control of a focus group) informs critical details that often head big future problems off at the pass. These are future fires that could break out and distract from long-term momentum.
Taking time for inspiration
It may not seem like "real work" or even appear to be a distraction, but it is important to get out in the wild with your team every once in a while. Consider it research directed toward a strategic objective or insight, because the best, most inspired new ideas reside outside of your organization, not in it.
Trying new things (small experiments)
This may seem counter to the "simplify" quality, but directed, focused experimentation can enhance current top-level priorities. The most productive marketers have experimentation embedded in the culture at all ranks, but know where to place their bets. Their people place small bets within a prioritized category with the ante being a hypothesis and any "loss" results in the net positive of shared learning among the team. They make small mistakes and share their learnings prior to placing big bets or making big mistakes.
Maximizing what works
One of the quickest ways I have seen marketers make the biggest impact on their business is to focus on what is already working and make the most of it. It is nature within our culture to try to fix what is broken. However, most often, when we see a business pop, it is because the marketer saw something that was getting good results and maximized or prioritized making it great. Obviously, there can be diminishing returns from continually optimizing something that is nearing "perfection," but in this rapidly changing world of marketing, it is unimaginable that any particular tactic is nearing that mark. Marketers who make the most out of what they already have get highly efficient wins under their belt.
While productivity is a goal for every organization, it just means that more is getting done. Most important, productive marketers who are also in alignment with the organization as a whole will get better results from whatever work they do. Operations needs to support the brand promise and the C-suite needs to see value in what marketing can do for the organization. Productivity, in the right situation, will get the best results.
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