Get a Clue—on Marketing Productivity

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Bryan Nielson, work management expert, AtTask
Bryan Nielson, work management expert, AtTask

“I think it was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.”

Too often in the world of marketing work management, managers—and even team members—feel like they don't have a clue about their team's work or productivity. In particular, work requests and statuses become the big mystery everyone is trying to solve: “Um, I think Joe is working on that one campaign and is about 80 percent done. At least that's what I heard from Carla.”

Direct marketers are extremely busy, formulating creative campaigns for reaching targeting audiences, and working behind the scenes to pull strategy and materials together—but all too often, the reason marketers are so busy is a mystery to everyone else. Solving the mystery requires communication regarding who's doing what, where, and when. Unfortunately, communication and collaboration become challenging when the systems in place to do so aren't working. It's difficult to measure the success of a direct marketing campaign when these processes fail to easily track and measure results.

Transparent work statuses

On average, two in five projects do not meet their original goals and business intent, and half of those unsuccessful projects fail from a flaw linked to communication inefficiency, according to a recent report by the Project Management Institute.

Winning the game of direct marketing work management requires knowing how your team uses its resources and tracking what tasks are behind schedule. That way, you also know how to make the right moves. Here are some ways to start:

  • Reduce the resistance. Create a centralized system that lets your team collaborate in a single location. This reduces the disparate communication, eliminating information overload. Standardize what you need to communicate and to whom. Minimize updates and base them on the criteria, frequency, and content already established.
  • Make status a value-add. Allow team members to update their task statuses quickly, review other task statuses, and respond with feedback easily in a central location. Making information easy to access and update empowers the organization's players, and they are more likely to do it.
  • Provide customized communication. Different stakeholders need to know different things at different times. Take the time to learn what your stakeholders' needs are and make sure the information you give them fits the context of their roles.

When you change marketing work management from a suspenseful guessing-game to a game of open communication and transparency, work ceases to be a mystery, and your team will win every time.

Streamlined work requests

Another major contributor to guesswork (and resulting chaos) in direct marketing is the work request. Like in a board game, new requests can send you backward, help you skip ahead, or force you to lose a turn at any moment.

Requests come from every direction—email, meetings, sticky notes, phone calls, text messages, etc. You make spreadsheets. You write lists. But in the constant barrage, you can't keep track of it all. The unpredictability of how many requests you take on, whether or not there will be an “emergency,” and how to add the new work to your already overflowing plate often throws a wrench in any workflow management strategy.

But you can change the game—especially with these key strategies that eliminate the chaos of direct marketing requests—and regain control of the board:

  • Centralize request management. Create a set method for receiving and processing work requests, and demand adherence to that process. The penalty for going around the system is that the new request won't be heard.
  • Provide resource visibility. Before considering any requests, you should check your availability and that of others. Get access to resources, skills, and schedules to better target work availability.
  • Align projects with business goals. Weed out ideas that are cool for the sake of being cool and instead focus your resources on moves that contribute directly to your department and company goals.
  • Enforce business cases. Vet work requests to ensure they will realize ROI and meet strategic goals. This safeguards priorities from the top of an organization down.
  • Understand tradeoffs. New requests can interrupt work in the pipeline, causing unnecessary delays. It's imperative to understand the tradeoffs and downstream effects of accepting new requests.
  • Empower workers. Every team member needs to be able to say “no” when a request doesn't align with strategic objectives, won't turn out acceptable ROI, or will require more resources than available.

When it comes to direct marketing, forget clues and get the facts. Implementing these tactics into your marketing work management strategy will help you change direct marketing from a game of chance to a game of method, so you can win every time.

Bryan Nielson is a work management expert at AtTask

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