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Marketing: The 'Yes, We Can Do It—Wait, What's the Question?' Department

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Mo data, mo channels, mo tools, mo customer expectations—mo problems. Marketers need to get a handle on their workloads or their productivity, and their sanity, will suffer.


What isn't considered marketing these days? Customer service, branding, analytics, tech, even procurements; if something impacts the customer experience, the responsibility—and the repercussions—often fall directly into marketing's already overfilled court.

According to recent research from AtTask, 60% of marketers are either utterly overwhelmed by or just barely meeting their deadlines. That's partially because members of the marketing department, like the members of most other departments, are dealing with mountains of email while repeatedly being pulled into unfocused meetings where buzzwords are buzzed, but nothing gets accomplished.

But the biggest issue marketing has to deal with is the rapidly changing tech landscape, says AtTask CEO Eric Morgan.

“The marketing team has similar problems to those felt by other groups, yes, but there's also a uniqueness to the problems experienced by marketing—we can't forget that the demands on marketing are increasing every day,” Morgan says. “Multichannel digital marketing demands are completely different from what was being demanded of marketing even five years ago, and it's creating a situation of accelerating pain points for marketing folks.”

Everyone and their mother's been banging on about the need for marketing and IT to collaborate—and for good reason. According to research conducted by Gartner, 67% of marketing departments set the marketing-tech strategy, compared to just 13% of IT departments. ROI depends on a good, silo-free relationship. But, as Uncle Ben so famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And if I can add to that statement: With great responsibility often comes more work—if not for the department head, then for the worker bees.

“With the advent of the cloud, the demands on IT are lessening in some respects because so much can now be done without the headaches associated with the traditional IT environment,” Morgan says. “The pain is migrating from one department to another, and we need to acknowledge this and deal with it.”

And with 53% of CMOs saying that digital marketing growth has made them more accountable for raising revenue, as per a study by Deloitte and Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, the pressure's on.

So, what can marketers do to up the productivity and decrease the pressure? Mostly, it's just about being realistic.

Take your head out of your silo. Unless you're a farmer, nothing good ever comes out of a silo—ever. “Silos are often about departments drawing proprietary lines around information and communication—the things they should be sharing,” Morgan says. “But if an organization is open, the fewer silos they're naturally going to have, and the more productive they're naturally going to be.”

Don't just shuffle the deck. Every department can absorb a certain amount of extra work or new necessary tasks—but there is a limit. I'm not all that math savvy, but this equation makes sense to me: More work (plus) fewer people to do it = burnout. There's more than ever to do, but you can't just move tasks around the table or reassign them from one person to another and think that's going to solve the core problem.

“If you're asking people to do more work, you need more resources than your current resources to be productive,” he says. “Or, if there really are no more resources, you at least have to help prioritize the work around real, rational business conversations.”

Take stock of what's really going on. Without internal transparency, managers can't fully assess where the productivity issues are—and if there's not a true understanding of current and potential commitments, that's a formula for ineffective workflow.

“Embrace the notion that you need to track and understand all the work and resources you have across your team,” Morgan says. “Even small requests can add up and they need to be managed.”

Don't be a knee-jerk. Know what you're signing up for before you commit your—or your employees'—precious time.

“I often call marketing the ‘Yes. Wait—what's the question?' department because they're often paranoid that if they don't say yes to everything, then it's going to get outsourced,” he says. “Compare that to the IT department, which I like to call the ‘No, that's not in the budget' department.'”

It's not a quick fix, but companies with a culture of transparency and willingness to change are at a clear advantage to the silo-mongers. And it's not going to get any easier, so you might as well start now.

“No matter who you are or what you do, whether it's marketing or anything, when you feel enough pain, that's when you realize it's time for a solution,” says Morgan, who notes that there's no better time than the present. “The problems that are presenting themselves today go above and beyond the things that have historically kept marketers up at night—and it's time for marketing teams to embrace a new way of running their departments.”

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