It is important for marketing to be both tactical and strategic. As a deadline-driven and fast-paced function, however, marketers tend to juggle multiple high priority projects at various stages in the campaign management lifecycle, and it can be challenging to make time for strategic marketing planning and innovation – especially given today’s environment of staffing and budget constraints. Tactical execution without the strategy component will render marketing initiatives less effective, but strategy cannot exist in a vacuum either. Here are five simple approaches for making time to be innovative while gaining better command over tactical functions.
1) Build relationships
Sometimes the best place to start in improving any process is with the small wins that generate long-term returns. Building cross-functional relationships with the business unit leaders marketing supports can be an important step towards improving tactical execution. By building strong relationships with other departments, it will be easier to gain the needed buy-in and support for campaigns, making planning more efficient in the long run. Business unit leaders can also provide a valuable perspective for prioritizing marketing initiatives and ideas to improve marketing effectiveness.
2) Plan and prioritize
Due to the increasing financial and resource constraints facing marketing departments, it’s important to focus on the initiatives that will generate the greatest return for the time invested in planning and executing the campaign, while still accomplishing required marketing support activities. Here’s a set of three questions to help you prioritize and focus:
1. Which initiatives are producing the best results?
2. Should any initiatives that are not effective be discontinued?
3. Are there any non-critical, non-marketing tasks that are taking too much time?
As you consider the above questions, an excellent frame for prioritizing marketing activities and making time for marketing innovation is Stephen Covey’s time management grid from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s important to spend as much time as possible on quadrant II activities (important, not urgent) in order to shift marketing from a reactive to a proactive, planning-oriented role.
3) Explore creative staffing models
While your resources may be limited, you can still maximize your marketing investment with creative staffing models. Although your budget may not support taking on additional full-time staffers, free-lancers and part-time workers are an excellent way to extend your marketing staff and make time for marketing innovation. For example, Mom Corps has worked with companies to augment marketing staff with experienced, high caliber part-time professionals.
4) Consider marketing service providers
After planning and prioritizing your marketing activities, you may find that some tactical marketing functions could be accomplished by marketing service providers - freeing up more time for your in-house staff to focus on marketing innovation and quadrant II activities. Marketing service providers can help to streamline tactical marketing activities such as campaign execution, project management, creative services, list management and printing and fulfillment. In and of themselves, any these functions can be time-intensive. Marketing service providers can serve as a flexible and cost-effective staffing resource and can be hired to support a specific function or project.
5) Consider systems that automate marketing processes
Depending on the breadth and complexity of your marketing materials, marketing resource management (MRM) systems can be an effective solution to automate tactical marketing functions. MRM systems can automate materials updates and the approval process through built-in workflows.
Is a marketing resource management system for me? Some questions to consider…
1. How much time does it take to locate approved materials/logos?
2. How much time does it take to update existing materials, such as product features updates, when multiple pieces need to be located and updated?
3. How much time does it take to send emails back and forth for approving customized materials?
In addition to automating tactical marketing functions, MRM systems also assist with campaign management, providing visibility into which campaigns generate the greatest ROI and which non-critical campaigns should be discontinued.
Although marketing is increasingly challenged to accomplish more with fewer resources, it is important to find the time for marketing innovation. Creative staffing models and marketing automation should be considered and limited resources should be focused on high-return initiatives. The question of doing more with less has never been more urgent than in today’s marketing environment, but with some smart planning and prioritizing, you’ll be on your way to freeing up more time for marketing innovation while streamlining tactical execution.
Have you used the four quadrants to prioritize your marketing initiatives? Which of the four quadrants do you spend the most time on?