Marketing professionals are called to deliver tactical marketing support while maintaining a big-picture, strategic view, and it can be hard to find balance between the two competing priorities. Tactical and strategic marketing functions can be especially hard to balance because they divide our focus between important, urgent and important, not urgent activities (think Stephen Covey’s Quadrant I & II activities). Tactical execution against strategic goals is critical for driving marketing results, but it’s important not to skew so far towards the tactical that focus on strategic activities wanes: Strategic marketing activities help to bolster marketing innovation. Here are some of our suggestions for helping to find and maintain balance.
1. Understand how much time each marketing initiative will take to execute and plan accordingly. Make a list of all of the activities marketing supports and consider the time required to plan and execute each activity. Be realistic with this assessment. Then begin prioritizing. If you find that you’re doing so many activities that execution is suffering, then it’s time to cut out some of the Quadrant III and IV activities that are eroding your focus. As Kevin Wilzbach said in his interview for the Marketing Organizational Leadership blog series, “Don’t do so many marketing activities that execution suffers.” It’s important to make sure you have adequate bandwidth to support the campaigns you manage. Here a few examples to set the stage for your marketing activities review:
• Continuity campaigns can have a high level of complexity and commitment because communication needs to be coordinated and ongoing in order for these campaigns to be effective. If you don’t have the resources to manage continuity campaigns in-house, a marketing resource management system can help to automate the tactical scheduling and distribution of ongoing communications, freeing up your team to spend more time on planning campaign strategy
• Social media and blogging require an up-front commitment and investment in resources to build a following (for your blog or social media). It’s important to be realistic about the time it will take to plan, develop and distribute content
2. Determine which marketing activities are aligned with and support your company’s strategic priorities. These are your Quadrant II activities and they promise the biggest long-term financial impacts and returns. Quadrant II, strategic activities require more planning than tactical marketing support functions, and take longer to prepare for, so they warrant continuous front-end focus. Inc.com suggests a six-step approach to strategic thinking: Anticipate, Think Critically, Interpret, Decide, Align, and Learn.
3. Identify your Quadrant III and IV priorities, and find ways to decrease the amount of time you spend in these quadrants. Some ongoing Quadrant III (not important, urgent) activities can be automated to free up staff time. For example, emailing internally for approvals of customized marketing materials can be time consuming. A Marketing Resource Management system can manage the end-to-end approval process from customization to proofing, pre-press approvals, and workflows all through a centralized portal – freeing up significant staff time spent in Quadrant III. Anything that falls into Quadrant IV (not important, not urgent) could be a time drain. Consider which activities you could discontinue supporting entirely to free up more staff time.
4. Seek out partners who can support both tactical and strategic marketing functions. Full-service marketing automation partners can be an agile and scalable resource to help with staff augmentation and provide thought leadership in your field. A good partner should be able to provide creative and strategic ideas and assist with execution, providing a single end-to-end point of contact and the technology to help execute against your strategic goals.
Walking the marketing tightrope can be a delicate balancing act between tactical and strategic priorities, but you can begin gaining better reign over your time by completing a full review of your marketing activities and augmenting focus on Quadrant II activities while scaling down focus on any Quadrant IV activities that may be draining your time. Finally, a full-service marketing resource management partner can provide valuable tactical support and help you automate Quadrant III activities while providing end-to-end marketing support and strategic recommendations. The best partners will integrate so seamlessly into your business processes that they act as a natural extension to your marketing department.
How are you using the four quadrants to prioritize and balance marketing’s tactical and strategic roles?