Well planned and well executed marketing is incredibly rewarding when it yields more business or strengthens a brand. But in the world of small and medium sized businesses, many marketing processes fail and even more fail to launch. Why is that? Is it because of technology? Is it because of new channels? Is it because of the evolving nature of search and social?
I propose that the single issue that causes marketing failures in SMBs doesn’t have anything to do with marketing at all. It boils down to one thing.
The Broad Definition Of Management
Let me take a moment to define what I mean when I use the word “management.” I do not mean individuals in senior positions at an SMB. I’m going to use the word management in the context of critical and non critical functions within a business. Broadly, I’m talking about managing people and things.
Poor management takes a different form in different businesses, but a common end result is the demoting or de-prioritizing of marketing functions or budget.
Here is how poor management can result in marketing failures.
Have you been to a meeting this week? Have you had a conference call? Have they been productive?
Most people that I talk to generally agree that meetings and phone calls are not the most efficient of business tasks. In fact, you’ve probably heard of meetings referred to as “time wasters.” This brings us to a good question; why have them? More on that in a moment.
Time management isn’t just about meetings and phone calls, either. It’s also about tasks and projects. Most people in business talk about their lists. Lists, action items, initiative checklists, etc. But what people fail to recognize is that what they perceive to be lists are actually projects.
For example, someone may add “buy Facebook ad” to their list. Is this really a list item? No. It’s a project. Why? Because buying a Facebook ad involves more than just buying the ad. Copy must be written. An image must be created. Research may need to be done to appropriately target the ad. A budget must be decided on. There are a lot of small but important ingredients that go into the “Facebook ad” brew.
The end result is that when a person finally sits down to purchase that ad and realizes that there are more steps involved, the activity is either performed badly or it is deferred, converting the list item from actionable to non actionable. If the same kind of behavior occurs regarding other items on “the list” then tasks begin to queue and bog performance down. This leads to a productivity spiral.
In my experience, poor time management is usually tied to a decision to forego the marketing that the business needs to sustain itself.
Ah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that my assessment above is wrong because it’s money that usually stalls marketing. No money. No marketing. Yes. That’s true. But it’s a symptom, not a cause. Poor productivity is almost always a root cause to underperforming businesses and that can lead to a slowdown in revenue.
Unfortunately most businesses confuse busy time with productivity. They believe that if people are running about frantically, then they are being productive. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The greatest thing the employees of any business can do is have time to think, reflect and plan. But at least in American culture, sitting at a chair thinking is usually frowned upon. As a result, business culture becomes reactive and not proactive. And in the battle of which department gets the brain trust when everyone is stretched to their limits, marketing often loses.
When I was in my twenties I worked for a company that was incredibly efficient. When I was hired, I was given a paper planner binder, a time management book and time to read it on the job. Then I was given a training session on the book followed by one-on-one time with folks within human resources who were dedicated to helping improve efficiency within the company.
There are lessons that I learned that I want to share with you to help mitigate the time management flaw in your business so that you can feed your marketing instead of perpetrating time wasters.
No More Traditional Meetings
Here’s how meetings typically go. One person decides that a meeting is necessary and schedules it for a timeframe such as an hour and then invites a bunch of people. Everyone shows up and nothing gets decided or accomplished. Everyone leaves unhappy, unfulfilled and the meeting ends up a time waster.
Try this instead. First, make a decision to make meetings as short as possible and only hold the meeting as long as it needs to go. If a meeting is scheduled for an hour and all that is needed ends up being 15 minutes, break the meeting. Hold the meeting with the fewest number of people possible and only those that are either directly impacted by the meeting or are decision makers.
Aside from that, have your meeting before the meeting. Make an agenda well before the meeting and encourage everyone that is attached to the agenda to discuss and debate informally before the meeting so that most of the decisions and discussions take place beforehand and all that needs to take place during the meeting are the ultimate and important actions.
But before any of that, decide if you really need a meeting in the first place. Maybe instead of getting 6 people together, 3 separate discussions between pairs might be more effective and take less time.
And then, just to really make a point, schedule your next meeting for 9:07:30 AM and indicate on the agenda that the meeting is scheduled for 23.5 minutes. That will capture people’s imagination and make them hyper aware of not only their time, but yours.
Finally, encourage everyone around you to take advantage of technology. Face to face meetings are great, but the time getting to and from a meeting can sometimes be a factor. There are so many remote meeting options available that take advantage of cameras and microphones on contemporary computers that you could cut a significant portion of travel time from the schedule of employees.
No More Email
Email is one of the worst communication tools available. A few weeks ago, I was sent an email that consisted of a conversation between two people that carbon copied 28 people including 2 in my office. 26 of those people had nothing to do with the conversation.
I’ve said it a million times: if you are working on a project, use a project management tool, not email. The worst thing about email is its simplicity. How many times have you gotten an email from someone who was on the run only to get an email minutes later correcting the prior email? That results in 4 emails, half of which are unnecessary.
If you want to increase productivity and reduce time wasters, limit email to core functions within your business.
Assign Someone To Think
If everyone is running around doing something reactive, how do they know what they should be doing? Who is responsible for making sure that all those busy bees are doing the right things? Their managers? Yeah, wishful thinking. In this economy, the managers are just as busy as their underlings.
Every business should assign a role of minimal oversight to someone. That person’s task is to evaluate the current activities and ensure that everyone is on point. If you really want a shot at productivity, rotate that role and let different employees take it on. It will make them aware of the use of their time and that of others.
…And Back To The Marketing
A business that is running efficiently is one that allows its employees breathing room to plan and reflect. It also uses tools and techniques to maximize work while minimizing stress and overload. That can translate to efficiencies that will allow a business to more elegantly focus on its marketing.