Effective Marketer Principle 7: Run Productive Meetings

January 25, 2009

Meetings are a necessity of today’s work environment. And are also good source of humoristic material (see Dilbert cartoons) for the fact that they are often badly run and take way too much time. If you have ever asked yourself the following questions during a meeting, then is fair to assume the meeting wasn’t productive at al

  • Why am in this meeting?
  •  Why are all these people in this meeting?
  • Why are we meeting?
  • Haven’t we already discussed this in another meeting?
  • Shouldn’t [name of person] also participate in this meeting?
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • Who did we decide will take care of the action items?
  • Will anyone notice if I slip out of the room before the meeting ends?

So it is no surprise that one of the principles for effective marketers has to do with productive meetings. Drucker, of course, was right on target when included this principle in his article for effective managers (“What Makes an Effective Executive”, Harvard Business Review, June 2004) since one of the most important aspects one should be able to master in order to become effective is time management, and meetings are, as a general rule, a time drag.meeting1

Following Drucker’s advice, you should first identify what type of meeting is needed, since different meetings require different kinds of preparation. There are meetings to prepare a statement or press release, meetings where team members report the status of their tasks, meetings to inform other executives, and so on. From a marketing perspective, the principle still holds true and you will certainly be able to recognize in your organization all those different meeting types and should be able to prepare beforehand and run them according to their individual characteristics. For example:

Meeting to discuss campaign goals and strategy: this meeting should require attendees to be prepared beforehand by knowing the target market the campaign will focus on, reading results from similar campaigns or from campaigns targeting the same market, and assessing competitors’ actions towards the said market. If this kind of preparation is expected and understood by all participants, the meeting itself will be more productive since everyone will be able to come prepared to discuss the strategy rather than basic principles and background data.

Another example might be a meeting to review artwork, design, or other conceptual diagram related to marketing collateral or advertising. The requirements for this meeting differ from the previous one in the sense that previous preparation may involve having everyone review the proposed artwork or design beforehand and come prepared to the meeting with their observations. The meeting itself can be run also more focused on the specific artwork/design at hand, discussing that element in detail and how it relates to the overall message.

Finally, let’s take the example of a marketing staff meeting where you will review the results of the last quarter campaigns with the team. The way you will run this meeting will undoubtedly differ from the two types of meetings described above.

The takeaway from this principle is that once you realize that each meeting has its own purpose and structure, you can start organizing, preparing, and running meetings more effectively. But regardless of the type of meeting you will have, my personal experience is that you need at least the following:

  1. An agenda:  prepared and distributed prior to the meeting.
  2. An assigned note-taker: someone everyone agrees will write notes during the meeting, avoiding the all too common “oh, I thought you were taking notes so I didn’t take any!” problem.
  3. Published action items: sometimes referred as meeting minutes, it really doesn’t matter what you call it as long as it contains clear action items from the meeting, indicating who will do what by when. The note-taker is the person usually responsible for putting together the action items and sending it to everyone (after all, that’s why he was taking the notes!)

 Sounds simple and it really should be. Don’t let other people take you down with their useless meetings, you have more important things to do. Instead, teach them how to run effective meetings!


Effective Marketer Principle 6: Focus on opportunities rather than problems

January 18, 2009

 

Have you ever run a marketing campaign that didn’t present any problems, hiccups, or unforeseen obstacles? Unless you are extremely lucky (or have been kept out of the loop on what was happening with the campaign) odds are you have had your share of, let’s say, interesting events. How you approach such ‘events’ has a profound impact not only on the outcome of the said campaign but also on how your team and other professionals perceive you.

The whole subject of having a positive attitude, of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty, is a big subject and not what I intend to cover right now. My suggestion if you want to get some interesting tidbits on the impact of having a positive attitude in your life (both professionally and personally) is to read “The Little Gold Book of Yes!”, by Jeffrey Gitomer (see link in my ‘books’ page). But let’s not digress. Peter Drucker talks about the principle of focusing on opportunities rather than problems as another good way of achieving results.

Problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produce results.” So if it happens that you encounter a problem as you execute your plans, instead of simply trying to fix it, think of what king of opportunity it brings. You probably heard of countless stories of how a company faced a crisis situation and was able to turn it around and come out even better than before (remember the Tylenol scandal? Johnson came out victorious after a well planned management of the crisis that could have cost the company dearly). So your job is to spot these opportunities and make the most out of them. Focus on Opportunities

Effective marketers are aware that focusing on opportunities rather than problems will yield better results. Next time you run into a glitch in your marketing plan, think how you can turn it into an advantage.


Effective Marketer Principle 5: Take Responsibility for Communicating

January 17, 2009

To get things done you need to communicate, ensuring the team is aware of the plan, deadlines, and expected results. Effective managers in general are good at taking the responsibility of communicating their decisions to the organization, ensuring everyone is on board and aware of what will happen. As you discuss the plan of action with your team and with the stakeholders (see previous post), you are also getting buy-in for carrying out the tasks. In marketing is especially important to ensure that the company as a whole is aware of what is being done. Marketing, after all, affects every part of the organization.

In big companies as well as in small ones Marketing can oftentimes be considered a necessary expense, the department where money gets spent without consideration and where results are difficult to be measured. If this looks familiar to you, then you need to start practicing Principle 5 of the effective marketer and start communicating what you do, why you do it, and how it impacts everyone.Communicate the Marketing Plan

As the marketing plans are shared with the rest of the company, and details on why each campaign or activity is being carried out together with their expected impact on operations and sales, the reason for marketing and why we have this department should become clear. Marketing is not just a concentrated effort from the staff in that department, it should be part of every employee’s responsibility. The business cards that are presented to partners and potential customers are part of marketing branding, the message being delivered about what the company does is tailored and perfected by marketing, the collateral material that is distributed and that sales people use at trade shows and site visits is also marketing, of course. Therefore an understanding of what this all means, why each piece is important and knowing it is part of an overall strategy helps when delivering the message(s).

The principle of communicating also applies to ensuring the marketing manager gives the necessary information to others in the company to get their jobs done. Sales, finance, operations, shipping, each department manager needs specific information that will help them do their jobs. The effective marketer knows what information they need and provides it to them (market intelligence will help sales, packaging and placement are needed for shipping, cost per lead and campaign ROI will make the CFO happy). This shows that marketing is involved in almost every aspect of a company’s operations.

Learn how, when, and to whom communicate, and you will learn how to gain support to carry out the marketing plan.


Effective Marketer Principle 4: Take Responsibility for Decisions

January 13, 2009

The fourth principle can be summarized in one word: ACT!project plan

Marketing managers can sometimes get caught up on the creation of the plan, discussing with the team everything that will be done, the campaigns, the nice webinars, the new collateral, and the press releases but forget the important part of the marketing plan, actually the important part of any successful plan: The Three W’s (Who will do What by When)?

Until there’s a clear “owner”, a task won’t get done. Is the old saying that if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. Drucker advises us to use the following when determining the responsibility for each task laid out in the plan:

  • The name of the person responsible for the task
  • The deadline (when does it need to get done?)
  • The names of the people who will be affected by it, especially if approvals are needed (think for example about whether the CEO, the CMO, or another high level executive needs to review and approve your ad campaign before it goes out the door. Make sure to add this person as part of your plan and also to allocate the appropriate time it will take for this person to review and approve – or not – the deliverable)
  • The names of people who will have to be informed by the decision (after you create a new piece of marketing collateral do you announce it to the sales team? Do you have to put out a press release after you revamp your whole website? Think of the communication activities that may result of completing a task)

A key part of taking responsibility and assigning people responsible for each task is to make them accountable. Metrics should be in place to ensure performance is measured – something that becomes critical if the task at hand may impact the overall results of a marketing campaign. If, for example, an activity within your plan is to send out an email blast to selected customers inviting them to attend a webinar, you not only need to ensure you are tracking the results of the email campaign (open rates, click trough rates, bounce rates, etc.) but you should also look into whether the sending of the email itself was done correctly. How? Look back and verify whether the deadlines for creating the email and scheduling/sending it out were met. Why the results were so good or bad? Results from the email might point to improvements needed for the copy, the overall design, or even the landing page used. It is important to know beforehand how you are going to measure success for each activity and also understanding the implications of not meeting the goals (maybe the email needs to be reworked and sent again to drive additional registrations).

Drucker’s wisdom also tells us about delegation and the need for de-centralizing decision making. We all have way too much on our plates to be concerned with every little detail of our marketing plans, after all that’s why we have people in our teams that (hopefully) can help us with some of the tasks. Be it an intern, a marketing coordinator, an assistant or additional marketing professionals, we need to learn that we can rely on each member of the team to carry out his or her task successfully and to make decisions along the way without having to get your approval every step of the way.

The path to becoming an effective marketer involves learning how to “let go” of having to make all decisions. You hired quality people, you should trust your team and you should coach them on how to become better at what they do so that they can one day take over your job and you can rise up the ladder as well! Make each person responsible and accountable but also give them the freedom to decide the best course of action in certain situations. That’s the only way you will be able to accomplish everything you set out to do in your plan. Quoting directly from Peter Drucker “Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level. It needs to be taught explicitly to everyone in organizations that are based on knowledge.” (from “What makes an effective executive”, Harvard Business Review, June 2004)


Marketing Action Plans

January 6, 2009

 

Effective Marketer Principle 3: Develop Action Plans

Now that you have identified the most important thing to be done now and making sure it will contribute to the company’s goals (see previous post), is time to develop action plans. Marketers are used to creating marketing plans, including advertising campaigns, trade show schedules, etc. Many marketers I know have calendars posted on the walls marking important dates, deadlines, events, and so forth. Spreadsheets abound, and ideas flow. A great marketing plan is created! Or is it?

The action plan in Peter Drucker’s “8 Principles” article involves thinking not only about what to do, but also the expected results.

Action plan checklist:action plan

          Desired results

          Probable restraints

          Future revisions

          Check-in Points

          Implications for how the marketer will spend his time

I need to stress the first bullet, “desired results”. It is very important to make sure your marketing activities are results-oriented. There’s a whole discussion around marketing ROI that we should have at a later date, I think most of you are already developing plans with specific goals in mind be it lead generation, web traffic, referrals, and even sales. Right?

 The last bullet, on how you will spend your time, involves thinking deep into the planning and really being realistic as to what you (and your team) can accomplish as well as what may happen as a result of implementing the plan in relation to your available time.  In some cases you may have to do some market research prior to changing the product packaging, or contact your customers as a result of new customer service website login options. The important thing is not to forget that the plan you devise may impact other areas (and require more actions) not originally thought. This bullet also reminds you that you need to dedicate time to your plan. Yes, we are all very busy in endless meetings and such but unless you spend time towards the activities you outlined in your plan you won’t be making any progress and you won’t be effective. As you plan your day/week/month, make sure that you are spending time on activities related to your original action plan. Keep asking yourself “what needs to be done NOW?”.


8 Principles of Effective Managers

January 5, 2009

Peter Drucker fans will recognize the subtitle of my blog “Effectiveness is a discipline and it can be learned” as one of his famous quotes, and this pretty much sums up my thoughts on it. Anyone can learn how to become more effective as long as they apply themselves to it and marketers are no exception.

In 2004 Drucker wrote an article for Harvard Business Review Magazine titled “What makes an effective executive”. Eight practices are outlined to guide executives become more effective, and by “executive”, he means not only managers but knowledge workers overall. The practices are as follows:

          Ask “what needs to be done”

          Ask “what is right for the enterprise”

          Develop action plans

          Take responsibility for decisions

          Take responsibility for communicating

          Focus on opportunities rather than problems

          Run productive meetings

          Say “we” rather than “I”

It is interesting that this article differs a bit from his seminal book “The Effective Executive” (Harper Business 1993), which talked a lot about time management and decision making. Combining both sources, you have excellent material to guide you in becoming a better marketing manager.

Since those are both solid works that need to be used in your search for effectiveness, let’s tackle them in different posts. The 8 principles he outlines in his HBR article are more “action oriented”, meaning they guide you towards making the right plans for the right activity and how to behave in general.  Let’s apply them to marketing, shall we?

8 Principles for Effective Marketers

Those principles are easily transferable to marketing professionals:

Principle 1: Ask yourself “what needs to be done”?

What is your highest priority? As a marketer what is the ONE thing you need to do that will really determine whether your company will be successful? This is probably the toughest question and the most critical principle outlined by Drucker since it forces you to think through all your priorities, review your knowledge of the marketplace and of your products and offerings, then come up with that critical action that will drive all your other efforts.

Maybe you should focus on establishing an online presence, or in enhancing brand awareness, or even in creating a community of users… whatever is the highest priority that is the one you will be focusing on, the one that will yield higher results.

Interesting also to note that Drucker suggests asking “what needs to be done NOW”? When you list all your priorities, it is likely several items will be placed higher and even at the same level, but you should decide on the one that needs to be done at this moment, the critical action that can’t wait. This question when rephrased will help you focus.

Principle 2: Ask “what is right for the enterprise”?

So after you come up with what needs to be done now (your highest priority), you should make sure it fits with the corporate goals. You may very well have as highest on your list the revamp of the corporate website using the newest flash menus, blogs, and tracking mechanisms but can you link it back to corporate goals? This is key and what will link marketing to the company’s priorities.

This question is great as a discussion item between the marketing team and the top management (ideally the CEO). Where is the company headed? What’s the mission? Getting back to these basic principles can help marketing to “reset” and come up with a plan for action that will drive the organization in the right direction. So although that new website project was high on your list, maybe rethinking packaging or focusing on sales collateral is what should be done. It’s for you to decide!

 Principles 3 to 8: check back for discussion on the remaining 6 principles.

P.S.: you may be asking youself “where are all the nice tools that we marketers love to use and how do they relate to being effective”? Hang tight, because we’ll get to that real soon!


What is an Effective Marketer?

January 4, 2009

According to dictionary.com, the word effective means “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result”. An effective marketer, therefore, is someone who can accomplish his/her goals and produce the results set forth by the company. Notice I didn’t say ‘marketing results’, I’m referring to the Corporate goals because no marketing can be effective if it doesn’t contribute to the overall goals of the company. Mark Stevens, in his book “Your Marketing Sucks” has very good examples of what I mean and this is an issue for a future post. Let’s get back to the premise of this post, that is, an effective marketer can achieve and contribute to the company’s goals.

So is “effective marketing” the same as “effective marketer“? Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. The answer, my dear friends, is a resounding NO!

You could have effective marketing campaigns that drive sales up 100% and win awards and accolades but still have an inneffective marketer at helm. Blogs, magazine articles, whole books were written on marketing strategies and tactics and how to tweak your website to get higher Google rankings, how to use Guerilla Marketing and all the other interesting tools in the marketer arsenal but those are mainly that: tools. Without good judgement, they are a waste of resources. 

The effective marketer, therefore, uses the tools at his or her disposal in the wisest way possible. Not only that, but choosing the right tools is but a small part of the marketer’s job, especially if such person is in management or supervises people. The management of the marketing team (or any other human resources available to the marketer) is probably the most important task one has in his or her hands. The people are what will ensure the correct use of the marketing tool, the success of the marketing department, and subsequently, the success of the marketer in question.

Getting back on track

There is a lot to cover and that’s what this blog is for. Just to finalize the train of thought initiated a few senteces above, you can have an effective marketing campaign but an inneffective marketer because the campaign results may be out of that marketer’s control. Or, the team carrying out the campaign is good and has made sure that the campaign was corrected in time and launched successfully despite their manager’s inability to lead them. We all have experienced in our careers some kind of abismal leadership and have (we hope!) survived to tell the story.

The effective marketer, on the other hand, is not a guarantee of effective marketing but it is a much better judge of what will make his or her marketing department successful. Effective marketers still struggle with conditions sometimes out of their control (economic climate, budget cuts, etc.) but is nevertheless able to make the most out of it. As we post and discuss these ideas, it will become clearer how one can become effective and great at what he or she does. Your contribution, therefore, is essential! Let’s begin our journey to becoming effective marketers!


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