Marketing By Objectives

November 29, 2010

Objective-Action-Budget

In a recent article for the CMO Council’s Newsletter, Nicolas Watkis argues “Marketers won’t succeed if they don’t have objectives”. Right on, my friend!

As we have all heard before, marketers are now more than in any other time being measured and challenged to produce measurable results. Mr. Watkis then states “the most important activities for marketers are the establishment of marketing objectives, a plan for their achievement, a budget to support the plan, and the management of assets and resources to achieve the objectives”.

OK, I think we can all agree this makes sense, but then how do you go about coming up with a plan? His article argues that most marketers start with the budget and foolishly take that for a marketing plan while the right approach is actually quite different:

1. Set measurable objectives, both financial and marketing. The financial objectives are revenue, profits, return on assets (how much sales will the campaign generate? Is a valid question to answer in your objective) and although he doesn’t describe what the “marketing objectives” are, I would focus on lead generation numbers (how many qualified leads, for example) although other metrics such as “number of blog posts” or “twitter messages” could be valid objectives for social media campaigns.

2. List actions to be take for each objective, with completion dates, people responsible for each action and also think in terms of alternative actions (what to do in case the action is not successful). This last bit is important for factors outside your influence, maybe a contract that depends on another company has to be signed for the joint marketing campaign to start, or what to do if certain assumptions you’ve made when putting together the plan fail to materialize (i.e. what to do if mommy bloggers don’t pick up our story or offer right away as we hope they will do).

3. Profit and loss projection with a detailed marketing budget showing the allocation of resources. So here it is, the marketing budget, the final component of the marketing plan.

The methodology of OBJECTIVE -> ACTION -> BUDGET is logic, but why is it that so many marketers keep insisting on coming up with the budget before actually putting a plan in place? The “let’s copy last year’s budget” mentality is prevalent in many organizations because is the easy way out of a not so glamorous function. Maybe now is time for some change. So write “objective -> action -> budget”  down on paper, in big letters and stick it to your corkboard or use a post-it and glue it to your computer monitor. That’s what I just did 🙂

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How Success is Misunderstood

September 29, 2010

How do you define success? Number of leads generated? Amount of sales or deals closed? If you answered “it depends”, then you’re thinking smart. Success can be based on a number of different factors and it also varies based on who you talk to, after all, we all have different objectives (personal and professional).

Now let’s go one step further. If you see another company being successful (however you define success) and you try to apply the same method, can you guarantee you will also achieve success? If you said “it depends”, you just got yourself an extra point! As marketers we all know it’s not that simple. Questions about what the target market is, what industry are you talking about, and such are the first things that come to mind. A method of selling hot-dog on the street can be used to sell software, but I wouldn’t follow it by the letter.

That’s why it still amazes me that discussions about following a formula for success often get stuck in how you define “success” instead of discussing the differences between target markets. If you are a blogger and your readers are software entrepreneurs, you can’t really expect that the bag of tricks used to attract social media consultants will work the same way. A B2B company applying tactics used by B2C companies can be very successful but only after some necessary translation is done.

How do YOU define success and do you have a special formula?


The Productivity Paradox: Short Term or Long Term Effect?

March 15, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how to recover time I’ve spent in tasks not directly associated with what I consider productive, i.e. email, admin stuff, and doing everything else but those tasks that will help me achieve my goals. Why do I do those things, you might ask, and I reply that is because sometimes you just can’t say no. In a corporate environment, sometimes (some of you may argue that’s ‘all the time’) you get pulled out of your daily activities and asked to do something unplanned, like help out the sale manager with a powerpoint presentation, interview a new candidate for that admin position or even attend a meeting called last minute by your boss. As much as you hate it, sometimes you just have to adapt to the situation and juggle things around, add another monkey to your back and hope it doesn’t brake your neck. 

But I digress… what I’ve been focusing on for the past few posts is on how you can use tools you already have at your disposal (like MS Outlook for most corporate users) to become more effective and productive. The use of such tools, however, can be seen as a short-tem fix instead of a long-term effect. If you become better at managing your schedule, let’s say, will that help you gain back time you have wasted up until now and use now the time you’ll be saving in more productive tasks? Or is the time you have already wasted considered “sunk time” and will never be recovered?How productive are you?

On a recent blog post Jason Cohen, from Smart Bear Software, tackled this issue and argued that if you become 1% more productive each day you won’t necessarily be able to add all this productivity up and claim at the end of the month that you’ve now achieved 30% more productivity (the claim of 1% translating into cummulative productivity was made by Alfred Lin, Zappos COO, in his blog post). This is an interesting concept, because a lot of people start using GTD and similar methods to become more productive and it is comong that they end up not implementing the full method but are still satisfied because they feel they are now a bit more productive each day. So, in the end, if you are only a bit more productive can you claim an overall big productivity improvement?

What I will argue is that whatever the correct answer to this question, it is missing the point. The important thing is not to decide whether you can become 1% more productive each day, but is your productivity being applied to achieve your goals? Before you attempt to increase your productivity, first ask yourself: do you have a short-term or a long-term goal?

Short-term productivity is exactly that, the 1% each day, the ability of now to clean up your inbox in 30 mins instead of 45 mins, the extra 5 mins you gained because you are now running effective meetings, and the satisfaction that your day is now being spent on things that matter. 

Long-term productivity is the focus on your overall goals, how you spend your time, and what do you need to change in your daily habits that will let you achieve your objectives in the amount of time you have available. We all have goals and work hard to accomplish what we set forth but are we being realistic? Are we startegizing and planning what our priorities will be? Do we even know how much time we need to spend on specific tasks and whether those tasks will get us to where we want?

Jason, again, touched upon a very powerful first step for anyone interested in the long-term productivity plan. He talked about assessing your time and noting how you are spending your time during the day and week. Peter Drucker, in his book “The Effective Executive” spent the majority of his book discussing time management because it is such an important concept to tackle if you want to become more effective. Drucker suggested “know thy time” as a precursor to any adjustment you will have to make to your daily routine. This simple yet powerful principle is essential to help you better understand how you are spending your efforts. Take notes of how you are spending your time, then go back and ask yourself:

  1. What tasks are taking most of my time during the day and week?
  2. Which tasks should I be working on that will lead me to accomplish my goals?
  3. Are those tasks in my first list matching the ones in my second list?

Obvious, but not necessarily easy. Most of your time should be spent on those tasks that are directly associated with your goals, and if you are not spending most of your time on those, than no matter how productive you become every day (be it 1%, 5% or 10%!) the amount of productivity increased won’t matter if you are not focusing on what’s important.

Getting stuff done isn’t the goal. Getting the RIGHT stuff done, is.

Once you’ve identified what are the right tasks, the ones where you should spend more of your time then you can start thinking about ways to become more productive. This is long-term planning. If you always know how to spend your time, then when those unplanned events happen, you won’t be thrown off balance trying to recover your time.

Don’t focus on small or big improvements. Decide what you need to improve first.


Effective Manager Defined

February 14, 2009

From time to time I go back to some business books I’ve read that had big influences in my career, one of which is “The One Minute Manager”, by Ken Blanchard. There’s a specific passage I think is a great definition of effective managers, it reads:

Effective managers manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.

This is a simple but powerful thought. How are you making use of your time? How are you making use of your team’s time? Are the tasks you and your team working on going to directly affect the company’s ability to compete in the marketplace?  Are the marketing campaigns you are planning or have planned going to directly influence sales? What are the key items in your agenda as a marketer that can have a direct impact in the company’s bottom line? 

Food for thought.



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 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)


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