In 90’s, the normal deployment time of a new software feature was around 3 years. Then Agile software development happened. All of a sudden, the timeframe shrank to months and weeks. The productivity of the development process skyrocketed. However, it seems like many other knowledge workers are still lagging behind. If we want to compete with the giants, it’s time we reconsider how we think about marketing productivity and the way in which we work too. For way too long now marketers thought the key to success is in launching as many campaigns as possible. The culture of large marketing campaigns and heavy annual plans that went obsolete the day they were finished have been dragging the marketers down for way too long now. Thinking this can be fixed with better time management or personal performance, we only made it worse. Is your marketing team taking too much time to deliver campaigns? Are you constantly fighting overdue deadlines, stretched budgets, and missed goals? Too slow and too expensive? These problems are not new. It’s time we learn the lessons that software developers have learned years ago. Here are the top 3 things to fix today to make your marketing team productive: #1. Lack of Focus and Scattered Efforts Marketing is slow. Way too slow by today’s measures. In fact, marketers themselves are displeased with their productivity. When asked what was causing the delays, however, 1 in 5 marketers quoted review and approvals processes. Trying to be more productive and compensate for the delays of handover or reviews, marketers often fall for the illusion that doing more will get you more. However, multitasking is the biggest killer of productivity. It might be counterintuitive, but to do things faster, you need to focus on only one thing at a time. Seeing things through to the end might seem like you are doing less but that always leads to more things DONE in the end. Solution: Stop multitasking. Multitasking is nothing more than task-switching. Your brain literally stops working on the current task and switch to another one. It slows down the whole work process. Stop getting things started for the sake of visible busyness. Prohibit your marketing team to work on multiple things at once, start getting things finished. Focus saves you time. To do that, you need to solve the next productivity issue – utter unpredictability. #2. Unreliable and Unpredictable Process Do you know what exactly caused a delay for your project? Is that going to repeat the next time we start a campaign? In other words, do you know what your process really looks like and which parts of it are weaker? If you want to boost the productivity of your marketing efforts, you need to establish a predictable process, free from issues that could be easily prevented. There is a reason why Agile marketing and online Kanban software solutions are on the rise – visibility and predictability of knowledge work processes is a huge pain. There is a number of tools and methods, starting from physical Kanban board with sticky notes going to advance process tracking software. What you really need is some kind of process map, that reflects the basic steps that your work usually goes through (i.e. planning, execution, review, delivery) and a way to display the ongoing work items at each stage. Solution: Establish Clear Processes & Visualize Work Example of a marketing visual work board in an online Kanban software. Courtesy: Kanbanize Forget work requests over email and chats – put everything on a work board and stick to it. Being able to see what actually is going on in the workflow, where the issues are and how to solve them make a huge difference. Visualizing your process and all of your workflows reveals the issues that often wouldn’t otherwise be found. Seeing your work lets you plan better, focus and prioritize with a better understanding of the bigger picture. #3. The Big Project Thinking The last, but probably the biggest reason marketing teams fail to deliver on time is the Big Project thinking. The idea that any problem could be solved through a great new project that would fix all of the issues once and for all is wishful thinking at its best. Think you have the best and greatest way to fix an issue? Well, how do you know? Before your team commits to building the Tower-of-Babel kind of solution, ask yourself again what issues are you really solving and how this approach really addresses that. What if the market changes by the time you deploy your solution? Solution: Validate Ideas and Run Smaller Experiments Once you have a marketing challenge, think of the smallest possible way you can deal with the issue, as opposed to dreaming up the best solution imaginable. What tends to happen is that we come up with huge fixes to seemingly big issues that we could resolve with a small fix. The bigger the issue, the more skeptical you should be about large solutions – you need to react fast. That means you must be able to test and validate the idea behind any solution on a smaller scale first. Ideas need to be validated before you invest any efforts into them. Experiments always win over big bang campaigns. Otherwise, you risk spending weeks or even months building the Great Fix that won’t have the effect you were hoping for, stealing the precious time you have to respond to the crisis. Embrace Continuous Improvement To Boost Marketing Productivity Building an agile marketing team is not an easy challenge. But it is the only way to move to data-driven, fast-moving and organized marketing mentality. However, becoming a focused, agile team isn’t the biggest issue. The greatest challenge for a modern marketing team is learning how to stop thinking in Big Bang campaigns and large projects. Every marketing issue needs to be probed before you commit to a large-scale solution. That will mean we need to test campaigns using a smaller “trial version” of them, which could later be improved. Instead of perfecting ideas before the release, marketers need to first publish, then improve. Polishing your campaigns is pointless if you’re doing it based on the gut feeling and not the user feedback data that you get. Every large success needs to start somewhere, so start building smaller experiments to see what kind of insight you can get out of them. Then, scale your successes, maximize the benefits of your failures and minimize the loses caused by unsuccessful projects. Be it a marketing strategy or some new fancy productivity method, the key to true success is a consistent incremental improvement. Fixing these three productivity issues is not the end goal, it’s just the first step on the way to a leaner, more agile mentality.