If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that we need to be more nimble. The world changed at lightning speed – socially, financially and professionally. We found new ways of working, socialising and caring for the family. And the winners in the world of marketing were the ones who reacted quickest.
Let’s learn from 2020 and get faster.
Faster to innovate. Faster to communicate. Faster to market.

Planning is finished

Remember those days when we’d start the year with an annual content and campaign plan? We’d start January working towards that product release in June, the big trade show in September, Black Friday sales in November…
That plan is a crutch many of us use to fill time and give meaning to the working day/week/month/season. If in doubt, dig out the plan and start work on the brochure for that next product launch.
For those of us still doing old-school marketing at the start of 2020, Covid put paid to that.
The plan was thrown out of the window. But how do we work without the content and campaign plan?

Perfect is the enemy of, well, everything

We’ve all heard people tell us that ‘perfect is the enemy of good’ but I prefer to see it as ‘perfect is the enemy to getting stuff done’.

We marketers take detail very seriously. It’s important to us that when we’re spending our budget, we do it with the best collateral – we refine our audience, we proof read, redraught, proof again. We think hard about the colours, the images. We second-guess the customer to think what is the best day of the week or the best hour of the day to catch them?
We keep our competitor files up to date so we know precisely what their value proposition is so ours can be stronger.

And all the time we’re doing this, the campaign isn’t live.
We’re missing customers.
No leads are coming in.
We’re not learning anything.
And the competition might be stealing a march.

There is quite a lot I could be doing rather than writing this piece right now. For example, I don’t have a hero image – we need an image at the top of the blog (I’ll add one later, maybe). Also, I haven’t fixed the theme style sheet for this site which I broke a while ago (thus explaining the irritating gap at the top of the page in some browsers and a messed-up logo).
Ordinarily, I’d work on that before I publish. But not today – I’ll come back and fix those things if I think it’s worth it later on.
The point is, I want to get these words out today, not next week.

What to change to market faster

There are three things to change when you want to get to market faster:
Attitude, Prioritisation and Structure.

  • Attitude
    Ditch the perfectionist attitude. Let’s learn as we go along instead.
    Not sure if the blue or the green background is better for your Facebook ad? Stick them both up and measure.
    Don’t feel the hero image is as strong as it could be on your landing page? I get this – you want to get the best conversion possible on that landing page, sure. But guess what? It’s not getting any conversions at all when it’s not live.

    Be prepared to make mistakes with digital copy and creative. Come back and fix it later.
  • Prioritisation
    Prioritise the now.
    That means prioritising the channels where you can have an impact now and start learning now. Push your social channels and PPC, push your CRM email. Plan to make a difference this week.
    There is a caveat here – we all know that SEO won’t happen over night, but you might be surprised what you can achieve.
    Let’s assume you’ve spotted a great content opportunity and your site ranks well for your audience already. New pages should gain traction quickly if you handle them correctly. Write, publish, promote – but quickly. Get the team focused on getting great copy written quickly (you can edit later if you need to), and then get them building links as fast as you can.
  • Structure
    You can’t win a Formula 1 race in a Ford Mondeo.
    You can’t market fast if your team’s not built for it.
    If you need to schedule in time from the hard pressed Development team to release your landing pages, it’s not going to happen quickly.
    If you need to get signed-off purchase orders in triplicate to get an external designer to tweak an ad image, forget it.
    If every member of the senior management team want to proof-read and comment on your copy before it goes live, it won’t happen.

    One of the core jobs of the marketing team right now is to get yourself into a position when you can market fast.
    Address the structural issues in your organisation – whether they are publishing, compliance, financial approval – you need to be generating demand and leads right now, and the business needs to understand that.
    And address the structural issues in your team. One approach is to borrow from the Agile playbook.

More Agile marketing

To get to market fast, I advise becoming more Agile.
Think of your marketing in terms of Sprints. Whether you look at a week, two weeks or a month (no longer and I recommend shorter), break your work down into Sprint-sized projects and get your team aligned focused on the activity.
Arrange daily stand-ups (especially important if you’re working remotely) – just a few minutes each morning to outline yesterday’s progress, problems and blockers and today’s activity.

And think incrementally – Get your first set of Facebook creative live, start work on the second set straight-away. Then start to learn from the first set – turn it into a constant cycle of change, feedback and improvement.
If the campaign was a dud, scrap it and move on.
Check your broad match PPC campaign search terms – work quickly to add those you don’t require to the negative keywords list and create exact matches for the ones you want to keep. But do it quickly – often you don’t need to rewrite all the ad copy, just tweak it with the keyword. Act fast.
Once you’ve sorted your landing page creation capability with the Dev team, you’ll be able to create campaign pages on the fly. Build, publish, tweak later.

I’ve worked this way with marketing teams for quite some time now – I firmly believe it’s the best way to increase velocity while improving your learning. Sure, we make mistakes. But the important thing is, we learn from them quickly.

Working this way, small teams can achieve more than larger teams. Focusing time, energy and resources on the immediate tasks at hand are essential for the marketing team in 2021. Of course, the real struggle is for the CMO who has to keep the team’s focus on the immediate while reassuring the business that they have their eye on the long term too… But that’s why we love the job!

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