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Five Questions Every Marketer Should Ask to Prioritize Work

By Jake Sorofman | February 24, 2015 | 1 Comment

Ever feel like all paths lead to marketing? That’s because you are the ultimate utility player. You’re a communicator. You’re a strategist. You know how to get things done. You know how to take a ragged idea on a coffee-stained napkin and turn it into a story even your grandmother will appreciate.

For this, my friend, you are in demand. This demand comes in three forms: (1) long-lead marketing campaigns driven by deadlines and deliverables; (2) short-lead efforts focused on continuous storytelling, continuous engagement and continuous experimentation; and (3), ad hoc, inbound requests from sales, services and every other constituency who thinks of marketing as the department of arts and crafts.

Focusing on the right set of things can be a challenge when everything feels equally important. It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by demands for our attention when everyone comes to the table with their own particular platform aflame. Where do you start? Which investments do you prioritize? Which do you defer?

I could offer axiomatic advice about eating the elephant one bite at a time, or remembering to breathe—or even wonky, overwrought suggestions about calculating and ranking internal rates of return. All are accurate and perhaps even useful techniques for making a dent in the to-do list. But, deep cleansing breaths aside, you need more. You need a simple filter for prioritizing the daily workload.

Here are five questions to ask:

  1. Will it yield external impact?

As a CMO, I posted a sign that asked, “Have you moved the needle today?” The question was meant to be a reminder that effort on the inside must always lead to near-term impact on the outside. Too often, we’re lulled into a false comfort that effort equals outcomes. Challenge that assumption.

  1. Does it match a key persona?

If the work doesn’t align to a well-defined audience, it may be a distraction from what really matters. As marketers, it’s important to seriously question any project that doesn’t have a defined audience in mind. And not just any audience—a key persona that your organization has identified as worthy of your time and attention. Not all audiences are equal. Prioritize the ones of greatest strategic value.

  1. Does it align to a lifecycle stage?

Does the effort serve this audience in a high value way? Does it enable them to fulfill a need on a decision journey or over the course of a customer relationship? And just as not all audiences are equal, neither are these moments. Prioritize the ones that deliver disproportionate value.

  1. Is it a leveraged investment?

Will you be able to amortize the investment beyond its initial use? Can it be repurposed, reused, localized, customized or refactored to serve additional purposes? Embrace the Martha Stewart school of reuse: every effort should have a subsequent use in mind. That’s a very good thing.

  1. Does it align to your plans and themes?

Finally, hold yourself accountable to the discipline of the plans and themes your marketing organization has defined. Does this effort align to these plans and themes? If not, consider punting on this particular request. High performance marketers aren’t random order-takers. They prosecute a plan. They execute to themes. Be true to these guideposts.

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1 Comment

  • I agree with all points except # 4. I think it was someone from Gartner who’d said many years ago, “It takes three times as much effort to make something reusable as it does to make it usable”?!