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Marketing Must Stop before the Start of 2018

By Jennifer Polk | December 04, 2017 | 1 Comment

executionMarketing Organization and OperationsMarketing Strategy and Innovationplanning

Gartner’s 2017 research shows a connected thread between marketers’ strategy, spending and organizational structures. All roads lead to the customer, from customer experience as a strategic priority to customer data and CX innovation as key areas of spend to customer-centricity as one of the most vital marketing capabilities.

But each time marketers identify a new area of that demands our attention, we should ask ourselves one essential question,

“If this is what we must start doing, what will we stop doing?”

If you don’t ask this question–if you instead keep adding to the list of things marketing must do–you’ll inevitably struggle to answer two other critical questions.

  1. How do you spread a shrinking marketing budget across a growing number of priorities, such as funding new channels and tactics, while also investing in areas like CX?
  2. How do you balance competing, and often conflicting objectives, like building long-lasting customer relationships while satisfying quarterly demands for revenue growth?

The answer is simple, though not easy.


Stop doing everything in order to start doing what matters.

Stop doing everything in order to start doing what matters.

You don’t do all of these things, at least not in the same way or with the same fervor you once did. You simply can’t. Stop trying. In order to succeed at any of this, much less all of this, marketing leaders and their teams have to become more agile and adaptable, more flexible and fluid in how they think about plans, resources, roles and responsibilities.

But, like most humans, marketers are resistant to change. We may be even more resistant to change than the rest of our species because we’ve seen how changing responsibilities typically translate into more responsibility, how changing scope just equals broader scope. The experience breeds a fear of change that can inhibit our ability to adapt.

Sadly, for marketers, change rarely means do something different. Change just means do more. This is because we only seem to know how to start and continue. We fail to effectively stop.

For your team to successfully develop new marketing channels and tactics, like effective and integrated utilization of video and voice in your content marketing strategy, they’re going to have to stop doing something else—maybe catalogs or radio. These new mediums can only be successfully cultivated and supported if you are willing to deprioritize other formats. This is risky, but there’s far greater risk in the mediocrity of only sort-of succeeding at a longer list of things.

And this is bigger than just allocating resources across marketing channels. This thinking should, it must, also extend into marketing leadership and strategy.

In order for your team to be more customer-centric, you as a leader must push back on business strategies that are anything but. Stop sending your team to meetings focused on creating campaigns born out of business need yet lacking customer insight. Or, take on the responsibility of being the voice of the customer. Spend budget on amassing, integrating and analyzing customer data, in order to inform and influence those campaigns and enable a more customer-focused approach to marketing.

But doing that will mean shifting budget away from other things. Perhaps it’s time to stop investing in tracking brand health metrics. It could mean reallocating people and partners away from fruitlessly tweaking ad copy and toward generating meaningful and actionable insight through by analyzing segments, developing personas and mapping the customer journey. This will ruffle feathers. It will seem as though you’re trying to disrupt the natural order of things. Be prepared for angry emails.

However, if you can successfully—and quickly—use your new found freedom to deliver a nugget of insight that helps your marketing team and the businesses you support make a better, smarter or faster decision, you’ll have won the day. Use that success to build momentum, to inspire your team to keep up the good work of doing less work—or at least less of the wrong work. Use that as a catalyst to encourage colleagues to try things differently and to ensure different is different and not merely more.

Start 2018 by choosing to stop doing things that aren’t working, have never worked and are unlikely to start working.

Perhaps, as a rule, for every new thing you take on, you and your team must abandon two other things. For each new marketing software application you deploy, discontinue two that perform similar functions. For every new marketing channel or tactic you try, give up two old and under performing ones. This rule may not work every time—some redundancy is unavoidable. But trying to apply this approach could help you do more by doing less.

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