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Best Practice

Tackling marketing department's biggest challenge with Tim Watson

12 Sep 2018 by Sadie Burgess



This week we are talking to the inimitable Tim Watson from Zettasphere about the major challenges facing marketing departments in 2018. With 14 year experience focusing exclusively on email strategy, twice elected member of the DMA Email Council and Chair of the best practice hub Tim understands the challenges faced by modern marketers. Acknowledged international speaker, across over half a dozen countries, Tim provides email marketing advice trusted by brands big and small.

 

Resource remains the biggest challenge for marketing teams

The biggest challenge, according to Tim, that is felt by marketing departments the world over is that of resource. The lack of resource to enable the department to meet tough deadlines and targets.  Things just not getting done at a velocity the business would like. Every department is under increasing pressure to deliver the goods on time and on budget, to do more with less and still create both brand awareness and lead generation.

There are two ways to face this challenge, the first is to put a business case together to increase levels of resource within the department, speaking the language of the CEO and CFO with clear data to show the investment and costs, benefits and projections of success to create a watertight case for additional headcount. The second, to find a way to be more effective with the resource available to make the solid progress required by the business

The biggest enemy of progress in email marketing is planning and the lack of a solid plan. Not because of the lack of concepts to put into the strategy but the lack of a solid plan written down that people stick to.  

Tackling the quick win mentality

One of the issues is the quick win mentality, rushing around looking for that small thing that will have a huge impact. From visiting conferences, reading a blog post somewhere or talking to a peer in the marketplace where someone might say “if you make your buttons all green you’ll increase your clicks by 300%” and so this new shiny idea disrupts everything, as the overwhelming desire to get a quick win.  The reality is that most marketing departments are not so dumb that they would have missed something mind-bogglingly simple that would make such a major difference.  Most marketing teams are pretty smart and these silver bullets are simply not realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you can occasionally find quick wins, but generally it takes hard work to make improvements and they are more likely done in incremental steps rather than miraculous jumps. 

Quarterly planning and determining top priorities for that quarter

What Tim has experienced as working particularly well is the use of a quarterly plan, with successful teams adopting agile working practices, planning their strategy on a quarterly basis, reprioritising where necessary but keeping laser focus on the goals for the next 12 weeks. By starting each quarter with a complete breakdown of all the opportunities, challenges for marketing, ideas and activities. Then putting them all up on a board and spending some time going through them until you whittle it down to 4 or 5 really important things for the marketing department as key priorities for the quarter.  The key then is to focus only on these and ignore everything else.

Once you have set these significant improvements or key priorities for your 90 days we are going to do our business as usual work and then the 4 or 5 key priorities

The importance of sticking to the plan – to the exclusion of all else

Lots of people claim to have a quarterly planning process, but what often happens is that they have their quarterly plan and their business as usual activities, but then the next week they add an array of other activities and actions.  You have to be strict and follow the plan and reject doing anything else.  So, you need management buy in, your boss has to be on-board with the plan and willing to reject other activities that are not business as usual or the quarterly priorities.  Be clear about what you are and you are not doing.

You can’t evaluate priorities in isolation, but by having the quarterly planning process you can bring everything together and really evaluate activities in comparison to one another to find your 4 or 5 key priorities for that coming 12 weeks. This coupled with management commitment to the priorities and determination that any new ideas or conflicting priorities will be reviewed at the next quarter rather than sneaking in and derailing the current plan can lead to better results and alleviate the need for additional resource.

So the solution is defining priorities, having a clear plan and sticking to it.  

Tackle the big challenges, don’t just “fiddle” with creative

It allows you to take on the bigger challenges as well. It is easy and fun to work with creative but there can be a tendency to over mess with creative because it is an easy and quick thing to change. This then doesn’t leave the time required to work on the bigger challenges like data integration, behavioural marketing, putting in automation, improving targeting and running really solid split testing. They are bigger things that take more effort to achieve but can have real impact on your results and processes. Quarterly planning allows you to put focus on these bigger challenges, assuming they are eligible to become one of the top 4 or 5 priorities.

Don’t be derailed by seeking perfection

The other enemy of progress is seeking perfection, thinking particularly “If we are going to be clever we have to be really clever” and coming up with singular complex exceptions to general automated or behavioural rules… Successful teams should be happy to move forwards even if we know we are not perfect.  Even the mighty Amazon is not perfect as you can see from a recent toilet seat related tweet.

“Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I’m not going to think, oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I’ll treat myself”Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I'm not going to think, oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I'll treat myself.Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I'm not going to think, oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I'll treat myself.

Amazon aren’t perfect, but this didn’t stop their behavioural strategy, getting it wrong some of the time is better than not doing it at all. Be happy with good enough, and getting better.  Seek improvement not perfection, don’t set yourself too big a vision that it is too tricky to deliver, where you get tied up in the details and sacrifice the bigger picture win.

More with less

So by creating a short-term detailed plan, selecting 4 or 5 key priorities and then sticking religiously to the plan, to the exclusion of all else can reap dividends in terms of progress and achievement, according to Tim. By focussing on moving forward and being proud of incremental wins not seeking perfection or a silver bullet, teams can be really successful.

If you would like more advice on your email marketing strategy or assistance setting up your first automated or behavioural campaign our account managers can help and advise every step of the way. Simply give us a call on 020 3320 8777 and we will be happy to help.

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