DES-545-Blog-Post-graphic_EfficiencyThe good news is that marketing now has the spotlight. The bad news is that with the spotlight comes a vast audience – the entire business world – which is gathered around, waiting to see and judge the result of our efforts. They’re expecting a lot, and they’re expecting it done right.

How do we live up to these expectations? We’re all slammed. In fact, if you have a lot of free time, you probably aren’t doing it right – or you’re a savant…in which case, I hate you.

We need to increase efficiency.

Easier said than done. So, in an effort to help everyone find a little more time to do more, I gathered some helpful advice from three notable marketers who seem to produce five times the results of any average marketer such as myself. …but I did add a tip of my own.

Live by the List

Tom Kahana, Senior Director, Marketing Operations, Limelight Networks

“Lists…I live on lists on whiteboards, notepads or even sticky notes. These lists help me and my team stay organized and prioritize our efforts. As a result we’re far more efficient and resourceful and our productivity and quality of work reflects that.”

List are great for organization. But the value of lists is more than the sum of their linear layout. Lists are a psychological tool that counteract the overwhelming feeling we get when thinking of everything we still haven’t done.

The Zeigarnik Effect is what psychologists call our mind’s tendency to fixate on unfinished tasks. And when we fixate on all the tasks we need to accomplish, it weighs us down. We can’t concentrate, our creative thinking skills deflate like Lebron James’ ego after Game 6, and we simply become far less productive.

Our attention has a limited capacity. Lists – especially more sophisticated listing practices such as those explained in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done – provide a plan that releases the part of our brain that struggles to hold each item on our mental “to-do” list. The simple act of planning how to finish something frees us from the stress that hinders our ability to complete tasks, and in effect, makes us more productive.

Apply the 67-33 Rule 

Scott Vaughan, CMO, Integrate

“Put 67% of your resources in the 33% of the initiatives that’ll move the mark for your business, revenue and customers. This effort should focus on important creative needs that can’t be automated: mastering engaging content, developing buyer personas, integrating the technologies that automate tasks, rethinking nurture tracks based on analytics, etc. Either automate or apply ‘good enough’ marketing for the rest.”

This all comes down to identifying your top priorities, so Tom Kahana’s tip definitely plays a part here as well. Making three lists is a great way to put Scott’s advice into action:

List 1: All your crucial initiatives that can’t be automated, i.e., the top 33% as explained by Scott. Here is where you’ll want to put the majority of your effort.

List 2: All the crucial tasks that aren’t currently automated, but can be. For example, nurturing contacts with email, cleansing and normalizing prospect data, creating campaign reports, setting up inbound and outbound demand gen programs, etc. Maintaining the automation of these initiatives should be a top priority alongside those of List 1, but the tasks themselves shouldn’t be done manually.

List 3: Everything else – the none-important tasks. These may have value, but not at the expense of those in Lists 1 and 2. It’s good to automate as many of these as possible too, as long as the cost of the tech investment is less than the value created by the accomplished task. Otherwise, it works well to just set aside a small amount of time every week to getting these things done.

Scott really does live by this and it works incredibly well.

Slow Down to Hurry Up

Kyle Gale, VP Sales and Marketing Ops, Integrate

“We always need new, fresh ideas in marketing – ones with big impact that create customers. New ideas require time to formulate, and it’s worth pausing occasionally to look at the big picture and identify opportunities for major improvement.

On the other hand, we need to get ideas into market; otherwise we’ll just waste more time (and money) re-formulating and starting over again. Don’t wait to have your idea fully baked, start testing immediately – online, with your best customers or through small groups. This way you’ll have early learnings to apply to a more substantial initiative. It may take a bit more time upfront, but it drives results.”

Sage advice from Kyle. Last week I posted an article precisely on this topic – the need to always be testing: new marketing technologies, creative messaging, the latest customer engagement tactics, anything where the expected learnings outweigh the effort in testing.

My argument: Continuously testing new ideas in creative ways advances business results and also keeps us from gradually falling into the “we’ve done it this way forever” mentality. I gained much of this insight during years of working with Kyle, and have seen it lead to huge business gains all along the way.

One of my reminders in that blog post was: “There’s a Fine Line between Value and Wasted Time,” which brings me to my own efficiency tip…

Be Decisive

So much valuable time is wasted with indecision or in committees, where it’s easy to involve more “salary” than required.

Indecisiveness wastes time on trivial matters. And we see this every day in the workplace. Think of all the time you typically spend gathering the opinions of others for low-value issues? Does it really help? Probably not, and it wastes their time too.

The worst is when these opinion quests snowball into big-group, full-blown meetings. A while back, I felt as if 5-10 hours of my week were wasted in meetings that I really didn’t need to be in. So now I’m decisive about what meetings I attend; I quickly ask the meeting coordinator: “Is it crucial that I attend/dial in?” More often than not, the answer is “No.” It’s often the case they just didn’t want to leave anyone out.

Everyone’s time is valuable, yours included. Think of your everyday “to-do” list like the SATs; your initial answer is usually the right one, so go with it and move on to the next unless it’s important and you really need help.

Regaining your time to focus on important initiatives is what will move the business needle. Write that down on your list.