Choices, choices, choices. We’re all bombarded everyday with an ever-growing number of choices for how we spend our time and attention. It seems as if every second of every day is occupied with a thousand different things. Evidently, it’s even hard to stay focused on ordering something as simple as a sandwich – earlier this week at Subway, I saw a sign posted asking customers to “refrain from using your cell phone while ordering.” I only saw it after I looked up from my phone. In my mind, it’s neither good nor bad – it’s just the world we live in, where the new norm is to have our attention on 10 things at once.

As marketers, the challenge is the same. The choices about how we spend our professional time are highly fragmented in a hyper world. We’re bombarded with data and marketing intelligence at every turn, we’re evaluating new and existing market platforms, media outlets and tools, and we’re studying our audiences and their sub-segments and sub-sub-segments. It can be overwhelming at times, and it can dilute our focus.

Just to be clear – I’m a huge proponent of data, keeping up with the latest tools and trends and audience insight. They are core to successful marketing programs, and we’re definitely spending our time and effort on them. But there are times when I step back in a haze of activity and force myself to focus on what’s most important, which leads me back to marketing and business objectives, target audience engagement and desired outcomes of marketing programs.

Marketing and Business Objectives

The old adage of “starting with the end in mind” helps keep me focused on objectives. Are the things I spend time on helping reach the marketing and business objectives for my clients? Most of the time, they are in some way but maybe not as directly as I’d like, which makes me reconsider how I spend that time. Just going back and recalibrating on those objectives helps bring focus to my attention and time.

Target Audience Engagement

This is where my passion lies. Companies and agencies invest in understanding audience motivations and crafting messaging that is most relevant to those motivations. In most cases, that’s just the beginning. We’re in a constant circular process of evaluating how that messaging resonates and how customers are engaging (or not engaging) with it. I’ve found that staying focused on your most important audiences is a good investment.

Desired Outcomes

Tied in closely with both objectives and audience is staying focused on the outcomes that you want from your marketing communications.What do you want customers to do as a result of your efforts? Are you looking for a shift in perception, engagement with content, inbound inquiries, online sales, etc.? Many times, it’s a combination of those things. Regardless of the outcomes you’re looking for, focus on the data, intelligence and tools that impact the measurement and optimization of them the most. The sea of “tools” and data points seems infinite so I focus on the ones that are directly tied to the outcomes that we’re looking to drive for clients.

Focusing on what’s fundamentally important to your brand, audience and marketing programs can help filter out some of the ancillary noise that surrounds us every day. The reality is that the volume of that noise continues to be turned up each passing day and staying grounded in what’s more important will take more and more effort and attention.

Previously published on The M/C/C Blog.