I was recently asked to come up with a vision for what I expect a marketing department to be. To describe my vision for the marketing department, I chose to use a few (hopefully memorable) words where I can point in the days to come and confirm whether the direction is aligned.
I'll start by describing my vision in a conceptual way but I will also offer examples of how that concept is executed on a day to day basis. The first word I want to start with is:
There's no hiding the size of your company. When you work in a small company, going head to head with competitors that are staffed differently, you structure your marketing department differently. When you can't specialize in specific areas of marketing because of low staff numbers, you must be selective in terms of the projects you undertake.
Selective means you do not spread yourselves too thin or take on projects that, even when successful, deliver minimal impact. You cannot realistically blog twice a day (or probably even twice a week) and you can't develop new print collateral every month. Instead, small marketing departments focus on projects that deliver maximum impact. To be selective, you must be strategic.
To put that conceptual guideline of being "strategic" into practice, I introduced a method by which my marketing department creates a project statement called a V2MOM*. As an example, I created one for the talk I was asked to give regarding our vision (very meta stuff):
Vision: The stakeholders listen to me to speak freely about how I believe our department can/should run.
Value: Transparency and understanding of our vision relieves concerns about our work direction and affords all stakeholders an opportunity to make objections/suggestions/corrections as needed. It established trust that we are all working hard and rowing in the same direction.
Method: I'll sit at a table and my stakeholders will look at me. They will start by asking what he wants me to say, I'll give this talk and we will discuss my thoughts with questions and answers.
Obstacles: I may talk too fast. I may talk too much and drown out the purpose of the meeting with a flood of ideas. I may speak too conceptually when they want concrete game plans / play books. We may suffer from divided attentions.
Measurement: When asked, do all parties agree to some vision statement that can be memorialized? Do we agree to an action plan to follow through afterwards?
Despite being selective about the kinds of projects we do, we will not ignore all the major food groups that make up a marketing department. We develop content for inbound efforts but we also build email campaigns for outbound. We spread the word about local networking events, we investigate sponsorship opportunities, we maintain print, web, and multimedia collateral, we handle logistics for out of town conferences, we maintain our customer database and we measure campaign performance with analytics shared during mom meetings and whenever requested.
That's in both the noun and adjective form. We measure our work with numbers. We don't simply set goals, we aim for measurable objectives. Just as developers do in the agile framework, we quantify our work output. We do not allow our preconceived notions about what will work interfere with trying a variety of strategies to achieve our objectives. We experiment with campaign types and measure the results. We are optimistic about our product and company and we are open-minded about ways to do our jobs.
Rhythm to our Rituals
The most important thing I learned from the development team's embrace of the agile methodology is the concept of rhythm to your rituals. That means, bring predictability to how we do business with recurring events. Monday morning Sales and marketing meeting means all hands on deck. Tues - Friday, daily standups at the beginning of the day. Tuesday at 11 we have an opportunity to involve the next level of hierarchy for projects that need approval/input. Monthly, we have a meeting with all partners to review/preview projects and measure our performance.
All projects, tasks and communication for our tasks is done through our department planning tool (asana). There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an appropriate amount of work "on your plate." Plus, you're never more than a few days from having a scheduled time on your boss's calendar to get feedback or an approval.
Education, Experience, Empowered
We stay educated and involved in the product development process as well as the sales process to make ourselves most valuable in our development of promotional materials. We can't sell stuff we don't understand to people we don't know.
When we do all these things, we score. SCORE. get it?
*Of course, a hat tip to Marc Benioff of salesforce.com for the V2MOM concept. There are plenty of ways to structure a project mission statement, I just happen to like his.
I tweeted out this picture last week about interruptions at work. I'm reading Remote by 37Signals co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and I came across this great quote.
This may read as, "Miles doesn't want to be interrupted at work," but it's just as much of a reminder to myself not to interrupt others.
When I'm in a design mindset, I occasionally seek the reassurance that a work in progress is heading in the right direction. On occasion, I've caught myself waiting at the door of a colleague for an opinion that I could probably continue working without. And yes, part of my appreciation for the quote is recalling the times when we all suffer a cognitive stumble or loss of momentum after a needless interruption.
Leaning Towards Asynchronous Communication
Technology has advanced beyond in-person meetings and telelphone calls. Asynchronous communication is completely possible and growing in acceptance for internal purposes and client communications.
Whether we choose to call (completely real time communication), text message, chat or IM (semi-real time communication) or email (or communicate using other non-real time communication), we need to remind ourselves that we have a decision to make.
When something needs an answer now, we should indeed call or stop by for an interruption. If, however, we have no need for an immediate answer other than it is OUR priority, it may be more respectful and efficient to send the issue into their queue to deal with when they are in the proper mindset to give it their full attention.
I spent the last week assembling my end-of-year marketing department report at work. Throughout that process, I was constantly reminded that the discipline of marketing is one that should be driven by metrics. That's not necessarily a problem. I'm actually proud of our ability to deliver quantitative measurement of our performance. When the board room asks to compare campaigns effectiveness, I'm eager to show the charts and reports with numbers of leads, the lead status and stage and the percentages converted to opportunities. Metrics guide our department into making intelligent decisions.
As it is every "on again, off again" blogger's ritual, the turning of the calendar to a new year means re-dedication to more steady and meaningful writing and publishing. It is a sad cliché but I'll admit that I'm no different as of today. And just as I've fallen into the common blogging no-no of failing to post regularly, I'm going to break another rule and lay out the plans I have for the foreseeable blogging future.
New Categories for the Blog
I'm not someone who lacks for ideas. The hardest part of my day is not finding the desire or the energy to do big things. Whether I'm pursuing the knowledge and skills of programming, sales & marketing, music, photography, video, or refining my abilities with language and people, there is always much to keep me inspired. The challenge has always been to narrow focus into priorities and follow through amid external (and internal) skepticism. By creating a blog structure using these new categories, I'll be able to satisfy my curiosities for different pursuits while also focusing on a consistent and repeating process to keep me on track.
The first new category is Use it or Lose It. The idea for Use it or Lose It is that I use the blog to explore and apply lessons learned in training sessions, online classes, reading books, web articles and blogs.
The second new category is Unsolicited Testimonials. Just like it sounds, this category contains articles about the tools and services I use from brands I trust. I want to share these as recommendations for people looking to solve process problems and give a hat tip to these companies that deserve some recognition.
The third new category is Not Bad (But Not a Customer). I often enounter products or services from brands that impress me but, for some reason, I don't actually become a customer. Whether I don't need their product (yet), the price doesn't make sense for me or I'm not their ideal customer, I thought it best to separate any product/service/brand reviews by whether I am actually a customer versus not.
Ok, that's it for now. Next week's blog will be another in the One Week series where I explore a new musical instrument for the first time. Check back on January 11th to read how my exploration into the world of the Tin Whistle goes.
I've been interested in the tin whistle (aka penny whistle) at least since high school when I first started to explore Irish music. I'd heard the odd reel and jig on St. Patrick's Day and admired the mellow tone of a the whistle mixed with accordions and concertinas.
I also appreciate how this sweet little instrument seems so simple. It's unassuming and grounded. They're inexpensive to buy and I presumed enjoyable to play after a short period of training. I also presumed it was reasonably easy enough for a child to learn. Much like the plastic recorders kids learn to play in grade school music class.
For Christmas, I received a tin whistle gift pack, containing a D whistle made by Waltons, an instruction book and a sample CD. I picked up the whistle, read through the booklet and attempted the songs without ever listening to the CD. (I'm sure I'll check out the CD eventually. I just haven't yet.)
I watched Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay on Netflix and I enjoyed it. The movie reminded me of a childhood friend's dad (Mr. Brennan) who also did some magic. His act had a big reveal that ended with opening a new pack of cards and pulling "my" card from the new deck. I probably played it down at the time but I remember it 25 years later so it must have left an impression.
I've always felt pretty clumsy with cards so I figured if I dedicated some time, I might improve my gracefulness with shuffling and presentation.
What did I do to learn magic?
I started at reddit magic. I'm pretty new to reddit but I've been using internet forums for a long time so I figured a place like this would have the basics readily available as a sticky towards the top of threaded discussions. The threads I found recommended the book The Royal Road to Card Magic so I got it.
The book starts with shuffling. The first shuffle it teaches was the overhand shuffle, which apparenly becomes the basis for controlling the top card of the deck, the top two cards of the deck or a set amount of cards towards the top of the deck. After I felt comfortable with that, I went looking for how to do card fanning. Got pretty confident with that too.
How was a week of learning magic?
As hard as I imagined. I've tried palming things like cards and coins in the past. False passing objects between hands is hard. I can sometimes get the transfer from one hand to the other pretty smoothly but it results in a momentary illusion as the object is just in the other hand.
The overhand shuffle was actually a lot of fun. I did it on the train commute (about 1 hour each way) so I got pretty good at it.
It is not a stretch to say that mustaches for "people like me" are unpopular.
Sure, some truckers have them. Policemen. Firemen. Some older men with gray mustaches wear them with confidence. The young urban caucasian male may have an ironic mustache. Well groomed mustaches are still popular for middle class men of African and Latino descent.
But middle-aged, middle-class caucasian father working downtown? Nope. I figured I would stand out to pretty much everyone I saw.
Not a list of the best books I read this year. Just a list of the books I read, period. Favorites incude the Dan Roam books, the Negotiation series, the Gino Wickman books with the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and Cheap.
I'm always looking to improve myself. I'm constantly trying out ways to stay productive and positive. Each day, I make an effort to do the things I can to reach my potential as a good and helpful person.
Occasionally though, I let my circumstances get the better of my emotions. For moments like these, I have always employed the coping mechanisms I learned as a kid. Shut up in case you say something you can't take back. Walk away if you feel you're going to react in anger.
Lately, I've been using this new method (I call it the 5 Minute Attitude Adjustment) in conjunction with a "deep thought" from one of my phone meditations. The idea was "what you think, you become."
I took that to mean, focusing on an attitude attribute (and repeating it, while trying to embody the characteristic) would eventually lead my countenance in that direction. To my perception of feelings, it works.
It started out with one word. When I would let something rile me, I'd repeat the word "calm" in my head for a minute or two and I would eventually calm down.
Today's mobile phone meditation is of the garden variety children's advice. "Failure teaches us how to succeed." I sometimes get a little frustrated momentarily when the concepts are so seemingly accessible. Do I really need seven minutes to think about, "If, at first, you don't succeed, try, try again?"
Still, It's old and often passed along advice for a reason. It reminds us to be brave and not let fear of failure to prevent us from trying things out of our comfort zone.
I feel like I parrot a lot of what Seth Godin says but this reminded me of the intro to his book, "The Icarus Deception." In it, he writes of people confusing their personal "safety zone" with their "comfort zone." Something to keep in mind today.
If you wake up that early, it isn't to mess around (unless you're 5 and cartoons are on the agenda).
Nope: if you're up that early, you're up with purpose. Whether you're up early to exercise, get a head start on work or take some personal time before the day officially begins, it's not a bad way to start things off.
"Treat your current job like an audition for your next one."
I recently watched the first video in Lynda.com's Management Tips series "Working with people you don't like" and I was inspired to address the issue with my own thoughts.
When I went through the process of hiring a marketing coordinator last year, I asked each applicant a question that I imagine every hiring manager asks, "What were your major accomplishments at your current or most recent job?"
The applicant has an opportunity to respond with a literal answer to the question but also a chance to illustrate their feelings towards their current or most recent employer. Much can be revealed in those words so choose them carefully.
If you choose to view your less-than-ideal job as a means of qualifying you for the next job:
your level of tolerance will rise
your performance will not suffer
you just may improve the way people treat you in the meantime