The answer: complexity. This is both a blessing and a curse. Marketing has become complex because of technology, data and the fragmentation of media. Creative has become more complex because messaging must break through the clutter of media fragmentation coupled with consumer multitasking and the sheer volume of inter-related activities a consumer undertakes. Dealing with complexity can be anxiety-producing, to say the least. What’s to keep a marketer sane?
Marketers need a plan and a strategy. Too often marketers default to tactical concepts in lieu of strategy. If you do the work upfront to craft a plan and guide your direction over the coming 12 to 18 months, you’ll be more successful because you’ll have a filter through which to evaluate opportunities. Not everything is important, trust me.
The complexity of the marketing ecosystem will overwhelm you if you take just 30% of the meetings proposed, or you attempt to engage with just a small portion of the vendors available to you. A strategic plan reduces complexity because it gives you parameters for focus.
If you examine the LUMAscape or the ChiefMartec slides, you see hundreds of logos from companies professing services, all sounding similar and creating significant overlap. Listening to all those pitches can be like the first time you heard Phish, or Miles Davis, or even Metallica. It all sounds the same to the uninformed or the semi-informed ear. Over time you recognize the nuances and differences, but it takes repeat listening, focus and a general appreciation for what these companies are trying to do.
If you were raised to think marketing is about “the big idea,” then marketing technology is the polar opposite of what you believe, so no matter the time you invest, it still won’t be enough. You will never know the differences in these songs.
Of course the parameters can change and your paradigm can shift. Here are some tips to help you reduce the complexity innate in grasping the marketing technology ecosystem:
1. Write a plan, or set some goals, to guide your next 12 months. Focus on those goals, and maintain your vision. As opportunities come across your desk, determine if a shift in focus would generate a higher ROI than what you are already planning. If not, “parking-lot” the idea and get back to business.
2. Use your team. Delegate to the smart people you’ve (hopefully) surrounded yourself with. These folks are typically ambitious and more digitally savvy than you, so put those skills to good use. If you do a good job of hiring, you can do a great job of managing to a vision. The rule on hiring: look for people better and smarter than you, who will inevitably replace you, so you can keep moving up as well.
3. Go deep with a select group of partners and don’t continually try to replace them. The more you empower your partners to work with you, and even to make mistakes while trying new things, the better performance you will see down the line. Invest the time and learn how to best work together.
4. But also understand when it’s time to cut bait and move on. While I absolutely think you need to work with a select group of partners, if you sense they are unable to deliver in the long run, then you need to leave. You can’t always keep investing in a relationship if you don’t feel confident of fruitful results.
5. Network and learn from your peers. They are just as overwhelmed as you are. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something -- that’s your ego getting in the way of a good discussion. If you let intelligence outweigh ego, success will never be far behind.
So don’t be overwhelmed by the complexity of things. Take a deep breath, revisit your plan and don’t get sucked into reacting to every little thing that comes across your desk. It will drive you insane if you do. Trust me -- I’ve been committed on more than one occasion. A strategic plan makes complexity simpler.