Time and how to make the most of it as a marketer

I, like everyone else around me in business, struggle to make the best use of time. I constantly find that the day is over almost as soon as it has begun as I race from one meeting to another, trying to ensure that the wheels stay on the track. In marketing this can be even more of a problem especially when too much focus and effort is placed on the here and now as this can eclipse time that should be spent on the more important and longer-term strategic issues. In short, marketers find themselves with very limited time to listen to the market, to identify new opportunities to improve and to embrace the chance to innovate and create. This is critical when the function is evolving and changing more rapidly now than at any time in its past.

I have read and listened to many influential speakers on how to better utilize my time and to structure my day to improve time management but somehow I never seem to be able to put these into practice. Often over a weekend I think about how next week will be different and then find that on a Monday morning I’m straight back into the old habits. So this got me thinking; what is it that makes it so difficult to change and what really controls how I behave? One answer is very simple, as it happened I realized that it was my calendar. If I can control and manage my calendar then perhaps I can address some of my time management issues and improve my commercial productivity as well as my contribution to my colleagues.

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So how should I go about improving my time management by better controlling how my calendar is structured? Here are my thoughts on my dos and don’ts.

The Dos. It is all about balance. I don’t think anyone should spend more than 50% of their time in formal structured meetings so here are my tips for keeping some non-meeting time available.

  • Try and set aside one day a week where you have no or almost no meetings. Try and be rigorous about this.
  • Always try and keep some blue sky between meetings and if you have to run back-to-backs then finish the prior meeting at least 10 minutes before the next one starts. Make sure you build this into your calendar!
  • It is also important that there is time available to have informal catch-ups with team members. Everyone should try and ensure they find 10 minutes every day to engage with colleagues. If you have trouble doing this then block out catch-up time in your calendar.
  • Another way of establishing some informal time is to bring in some breakfast pastries every Friday and create an informal get together.

On the other hand, when I do participate in a meeting then I want to make sure that my contribution is as optimized as possible and that each and every meeting results in the best possible outcomes. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are meeting one of your team members then try going for a walk instead of a sit down meeting. This makes it more informal and it also sets a limit on how long the meeting will take place.
  • If you have to have back-to-back meetings then break them up by moving the location of one of the meetings to a coffee shop. A different environment can be uplifting and works especially well when addressing challenging issues or sensitivities. Again put this in the calendar invitation.

Now for the don’ts. Clearly the focus has to be on making any time that is spent in a meeting to be as productive as possible, so here are my thoughts:

  • The most obvious one is that you should endeavor to manage your own calendar or at the very least set some principles as to how you would like your time allocated.
  • I would also suggest that you set a limit of only 4 hours of meetings a day. Any more than this and you won’t be prepared for the ones you are actually attending.
  • We are all used to attending meetings where there is no clear agenda or objectives so make it clear that your attendance will only happen if there is a specific decision to be made. A good idea is to put the meeting objective in the subject line for the meeting invite.
  • Finally try not to use formal meetings for updating as there are usually more productive and better ways of achieving this.

Key takeaway
If you take control of your calendar, you will take control of your time management. There has never been a better time to start.

The evolving role of the CMO

There have been many articles highlighting the trends that are impacting the future role of the CMO. Many of these talk about the impact of big data, the importance of analytics, the need for attribution/performance measurement and the increasing need for technology enablement.

Here is a great list from Ryan Somers at SAP where he identifies the most widely recognized and evident qualities required by a modern day CMO. However I think there are some less obvious but important areas that will be influencing CMOs in the near future and these are as follows:

1. Marketing to be assessed on share performance 
There is increasing hype that marketing will be held responsible for revenue performance. Clearly marketing will always have a responsibility to contribute to revenue achievement but other functions such as sales will also be major influencers to successful performance. The important aspect is that marketing need to have clear responsibility for share of market (rather than revenue per se). This requires marketing to take responsibility for strategic focus by applying models such as RWW (Is it Real? Is it Worthwhile? Is it Winnable?) and for aligning the organization to those areas where the company can compete successfully and win well.

2. Marketing to build brands based on behavior not just messaging
Successful brands of the future will be dependent on a strong, well-defined culture. A culture that ensures a brand’s core values and overriding proposition are brought to life by every employee every time a consumer interacts with an organisation. So very simply, marketing needs to take responsibility not only for how employees describe the company and its offerings but more importantly how they behave. This includes work environments, incentive plans, performance review programmes etc.

3. Marketing to work closer with HR
Marketing is becoming more and more a people function. It is becoming the glue that helps align every employee to act and behave in a way that supports the strategic direction, core values and culture of the company. Internal communications are now as important as external communications and it is imperative that marketing takes responsibility for building brand understanding, commitment and passion amongst all employees. This includes induction programmes, training, internal events etc.

4. Research to be centered on customer journey management 
Brands need to build long-term relationships with customers and to do this companies need to clearly understand in finite detail exactly how a customer engages with a brand / company from first touch all the way through to point of advocacy. This encapsulates and requires a very integrated approach with both sales and customer service. Understanding this journey is a must have and marketing need to lead this initiative.

5. Focus will be on user experience
The expectation of consumers has risen dramatically. There is also a very saturated media environment. It is estimated that the average American is exposed to approx. 3000 marketing messages every day. It is clear that for a brand to break through, be noticed and to influence it has to create a moment, a user experience that grabs the attention of the customer. Marketing needs to take an active role in ensuring that the experience at every touch point whether product, packaging, marketing communication, point of sale or customer service is consistent and inline with brand positioning and customer expectation.

I cannot end this piece without mentioning technology which as we all know is taking a more active role in all of our lives, both professionally as well as personally. This is not just about marketing; it is about every department or function within a company whether it be electronic-invoicing, recruitment, vendor management, logistics etc. Marketing needs to embrace technology as much as any other department. It is more than a trend; it is now a way of life and clearly every marketer needs to be comfortable, knowledgeable and willing to invest in technology to improve business performance.

 So how do you see the role of the CMO evolving?

Choosing the White Tuxedo

Have you ever been to a black tie event wearing a white tuxedo or an outfit that was different from everyone else? You end up with that uncomfortable feeling. You made the decision to wear the outfit as you wanted to express yourself, mix it up, change the status quo. On the other hand you have become ever more visible. This is very much the life of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It reminds me of Steve Jobs and the TV campaign he inspired by Think Different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Changing how people think is one of the hardest things to do, to enable people to see the world from a different viewpoint but that is in essence the new charter for any executive, especially in marketing.

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I am constantly surprised by job advertisements that are seeking a CMO who is a digital disrupter. Digital disruption is fundamentally changing the commercial model of the company. There is a clear difference between delivering fundamental changes and making brands more relevant. Making fundamental changes means we have to go back to the basics in creating human relationships and realizing this part is not just about a brand promise but rather it is about building a business. So many times, I see that management (rather than leadership) never really gets to know their people, truly get to know their team. It’s this fundamental that helps you identify what each individual is passionate about and what they are really good at and then aligning this to the needs of both the business and the customer.

We’re living in the dawn of technology and a social marketing revolution that has been forcing organizations to be ever more transparent, focused and relevant. The only way we can keep up is by putting the customer at the top of our organisation chart. When the customer is at the heart of what we are doing we can begin to see the challenges we need to meet and what outcomes we are seeking. This means that to be successful executives need to provide clear guidance on where the organisation is going but more importantly support and empower their teams, especially those that are on the front-line and engaging with customers every day.

Creating fundamental change doesn’t start with planning your team structure. Does your organization structure have dotted lines, direct lines and every other type of line? When you have dotted lines and dashed lines in a certain sequence in Morse Code, it means SOS (Save our Souls). The big challenge is that you don’t need dotted lines if you align the organization around the same customer goals. Get your planning right and the organizational structure will take care of itself.

Is your marketing plan defined by a budget in a spreadsheet?
If the first question being asked is what investment budget do you need next year, you have lost already. A plan should start with desired outcomes and then identify what resources are required to deliver on them. This then becomes a prioritization exercise based on customer needs and not a financial numbers game.

Do you take every network meeting or call?
I have an open door to everyone. You never know where the next great idea will come from. In addition, the world is changing so fast that to keep pace you have to remain connected. And always remember that someone who is willing to start a company and put everything on the line sincerely believes they have seen something that no one else has. Don’t you want to know what that is?

Does everyone complain that you have too many initiatives at the same time?
Changing people’s perceptions and priorities has to happen if you want the business to change. This means executives need to be the catalysts for change by constantly changing the status quo with initiatives that build motivation, passion and innovation. Try and test new things; some may not work perfectly but if they have contributed to how people think, what they know and what skills they have acquired, then there is still enormous benefit to be accrued.

KEY TAKEAWAY: When deciding which tuxedo or outfit to wear to the party, ask yourself whether you are prepared to stand out and be different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer (Part 2)

Following on from my initial post, here are my five remaining pillars as to how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

6.) AGILITY
Agility is important as it enables an organization to respond more rapidly to changing market conditions. Creating an agile environment helps support creativity and innovation and can reduce the constraints imposed by the usual planning and execution boundaries. The foundation to be able to adopt an agile approach is to ensure that you set clear objectives and always focus these on defined market outcomes. This empowers execution to take its own path.
Marketing considerations; adopt a flexible organization structure, introduce project teams, take every network meeting you can to learn what is new in the market, deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach and test, test and test.

7.) CONNECTED ORGANIZATION
It is simple and that is that your customers expect an organization to be connected. Their expectation is that however they engage or are engaged, the organization should act as one and to be able to recognize the full relationship that they have with the company.
Marketing considerations; provide a consistent customer view to all functions, establish a single preference center, introduce customer governance with rules on engagement & frequency of interaction and set outside-in customer metrics.

8.) TECHNOLOGY ENABLEMENT
Customer engagement is becoming more complex every day as more data sources become available and there are more ways and channels by which a customer can engage an organization. Technology is crucial to help connect customer insights with engagement, improve response times, enable efficiency and provide organizations with wisdom for improved decision making.
Marketing considerations; always start with process and once defined then look at technology enablement, deploy a test, learn, adapt approach, fully commit don’t half bake and involve everyone who is a stakeholder throughout entire process.

9.) LOCALIZATION
Marketing has always been local. People have connections and ties to the local community, to their home town, to where they live which influence their beliefs, needs and areas of interest. Location is key to understanding context and understanding context is what helps marketing ensure offerings are relevant.
Marketing considerations; segment by geography, adopt a geo-cluster approach that combines demographic data with geographic data, assess impact of environmental conditions such as seasons & weather and ignite word of mouth marketing in key geographic / community / tribal clusters.

10.) MUTUAL VALUE EXCHANGE
In today’s modern era successful companies are those that take a Market-In approach and focus on the customer first and foremost. The real trick is therefore to always ask yourself the following before making any investment or running any activity; will they care, is it important to them and do they benefit?
Marketing considerations; consider introducing a Customer Officer, develop a customer advocacy program where there is a mutual exchange of benefit, establish a communities portal and only engage with customers when there is value for them.

success concept

What are your TOP TEN and do you have any examples as to why they are important?

Can marketing do more to help society?

I was very fortunate to be invited by Pete Krainik (@cmoclub), who is the founder and CEO of The CMO Club, to a recent charity event in New York to support K9forwarriers (@k9sforwarriors). I was not expected to be so emotionally affected as I was, especially at 9am on a Monday morning, but when you see what this charity does, there is only one possible reaction and that is to be blown away. I will leave it to you to go to their website to better understand what they do, as you really need to hear this from the people who have been helped, in fact saved, by man’s best friend. I can’t even start to do this justice in writing.

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So what does this have to do with marketing?
Well how many of you have heard of this cause? Not many I imagine and this is because they don’t do marketing, they spend 96% of their proceeds on helping the people that matter. So here I am writing a blog and now hopefully (well if anyone reads this) we now have more people that are aware of this wonderful charity. This makes me think, is there more that we as marketers can do to help these worthwhile causes? We have the networks and we know how to engage consumers so why wouldn’t we dedicate some of our time to worthwhile causes.

I am a great admirer of Marc Benioff (@Benioff) and the Salesforce foundation 1/1/1 (@SFDCFoundation) that he created. He is now in the process of asking other companies to make the same pledge and he describes it as ”The 1/1/1 Pledge is an effort to invite technology entrepreneurs and their companies to commit resources (time, equity, product) and integrate philanthropy into their business”. The 1/1/1 refers to 1% of employee time, 1% of equity and 1% of product to be made available to help worthwhile causes.

So how can marketers help? Pete Krainik gave a very emotional address at the event and taking inspiration from his words I think we as marketers can help in the following ways:

Donate time
Time is precious, we are all so incredibly busy with our hectic lives but perhaps we need to take a short breather every now and then and look at the bigger picture. Surely we can find 15 minutes or more to help create a better world.

Activate networks
Many marketers have extensive networks with tens of thousands of followers on Twitter etc. Can we activate our networks to help these organizations raise their profile and perhaps lay the foundation for them to receive more assistance from companies, brands and consumers? We could even help embed a social purpose back into our own organizations and build stronger more valuable brands. A win-win for everyone.

Change perspectives
We are creative people at heart and who better to help the wider world gain a better perspective on things that really matter, than us. We can help create messaging and content that enables these worthwhile causes to better convey the incredible impact they are having on people who need help the most.

I am writing this from a patio overlooking Long Island Sound and realizing just how lucky I am. Thanks again to Pete for the invite and for the chance to reflect on what is truly important.

Why Jiminy Cricket is important for companies

I have always liked the character Jiminy Cricket, who is the fictional character that served as Pinocchio’s official conscience. I think we all sometimes desire a soundboard, a personal helper who can guide us in making the right decisions both personally and at work.

For two very valuable reasons, I don’t think there has been a more important time for organizations to develop a conscience and to consider the decisions they make.

1.)  Short-termism; in many cases organizations make decisions for short-term gains without considering the long-term consequences. This is especially prevalent in the way that organizations manage their relationships with their clients. Too often decisions are made which hold the best interests of the company above that of the client. This may provide short-term revenue benefit but it erodes trust and reduces the longer-term opportunity that is available.

2.)  Social purpose; corporate transparency is now changing the way that consumers think about companies. Consumers are now taking an interest in the social responsibility of the organization from which they are buying. Companies that put shareholder return above the needs of society as a whole are slowly being discarded by consumers who are putting community needs above their own individual needs.

As a marketer I believe that we have a fundamental role to act as the Jiminy Cricket of the organization. We need to help the organization make decisions that best serve the interests of its clients / customers as well as society as a whole rather than putting the emphasis on short-term revenue gains. We need to help companies see the longer-term vision and the road ahead.

There was a great article by Matthew Bishop on this topic that is well worth the read.

Following on from Mathew’s viewpoint, I like to think that the essence of the brand promise has gone from a product promise to an consumer promise and is now leading to a social promise. In my mind, successful brands of the future will be those that convey and live by a set of social ideals that resonate with the savvy, conscientious and informed consumers of today.

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As Marc Benioff of Salesforce said at a recent event, the one thing that he is most proud of is the creation of the 1/1/1 salesforce.com Foundation. One day not only can he be proud of this as a great social contribution but it will also be a major factor in the continuing success of the company.

How journalism informs today’s brand building

My father was a city journalist back in the days when Fleet Street in London was the center of the UK newspaper industry. He once said to me that great writing was based on a combination of clarity and authenticity. It is a simple notion; your audience needs to quickly and clearly understand the purpose whilst at the same time believing what you are conveying.

This is something that has stayed with me throughout my entire career and I think it has as much relevance now for brand marketing as it does for newspaper journalism.

Every brand comprises a brand promise which is the all enveloping commitment that an organization makes to its audience and it identifies what that audience should expect through the sum of all interactions they have with the people, products, services and company they are engaging.

With the fragmentation of media and proliferation of different communication channels, where there is more noise than ever before, brands have to find a way to break through and differentiate. They need to convey a clarity of purpose that is distinct, appealing and empathetic in terms of shared values. This purpose I believe needs to be more than just a good product or service at a good price, consumers now expect some form of loftier goal. They want brands that care, care about communities, environment, human rights, fair trade and humanity.

In addition, brands need to be believable. We have gone from a society where we would blindly buy into a brand promise to one where brand reputation is far more important. Brands are now defined on how they act rather than what they say. Consumers now heavily influence brand perception by conveying and communicating the experiences they have had through word of mouth, social, communities etc. and this sheer weight of voice is more authentic and influential than what a brand can possibly communicate.

I heard a great quote the other day that reinforces this: “Don’t let your marketing get ahead of your customer experience delivery”. I believe this is one of the greatest challenges we face.

ImageSo clarity of purpose and credibility through action, these are the foundations for successful brand building in today’s digital world.