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.

calendar

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?

CMO leadership: how to succeed in the modern era

I am deeply honored and delighted to be nominated by the CMO Club for its annual CMO President’s Circle Award.  This award recognizes CMOs who have demonstrated success in leading teams, leadership in marketing innovation, and leading beyond just the marketing department.

Usually I am embarrassed by recognition such as this but it sparked me into thinking about what are the key leadership characteristics that would help make a CMO successful in today’s world.

When I think about leadership I always refer back to Jim Collins and his excellent book “Good to Great”.

In this book he talks about Level 5 leadership. Jim defines a Level 5 leader as “Building enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”. In effect it is the ability to create and establish absolute clarity of purpose whilst ensuring that success is only seen through the action of others. To achieve this it means your primary focus can only be on two areas; the people you work with and the ability to build market understanding.

So here are some proposals as to how you can be an effective leader in these two areas. It is just a selection but hopefully it will be useful:

People and teamwork

  • Start with culture and establish a function that is built on respect, transparency, collaboration, shared success and fun.
  • Great culture will attract great people. Jim Collins once said; “if I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could”.
  • Get to know the skills and competencies of your team members and focus their efforts on areas where they excel.
  • Always recognize, support and motivate your team members by focusing on the positives, whether it is success or opportunities to improve. This will ensure your team contributes more so imagine everyone gives a further 10%, you have just increased your FTEs by 5 people for a team of 50.
  • Allow people to be personally accountable and give everyone the chance to show what they can deliver.
  • Set goals on outcomes and not activities, this way you allow freedom to experiment and innovate.

Data, knowledge, wisdom and foresight

  • Always start with data.
  • Try and ensure that every decision made has considered all available insights.
  • Establish a marketing sciences team and empower them to always provide recommendations with any analysis.
  • Create a structured, uniformed segmented view of the market so everyone is looking at the market in the same way.
  • Set targets based on market / customer segments so you can better gauge progress at a micro level.
  • Make sure objectives are based on business outcomes and not just on specific activities as these end up being proxies.
  • Apply the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) so you report performance across all stages of the customer lifecycle in a joined up fashion. There is no benefit in doing 4 out of 5 things well if that one element that you don’t do well breaks the chain.

To best summarize this it brings me to the magic of Arthur C. Clarke who once said; “The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 5.23.57 PM

So, in signing off, if you get the right people onboard, establish a culture in which they can express themselves and then empower them with the best possible insights, you will have gone a long way to becoming a successful marketing leader.