Marketers fail because they try to do to too much and lose focus. The raison d'etre for marketing is to grow the business. It is the prime directive. Any CMO or any marketer who doesn't address this first and foremost deserves to be fired.
Yet setting and enforcing priorities while running a day-to-day business, managing up and down and putting out fires can be a serious challenge.
Consider these seven secrets to focus your thinking and allocate your time.
Start with the End. Determine what you want to happen. Visualize the successful outcome. Quantify and qualify the result you want. If you want to double sales, reduce costs by 50%, increase the margin 5 points or add 20,000 new customers you can't figure out how to do it until you know exactly what you want to achieve. Once the endpoint is clear you can construct the tactical plan to get there or reverse engineer your systems or resources to deliver the desired result. Invest time and energy upfront to scope out the goal. Be sure your marketing goals drive to or align with the CEO’s business goals.
BTW, in this business environment if you are aiming to capture the brand's true authenticity, produce the next new genre of TV commercial, revolutionize how media is planned or bought, recapture the glory of "new" advertising or teach the world to sing ... don't bother ... start packing your bags.
Pick Your Shots. You can't do everything. You don't have enough time or people. And nobody has enough budgets to fund every good idea. Select the projects that will drive toward the goal fastest. Do them first and best. Pick a couple of slower-moving, infrastructure building things to build your pipeline. Then merchandise your plan by “marketing the marketing” and get everyone to buy in.
Set the Altitude. Business is like 3-dimensional chess. The game is simultaneously played on several levels. Get in touch with your ego and decide how you want to succeed and at what level. Then pick your level and your playing field and master the rules of that particular game. Do you want to be Buffet? Gates? Trump? Welch? Iaccoca? Each requires a different strategy and different game play.
Focus. Marketing is a dynamic game. Every day yields a hundred great ideas. You must be disciplined enough to make a plan and stick to it. There will be plenty of C level distractions to keep you interested. But you can't afford to get off your game or to be distracted by something that doesn't directly contribute to achieving your stated objective. You have to be hard-nosed about this and take your ADHD meds every day.
Marshall Your Resources. The larger the organization, the more likely the horses pull in diffuse or even opposite directions. You must manage your players and your cash to achieve the objective. There are many synergies and two-fers along the way. Grab them. Slough anything that isn't contributing to the direction or the rate of ascent. There are plenty of people within your team willing to go off on tangents, handle pet projects, dote on time-wasters or hide-out by doing "research" and endlessly exploring new options or alternatives. Reign these guys in. Managers must manage. Here is where you draw the line and surrender your "Mr. Nice Guy" role. That means setting the direction, orienting the team and keeping the horses in-harness side-by-side running in the same direction at a matched pace.
Learn the Plumbing. God is in the details. Much of your success or failure might be as well. Too many marketers don't really understand what their firm makes, sells or distributes or exactly how these things come to be and get into the marketplace. Unless you know the details, you can’t find the inflection points or identify the factors that can be leveraged or the economies of scale that can be found or built.
Learn the People. Find and befriend the guys who've been there forever and know where the bodies are buried; the guys who instinctively understand the unstated pathways and how things really get done using the informal networks and personal networks of influence. Don’t assume that everyone who got there before you is an idiot, a lifer or both. Usually there are great ideas and quick wins that have been buried or suppressed by politics or predecessors. Find them and use them.
Remember if it was a cake walk any idiot could do it!