COVID-19 has forced many companies to forego long-term planning for a more “here and now” mentality. We still have to consider long-term business initiatives, of course, but we cannot do so at the expense of profitability and relevance.
Thriving in an ever-changing climate requires laser focus. Unfortunately, sometimes this means negating exciting opportunities that are not immediately relevant or applicable.
There’s a case for “not now”
It can be difficult to put a great concept aside. Confidently and confidently saying, “We need to reconsider this” takes strength and foresight – during a pandemic or otherwise.
For many companies, revenues are creeping down, necessitating budget cuts and sometimes downsizing. With fewer resources available, managers face a choice: delaying innovative brainstorms or abandoning existing programs to make way for these new initiatives.
While risk is easy in a healthy economy, there is far more pressure and accountability in difficult times: you are expected to do more with less, but you must also protect your team from burnout.
Maintaining such a balance is challenging, but streamlining and prioritizing new marketing ideas on ongoing projects can result in high returns.
When you postpone experimental initiatives to spend time on projects with proven ROI, your focus becomes limited and you commit to only having measurable goals.
As you explore new ways to grow your business when you’re understaffed, your team members can also develop untapped skills as they take on different roles, uncovering previously hidden passions, skills, and talents. What worked a few months ago may no longer produce the same results. In this case, you need the confidence to close down dated campaigns in favor of a fresh approach.
If you’re not sure how to stop treating each idea as equally important, rely on these techniques to figure out what needs to happen now and what can wait.
1. Define your priorities explicitly
Marketers are notorious for loving new concepts. However, according to a study by Upland Kapost, only 17% of marketers can easily prioritize what they’re working on.
When a team member has a new idea, ask tough questions. Do we have the resources necessary for the project? How will we measure success? When will we know that the initiative has taken its course?
If you have trouble settling or even finding answers, put the idea aside for another day.
2. Monitor your swim lanes
Imagine you’re already overflowing with projects that keep the lights on and someone suddenly brings you a groundbreaking idea to your attention. No matter how much you love it, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you have the ability to deal with it.
Review your flowchart, project management plans, and Kanban-related swim lanes for potential sources of friction. A department or person with blocked traffic lanes shouldn’t try to add anything to the mix.
You have to make some tough calls. The status quo does not encourage innovation. Reach out to your team members to see if you can automate, delegate, or prioritize the regular work they have become used to. Depending on the potential ROI of the new project, you can move resources or responsibilities. However, in some cases this is not the best solution. If you find yourself in a situation where resources are being reduced, your team may just be able to keep the lights on.
Sometimes the workload is just too big to take on every exciting idea that comes your way.
3. Assess your stakeholder buy-in
Every idea requires a stakeholder buy-in to get off the ground – and keep it going. If you’ve brought a concept to market that is struggling to gain momentum, stakeholders likely don’t see it as a priority – and if they do, you shouldn’t.
If others see no value in an effort, it must be revised, set aside, or scrapped entirely. That doesn’t mean the idea was bad in itself; it could just be a matter of bad timing. For this reason, you should speak to the stakeholders before making any final decisions to get a concept right. Talking honestly from the start saves money and prevents long-term frustration.
4. Practice cross-departmental collaboration
In the Pantheon, we regularly invite employees from various functions to our planning and analysis exams. Why? Because we want to make sure that everything we do overlaps with our workforce, which drives our efforts forward.
As you weigh an idea, check to see if it intersects with other departments such as sales, IT, product, or customer service. The most successful companies align their priorities so that they can scale them company-wide and maximize resources.
5. Limit your priorities
Project crawling happens quietly and quickly. Instead of two or three priorities, you suddenly have 15. Don’t let that happen. Monitor every important initiative and stack them up so each team member can see which tasks are most important and which can stay in the background.
In your daily or weekly meetings, take the time to review each high priority item. The process should not exceed three points, otherwise the value of the prioritization will be diluted. By continuously focusing on the work of greatest value, your team will invest more in the success of that work.
When everyone agrees which work is most important, your job will be easier. Even if you are pushed back a little, pointing out what everyone agreed that would have the greatest impact on the business can add to your position.
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Great marketing ideas are well worth researching and writing down. Even so, they aren’t always ready to roll when they first appear. Part of your job is knowing whether to pursue them right away or let them mature. Be careful and you will get better output in the long run.
More resources on marketing ideas
Seven Simple Tactics for Generating Content Marketing Ideas
Establishing a line of thought on emerging social platforms
Creativity in the time of COVID: Author and innovation thinker Dave Birss on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]