Here’s what marketers look like when everything is a priority:
And here’s what marketers look like when everything gets prioritized:
I think you can all guess which scenario is more efficient, effective, and less stressful.
Throughout my marketing career, I’ve taken on roles that have challenged me to be a jack of all trades as well as a specialist—yet every role has required the ability to identify, assess, and tackle the tasks at hand in a way that makes sense for my clients, organization, team, and myself. Simply put, every marketing practitioner and leader needs to be able to prioritize and deprioritize work to be lean, mean marketing machine that drives results.
To help you or your marketing team actually get work done (and do it well), here are a few tips for prioritizing to optimize your marketing workflow.
5 Tips to Get Your Marketing Priorities Straight
Tip #1 – Address the elephant in the room.
No one wants to admit it, but not all work is urgent and not all work is “important.” If you or your team’s workload is over capacity, you need to address this elephant in the room: some of the work has to wait.
The hard part is actually taking the time to determine which tasks and pieces of work are urgent, important, both, or neither. Here’s how we often look at it:
- Urgent tasks are time sensitive. They might be needed to fix a mistake or identify the cause of an issue. They could be the catalyst for launching on time. With urgent tasks, time is of the essence and getting work done quickly is critical.
- Important tasks are effort sensitive. They take up a lot of resources. They’re the big rock everyone is waiting on. It’s fully expected that important tasks may take a little bit of extra time as they’re something you need to nail right out the gate to impress a client, influencer, or partner.
It doesn’t matter the method you use to define your organization’s priority levels; whether it’s the ABCDE Method, Eisenhower Decision Matrix, Eat the Frog Method, or your custom method-of-choice. What’s important is that you define the levels, they have clear differences, and have the stamp of approval from the whole team. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the same situation of “everything is important” and “everything is urgent,” which is no good for anyone.
Tip #2 – Define responsibilities.
Any marketing endeavor is marked by dozens of smaller tasks that feed the engine, many of them dependent on the timely execution of what comes before it. Within our agency for example, we need to receive influencer contributions before we can finalize our copy for a large asset. We need the copy client-approved and quality-checked before we can finish the design and promotional assets.
Recently, I’ve taken on some of the day-to-day management of project workflow, giving me a bird’s eye view to potential bottlenecks, obstacles, and snags. But not everyone has the luxury of having that insight across the organization.
Because a large majority of tasks (and projects) are dependent on other work getting finished, you need to define responsibilities and accountabilities for each team member—and hold them to it:
- Let them know who is accountable for each step in the process.
- Set expectations for when the step needs to be completed.
- Show them how it impacts others when those expectations are missed.
Setting accountability early on motivates your team to do the work, minimizes confusion, and empowers them to take ownership.
Tip #3 – Assess your task list and prioritize daily.
When I get into work every morning, I list out priorities. Priorities for myself, that day and that week. Priorities for any projects I’m helping support from a resourcing or prioritization standpoint. I can tell you from experience that these lists changes each day—no matter what.
Whether you’re managing your individual priorities or priorities for a whole team, work is in constant flux. One team member could have a heavy meeting day on Monday, leaving them with only four hours of working time. You could be out of the office a whole workday for additional training. Or, someone agreed to get all of their priorities done (wanting to appear efficient) only to have some of their tasks slide to the next day.
Considering all of the unexpected things that can happen in a work day, it’s important that you assess tasks and re-prioritize on a daily basis. It’s something I’ve had to learn to do, too. This not only allows our team to better stay on-track, but it also gives us five opportunities throughout the week to assess whether or not we’ll actually finish each and every priority.
Tip #4 – Establish communication mediums and expectations.
Easily one of the most important project management tips is to keep communication open, honest, and frequent. And it applies to prioritization as well.
Priorities shift. Sometimes, daily. It’s one of the harsh realities of marketing as we strive to reach the right audience at the right time. Changing priorities allows us to reach our audience with timely, relevant messaging. Or, delight a client with a quick turnaround. Whatever the reason, it’s essential that the change is communicated to the necessary parties early and clearly.
It doesn’t matter if your team prefers communicating those changes via email, in a daily standup, or over Slack, as long as you have a documented process, format, and frequency set for communications, your team will be better prepared to switch gears at the drop of a hat.
Tip #5 – Always have a Plan B.
Plans don’t always work.
Someone gets sick, an influencer has to back out of a campaign, your client or an internal stakeholder gives you a last-minute, unplanned round of edits, or a new opportunity has presented itself and you need to capitalize. When one timeline moves, so does another. You need a back-up plan to keep your priorities on-time.
It seems like an obvious suggestion to have a back-up plan, but it doesn’t always get done. Even though you’re confident in your team and their ability to deliver quality work, you need to be prepared for the worst case scenarios. Otherwise, panic ensues because you have all your balls in the air and no one to catch them.
The back-up plan could be leaving a buffer to all of your timelines, assigning extra resources to projects, building in additional editing time even if you don’t think it’ll be needed. Expect (and plan) for the worst, hope for the best.
Let the Work Flow
At TopRank Marketing, we get a lot of work done. We have several internal teams often working on multiple campaigns at a time. And it’s impossible to do it all at once. Prioritizing our work helps us optimize our marketing workflow for both efficiency and quality. Without clear, defined priorities we’d just be really bad jugglers. Instead, we’re pretty darn good at it.
Want more ways to get things done? Check out these marketing productivity hacks from Workfront’s Director of Digital Marketing Mike Riding.