We’ve all been there, Friend. You want to do your best at EVERYTHING, every time.
In reality, your results may vary. You may even find yourself rationalizing why one thing is good, and another thing is… well, a little less than good.
As a Marketing team, we’ve spent more than our fair share of time ‘cranking something out’ and compromising our creative vision just to get the dang thing done. Not only does it not FEEL great, but it can also compromise our brand, and, to make matters worse, it doesn’t actually help our productivity that much.
We’ve learned that there’s a difference between intelligently conserving resources and just being kind of Half-A**ed. (Editor: The word we’re cleverly disguising here is part of a derogatory phrase used commonly by Dads in the Midwest. It means you’re not doing your best, which is considered a first-class insult where we come from.)
Aside from the fact that not doing our best makes us all feel a little icky, the chances are you’re setting all kinds of little fires you’ll then exhaust yourself putting out along the way.
But hey, like I said, we’ve all been there. When you’re faced with the choice between getting a lot of things done poorly and getting almost nothing done, sometimes you panic and make the wrong choice.
SO what’s the right choice?
The secret (it’s not really a secret) is learning where your energy and attention belong, what you can get done, and what has to go.
No, your Ex didn’t bribe us to slip this in just to shame you. That’s not the kind of relationship we’re talking about anyway. (But would it have killed you to stop and pick up some onion dip that one time?)
Every touchpoint people have with your organization can be made more impactful, delightful, and, ultimately, profitable when you focus on how it moves your relationship forward.
And don’t hear me saying what I’m not saying. Your people-facing staff are probably amazing, but they’re only part of the equation. If every other touchpoint doesn’t maintain that same relationship standard – your website, social media, print, billboards, office locations, public bathrooms… do we need to go on? – you’re sending a mixed message.
So what can you do? Look at every touchpoint critically and decide they’re all sending the same message. For example, if your team is warm, welcoming, and knows everybody’s name, but your social media is just one impersonal ad after another, it’s time to warm up your online presence.
Flip that story too. If you’re telling people on your billboards that you’re the friendliest place in town and you only hire angry badgers for your service team (you don’t, but you get the idea), it’s time to make a change.
“Hold it right there, Pal.”, you might be saying, “We spend HOURS every year planning.” And you’re right. Budgeting, strategic planning, department goals.. you might be checking all kinds of boxes in the planning column. Awesome, don’t stop.
But DO stop acting like planning is a holiday you celebrate once a year.
For too many of us, once we’re ‘done with planning’ (those are sarcastic quotes, I know that doesn’t translate well in print), we lose ourselves in tasks and never look back (or forward). We mistakenly think that the task is everything and judge ourselves based on our ability to accomplish it. The truth is that we achieve even more, and our work is better when we wrap planning into everything we do.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say that you’re lucky enough to be a content writer, and one of your tasks is to make sure blog posts like this get written. At strategic planning time, you set a goal to publish something new every week, ideally because that makes sense with your strategy and fits into your capacity along with your other work. (If not, we have more to talk about here..)
Now, there are basically two ways you hit that goal:
#1. You pick something, ANYTHING you can write about every week, find a clever way to justify writing that thing, and check the box. (What? People love dinosaurs, Kevin. I’m just giving them what they want.)
#2. You create content that wraps around your current strategic initiatives, save space to add some proactive messages, and then keep your ear to the ground for products/services/info that needs the kind of love and attention that long-form content can provide.
Listen, if you’re good at what you do, you’ll get some results from either one of those options, but you’ll sleep better at night knowing you have an intelligent plan that’s prepared to absolutely CRUSH.
That takes knowing who your business is, who it wants to be in 3 or 5 or 10 years, and planning your work to contribute to that success. In other words, real planning.
Confession time, this is at least 50% me too. I’m claiming the other 50% accomplished because I’m OBSESSED with the data. I watch the stats for our social posts, website, emails – basically, if I can get a stat, I’m looking at it over and over again – and I can say with some confidence what has performed for us and how that could inform ongoing strategy.
Wait, 50%... that’s half, isn’t it? Ok, we’re all guilty of being Half-A**ed sometimes.
What I need to do to crank this up to 100% is make sure I’m tracking that data in a meaningful way to share that with the team and get aligned around the moves we make. Sure, I love to have the info myself, but wouldn’t it be SO MUCH better if my team could see why I think the way I do?
OR, stay with me now, what if they had the same data I had so they could challenge some of the assumptions I’m making?
Alignment on your team is just one really compelling reason to track and communicate results. Once you have hard data (note: we’ll talk about soft data next.), then things get fun.
Put on your lab coat and goggles (suggested, not required) and start experimenting with what you’ve learned. If you published the last blog at 3pm on a Friday and this one at 10am on a Tuesday, were your results different? Now you’re starting to learn when your audience is paying attention.
Now, change the kind of blog you post – if you’re mostly doing stories, try a listicle, or vice-versa – at 10am on a Tuesday and see what happens then.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to get yourself in front of every possible eyeball… well… for that moment in time, anyway. If you KEEP gathering data (why stop?), you’ll see all kinds of trends and eventually be able to predict when it’s time for a strategy change.
What is Soft Data? It’s a feeling, an opinion, a sentiment, or, in its softest form, it’s an anecdote relayed from person to person, with unclear origins.
(Things like “Somebody saw that Facebook post from yesterday, and they didn’t like the picture.” Or “No one asked me about that special we’re running today, so what you’re doing must not be working.”)
Don’t get me wrong, this kind of data deserves some attention because everything everyone says or feels about your business deserves SOME attention, but don’t rely solely on the chatter to inform your strategy. Think critically about how much or how little you let soft data influence you and know that it should vary from situation to situation.
For example, let’s talk about the picture someone says they didn’t like and ask:
If your answers here are “No,” “No,” and “No,” that’s a good indication that you don’t need to change your strategy right now.
By combining soft data and hard data, we really get down to the root of what works and what doesn’t. If you’re tracking outcomes, that is.
Listen, buddy, I get it. Sometimes the overwhelming taskiness (that’s probably not a word) of work keeps us from doing our jobs, and we have to find a way to conserve energy. Instead of Half-A**ing these four (and probably more) key responsibilities, what could you do to make room for them?
As you plan for next year (or next week, or tomorrow), consider automating some tasks, realigning responsibilities, or straight-up stop doing those high-effort, low-reward tasks and give yourself room to do what you’re great at every day.
About the Author: Suzanne Campbell is the Brand & Content Manager on the Exclamation Services Marketing team and the self-proclaimed evangelist for Brand Voice. She’s picked up a lot of smart ideas from a lot of amazing people in her more than 20 years of experience and you can frequently hear them on the Awsomology podcast.