Friday, August 9, 2013

The Smartest Marketers Don't Want Straight "A's"

If tech marketers as a group were to be identified as a persona, one of our attributes would be "over-achiever".  While in school, we strove mightily to get A's, win awards, be the champions.  Our drive to be the best is our great strength.  But its over-application can also be a great weakness.

Under today's conditions getting straight A's is impossible.
 Tech marketing has never been the kind of job you can leave at the office at 5:00 (and who leaves at 5:00 anyway?). On the positive side, you get to work on the exhilarating cutting edge, with fascinating problems to solve, with smart, interesting, people all over the world. But the C-Suite and sales people are never satisfied. Results from our work are often ambiguous. You learn to just accept that your work will never be done. 

However in recent years, that persistent mania has kicked up a notch. To the day-to-day, add the time it takes transforming marketing to the self-educated buyer and the digital world.  Add the pressure of doing more with less budget (IDC's Tech Marketing Benchmark shows that marketing budgets have never really recovered from the 2008 bust).

Let's face it, as human beings we have limits.  With so many demands, you physically do not have time, energy, or attention to get "A's in everything. This is not school. Attempting straight "A's" in real life gets you mediocrity and failure.

I'm here to tell you that it is okay to get a "C" sometimes. It's not only okay – it's better
The secret is to deliberately choose when to get a "C".  Here's a little tool to help you decide where getting a "C" is okay.  I adapted this decision tool by flagrantly stealing from Stephen R. Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit 3: Put First Things First) and Geoffrey Moore's model on core and context from Dealing with Darwin.  A decision grid like this lets you compare tasks by considering their relative risks and rewards.


Quadrant 1: High Risk, High Reward – Focus your "A" efforts here. Now.
You decide what really makes a difference (to your customers? To your revenue? To your career? To your family? To your happiness?)

Quadrant 2: High Risk, Low Reward – Settle for a "C".
 You can't avoid these tasks without penalty but there is no upside for being exceptional – so why put in the extra effort?  I put admins-trivia in this category and I'm sure you will find other things (wink).

Quadrant 3: Low Risk, High Reward – Focus your "A" effort, but you can take more time.
I call this category of things "the gifts to your future self".  Life will keep getting better if you put at least a little time into these things.

Quadrant 4: Low Risk, Low Reward – Why put any effort into these things?
We all have some dumb tasks on our plate. Here's the litmus test.  Pick a task you find tiresome. Stop doing it for a couple months and see if anyone screams.

We are all human. We must make choices about how best to spend our limited time, energy, and attention. If you don't make those choices strategically, then you risk failing at the important things.  You'll get best results if you give up the school-kid attitude of feeling like you have to be great at everything. Get a few "C's" and you will be more successful.

2 comments:

  1. Kathleen, great post and construct. Filtering noise and prioritizing focus is an incredible challenge.

    I know it's old hat, but would be more comfortable with this structure if "helpful" was replaced by "urgent." You might be able to eradicate quadrant 4 in the process.

    Thanks again.

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  2. Nice and accurate analysis.Thank you for sharing.

    Jess. Jobs

    ReplyDelete