An open letter to marketing execs

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Dear Marketing Exec ,

Congratulations, you own a brand, a budget and a team.  You’ve made it—but there’s also a lot of weight on your shoulders.  Your company is counting on you to establish the brand DNA, to build awareness, to generate demand, to market your products, to develop a content strategy, to manage agencies and more.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the never-ending pursuit of KPIs—important indicators, yes, but merely means to an end.  I just finished a particularly hellacious week of wall-to-wall meetings that left no time to keep up on email, let along step back and think about the big picture.  In fact, as uTest grows, I find myself putting these blinders on more and more frequently, and it’s an important component to goal achievement.  But it’s equally important that marketing leaders take a step back and evaluate goal validity—to focus on the end rather than the mean. 

Said differently, when was the last time you took an hour, a few hours or a quiet day to really ponder what your North Star is as a marketing exec?  Or what your brand’s North Star is?  Or how the market and competitive landscape are shifting?  If you don’t occasionally lift your head up from the day-to-day grind where you focus on doing things right, how will you know if you’re doing the right things?

So consider this a wake-up call or consider it permission (whichever you feel you need).  The job of a marketing leader is more than driving down cost-per-lead.  It’s more than growing a social footprint.  And it’s more than fine-tuning our lead-nurturing strategy or evaluating RFP responses from ad agencies.  Those are merely the 'how', but not the 'why'.

Easy to say, but much harder to do (as my calendar will attest). So here are some concrete steps to keep you pointed squarely at your North Star, rather than chasing tactics without questioning their relevance:

  1. Who ya’ gonna call?  When you want to take a step back and recalibrate, who do you speak with?  If you can’t answer this question on the spot, and if you don’t have at least one good candidate inside your company (who knows what you’re up against), and one outside the firewall (who has a fresh perspective), then you have some work to do.
  2. What do you want to hear?  These times when you zoom out and take in the 30,000-foot view of your brand, your product, your team and your tactics are vitally important. Don’t go into them with a closed mind or looking to simply reconfirm ideas you had three months ago—seek out dissenting opinions from those you trust.
  3. Are you setting aside “you time?"  You’re busy.  I get it.  But much like going to the gym, if you don’t bake this time into your schedule in a non-negotiable way, it simply won’t happen.  The frenetic pace of the stuff that’s urgent will drown out the seemingly optional nature of this important investment.

Our job is to set the direction for our brand(s), to establish a voice that resonates with the market, to differentiate from the noise of my competitors, and to predict where the fickle market is going.  Furthermore, our job is to establish a mission that resonates with employees, partners and agencies.  It’s to shape the minds and methods of the next generation of marketers who are in our charge. 

So the next time you look at your calendar and see it overflowing with tactical, urgent-but-not-important meetings, it’s past time to reevaluate your point of view—of your true role as chief marketer, of the time frame you choose to care about and how you spend your scarce time. 

I’m still grappling with striking this balance myself, so if you have stories, tips or anecdotes that could help, drop me a note at [email protected] or @matjohnston.  I’m wide open to learning how others do this in startups, in agencies and in global enterprises.

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