Why You Don’t Need Approval (+5 Bonus *Unconventional* Lean Marketing Ideas)
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Marketers are often asked to do more with less.
- Publish more frequently to get better results.
- Publish more with only the resources you already have.
- Publish more content that’s among the best you’ve ever published.
And do all of that as fast as you possibly can.
I don’t think those are unrealistic expectations, either. As marketers, our job is to create content that attracts an audience interested in what our businesses sell.
It’s 100% true that publishing more content gives us more data to analyze to increase our results more quickly than ever before.
And if you’re publishing content and not measuring your results… how do you know you’re attracting the audience that is interested in what you’re selling?
The proof is in the numbers.
And the proof that your work isn’t generating results also exists when you have no numbers to show for the work you’ve done.
^ That happens, unfortunately, when you waste time doing projects that focus on the 10%.
Let me explain.
Lean Marketing = 10x Growth Versus 10% Improvement
There’s a mantra you hear daily at CoSchedule:
Focus on 10x growth and forget the 10% improvements.
That means prioritizing the work you do to reach your marketing goals ten times faster. Don’t do the trivial minutia that sucks productivity away (and honestly doesn’t drive huge growth).
10x growth can definitely come from sharing better content. But publishing at the best times is a 10% improvement because it focuses too heavily on one-day advantages versus the long-term 10x benefits of strong evergreen, keyword-driven content. (Plus, you can automatically post at the best times without any manual busywork.)
Here’s another example.
We recently launched a course to help marketers plan their 2017 marketing strategy. We thought a video would be great to promote the course:
- We could add the video to the signup page!
- We could share the video on Facebook! Then we could also do Facebook video ads to reach a larger audience!
- We could upload the video to YouTube!
That video would have been a 10% project. And we would have spent hours recording, designing, editing, uploading, and sharing the thing.
Do you know how we knew the video would have been a 10% improvement?
- We had created a video for a previous course that had only 914 views. Thousands of students literally joined the course without ever scrolling down the signup page far enough to even watch the video (which we learned with data from heat mapping). For this new course, could we have created a video and put it higher on the page so people would watch it? Sure. But the video didn’t matter last time because we promoted the course so well that our audience didn’t need to “be sold” any further—the moment they saw the signup form, they signed up.
- Video on Facebook tends to perform well. That’s 100% true. But hours of effort for one Facebook post? Plus, we knew from our prior Facebook ads that video does not convert even close to as well as other visuals like colorful screenshots and custom photography. That’s likely something to do with our audience, but hey. It was a data-driven decision, nevertheless.
- We have a small following on YouTube now. Sure, more videos = larger audience. But is it worth the effort to create a video to reach a handful of people?
^ That’s a real life example of how we sift through projects to focus our efforts on 10x growth instead of 10% improvements. That course is definitely 10x growth. But the video to promote it? 10%.
A lot of these lean marketing ideas go against the grain.
It’s a frame of mind that helps you prioritize your work for growth instead of perfection.
So… what other unconventional things do we do to focus our time on 10x growth instead of 10% improvement in the marketing team at CoSchedule?
Lean Marketing Idea #1: Prioritize + Start > Perfection
There are a million things you could do.
What should you do?
What are you doing today that you’re doing simply because you’ve always done it that way?
In its simplest form, start with a list of projects prioritized by great for growth to just OK for growth.
To use an agile product management term, that’s your marketing project backlog. This is what ours looks like for the demand generation marketing team at CoSchedule:
Once you know your best opportunities for 10x growth, map your projects week by week to know when you’ll tackle (and complete) them.
Again with the agile terminology: That map is called your marketing sprint backlog. This is what ours looks like:
Then you start executing.
But, for many of us, starting is difficult. It’s human nature to want to be an expert. To shoot for perfection. But when you start… you’re anything but an expert. The work you produce won’t be perfect.
And that’s perfect.
I recently discovered a new favorite quote from Zig Ziglar that should help you get started:
You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. —Zig Ziglar
The highest priority project on your marketing project backlog may involve learning new skills, doing things you’ve never done before. The most important thing to do is start.
It’s scientifically proven that you need to start, hone your process, and consistently improve to master a new skill.
As it turns out, that kind skill acquisition is really handy for us marketers who want to publish more content. And that’s because…
If you don’t ship, you actually haven’t started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked. Otherwise, it’s merely a hobby. —Seth Godin
Shooting for perfection is imperfect. Publish something just good enough, improve your process, and learn from what you’ve done.
Lean Marketing Idea #2: Ditch The Documented Marketing Strategy
People who write down their goals are more likely to make them a reality. So write yours down.
Then create your marketing project roadmap and marketing sprint backlog.
If you have those three things (goal + roadmap + backlog), you don’t need a 54-page marketing strategy describing what you need to do. You can execute the right projects (right now) that will make that goal a reality.
We don’t have a documented marketing plan at CoSchedule.
And if you think that’s crazy, the results of our strategy prove it works. In 2016, we boosted our results by 125%. We get more than 1 million monthly page views to our content from more than 130k email subscribers. And now we’re doubling down on new goals with the same strategic approach.
You see… not having a documented plan is not about acting without strategy. And we prioritize execution for 10x growth over internal documentation that doesn’t put the proof of numbers in our favor.
This is a concept adapted from Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup. And it’s something our CEO and Co-Founder at CoSchedule, Garrett Moon, is pretty passionate about:
For a startup, business plans are no longer normal.
In fact, they are now considered a faux pas and seen as a mere “business guess.” But that wasn’t always the case. Before the lean startup, the business plan was a document that assumed we knew everything there was to know about our business, a plan set in stone. It was done, or so we thought.
In reality, it was just a big huge guess.
Marketing plans and gigantic old strategy documents aren’t much different. They may sound novel and responsible, but the reality is that they are just guesses too. —Garrett Moon
Work on the right projects. Help them reach the right audience. And put in the right amount of effort.
Lean Marketing Idea #3: You Don’t Need An Approval Process
Empower + trust your team. If you manage everything right from the beginning, you don’t need five rounds of drafts to approve (that your content creators loathe, by the way). Here’s how to do it:
- Have a goal.
- Prioritize the project that will make that goal a reality.
- Discuss how to execute the project as a team.
- Break down the project into a chronological list of tasks.
- Assign the tasks to your team.
- Publish the content when all tasks are complete.
^ Am I oversimplifying that? I really don’t think so.
If you nail the process as your team executes from the start, the work they’ll produce will be world class the first time around. And that will eliminate the need for lengthy last-minute edits, tweaks, and fire drills.
So… how can you do that?
A Standard Of Performance may be just what your team needs.
In combination with solid project management (check out the six steps ^), a Standard Of Performance assigns expectations for the content your team is producing. For example, blog posts at CoSchedule have five pillars in our Standard Of Performance:
- Topic: The angle is well-chosen to attract an audience interested in resolving the challenges CoSchedule delivers.
- Keyword: The content is optimized to attract an audience at exactly the moment they need it most—when they’re searching for it.
- Research: The content is factual + backed by data, examples, or testimonials.
- Comprehensive + Concise: The content covers the topic exhaustively, but is “all killer, no filler”.
- Optimized: The content is optimized for conversion, whether it be capturing email subscribers or generating trial signup leads.
When your team follows your process and delivers on your Standards Of Performance, you effectively remove the need for a lengthy approval process.
Don’t get me wrong. There is still process.
But it’s process to boost productivity and free up your team’s time (and yours, too).
Lean Marketing Idea #4: Don’t Edit Your Content After You Publish It
Process directs positive outcome. It doesn’t direct perfection.
Even when copyediting is a task in your workflow process, chances are, you’re going to publish content with spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and sentences/paragraphs you just aren’t 100% satisfied with.
^ Editing typos + grammar + personal qualms after you’ve published content is a 10% improvement.
I can tell you from experience that the grammar police will let you know when they find these mistakes. They’re being nice so you can stop your 10x project to:
- Go into WordPress
- Search for that blog post
- Hunt for the specific paragraph and sentence
- Change a couple characters
- Hit update
- View your blog post
- Scroll to the specific paragraph and sentence
- Re-read everything so it sounds + looks great
Then you can get back to the real work that actually adds measurable, 10x impact to your goal.
We make mistakes in every blog post we publish on the CoSchedule blog. People let us know about them in blog post comments, social media, emails, and way more. It is helpful, sure. And we chock up that advice to lessons learned. We commit to avoiding those same mistakes next time around.
But we don’t stop what we’re doing for 10% improvement.
Lean Marketing Idea #5: Develop Frameworks That Help Your Team Make Solid Decisions Without You
It’s unrealistic (and super micro-managery) to help your team members make every decision.
Simple frameworks make this possible. You’ve already read about a couple of ours at CoSchedule:
- 10x growth versus 10% improvement
- Standards Of Performance
- Create the right content, get it in the right hands, and put in the right level of effort
Garrett actually wrote an entire blog post about the questions he asks the team to keep us focused on what matters. These questions are also frameworks we, as a team, ask ourselves as we work to focus our decisions on the best possible outcomes. Here are just a few of the questions we use as frameworks:
- What’s in it for them?
- Does this meet our standard of performance?
- What can you ship right now?
- Are you building a monopoly?
- Do you have everything you need to be successful?
You might want to borrow those frameworks. Or maybe this can inspire you to come up with your own. The point is, frameworks help your team make the right decisions by themselves because you’ve given them the guidance/direction/empowerment to do it without you.
Lean Marketing Idea #6: Use The Right Tools Designed For The Right Job
How valuable is your time?
Let’s say you make a salary of $50,000 a year. With 250 working days at 8 hours a day, you make $25 an hour.
When you spend more than 1 hour doing something manually that a tool could do for $25, you are wasting productivity.
Here are some examples of what I mean (specifically for the team at CoSchedule):
- We could manually search for all mentions of the CoSchedule brand across the web (which would take forever). Or we could use a tool like Mention to see every mention in one place and easily respond. Easy choice.
- We could manually schedule emails one at a time for specific segments. Or we could use marketing email automation to automatically (and intelligently) send specific emails to the right audiences at the right times based on their interests. AKA do the work once and let a system manage the mechanics… again, easy choice.
- We could use a spreadsheet as our marketing calendar (which only one person could access at a time, and doesn’t integrate with our marketing tools). Or we could use CoSchedule to organize every project in one place, eliminate endless email CCs, and assign tasks to complete work super efficiently. No brainer.
The time you spend manually working through something a tool could do more efficiently is probably more expensive than buying the tool designed for the job.
…Those Are A Few Of Our Unconventional Lean Marketing Ideas
You might be nodding your head and smiling right now. Or ready to write that comment to tell me why I’m completely wrong. Either way, I want to hear from you. ;)
January 12, 2017