Did the workload of the marketing team double lately but no staff was added? Here is a simple structured approach to challenge the current work load and weed out unnecessary tasks.
Workforce reduction and re-assignment of tasks
We’ve all been there: several cost cutting initiatives and re-organizations have eliminated some positions. Those people who left the organization haven't done nothing. Either their tasks have vanished or were re-assigned to someone who - you guessed it - already has a job.
Even some of those vanished tasks might be missed at some time in the future but nobody is hired in addition to the now very slim work force. Since marketing tasks are less technical or regulated, chances are that the marketing team will acquire some of those missed duties on top of their current work load.
But the dynamic doesn't stop there. Marketing teams act very centrally and respond to many decision makers. Many of whom might be new in their function after all the re-shuffling and need additional support by Marketing:
- Developing insights into markets
- Educating new leaders about strategic processes
- Approach new markets and generate new leads
How many hats can everyone wear?
The pressure keeps building to become more and more efficient as a team. As the marketing team’s resources dwindle it feels like everyone is wearing several hats at the same time.
The tasks at hand however are all top priority as labeled by the requestors.
Sharpen the saw
It’s about time to challenge what is going on:
- Does the team use the most effective methods and tools?
- Is there a chance to outsource?
- Is the marketing team the most suitable executer?
There are many questions nobody asks when things need to be done and everyone struggles to find enough resources. This is the classic tale of the gang of lumberjacks who never find the time to sharpen the saw.
But how can everyone expect that this constant add-on behavior won’t stretch the resources to a breaking point?
It is ok to continually improve and be able to work faster and harder. But without a sharpened saw, more men or a faster way to cut through that wood there will be a limited amount of wood that can be cut.
Taking the blindfold off
During the course of several re-organizations and while trying to cope with the ever increasing workload many tasks might have evolved to a process that is never questioned or challenged:
- Are the right experts collaborating?
- Is the process smooth and straight forward?
- Should we do it at all?
The answers to these questions would not only provide much needed clarity so everyone understands the processes and therefore interfacing might improve. There is also a fair chance to discontinue some activities as someone else would be better suited or the deliverables proof to be obsolete.
How about this for a goal: the marketing team increases its efficiency by 20% within one year. Line management would love to see that. It is entirely possible but only with a new approach that goes far beyond anything the team might have tried so many times in the past.
The real challenge is now to create an extra ordinary energy to not just cut on travel cost, pencils and the cleaning service. “Been there, done that”. A new mindset is required as the organization might be fatigued by past efficiency measures.
1. Setting the stage
Positively encourage the marketing team to participate:
- All-day off-site workshop to identify things that the team does not like
- Scenario play in a risk free environment
- Celebration at the end of the effort
2. Tear down mind barriers
As the team might have gone through several “efficiency cycles” (mainly short lived cost cutting measures such as travel bans, cutting materials consumption, unsubscribe from market data services, pushing down service providers pricing, etc.) the marketing team might reject any idea to go through “another”.
A scenario game could help to disengage the team from that resistance:
- Imagine to merge with an equally sized competitor next month
- The new markets and products need inherited and understood
- There will be no resource additions but service will cover the doubled entity
The impact would be drastic: come next month the marketing team will have to decide which of the current 50% of al tasks they can’t afford doing anymore. They will be sitting in classrooms every morning for at least 6 months and thereafter they’ll serve businesses double the current size.
3. Aggressive role play
So, how to cut 50% workload?
Task A (individually by every marketing team member):
- List all activities they conduct on an ordinary day
- List all activities they conduct on a day full of surprising events and emergencies
Task B (team)
- Consolidate the individual lists function based (MarCom, MI, etc.)
Task C (team)
Use the table below to develop answers and solutions to the questions asked earlier in this document, by activity.
Should we do it at all? Is the marketing team the most suitable executer?
As a first very powerful question: ask what would happen if this activity would not be done anymore. If there is no reason to panic: kill it.
As a side track and if valid concerns forbid to discontinue the task, ask whether any other function might be better suited to conduct this activity (e.g. Corporate Communications, Strategic Planning, Sales, Product Management, Business Development, M&A, etc.).
There is big potential in this consideration to gain significant time resources.
Is the process smooth and straight forward?
Does everybody in the marketing team understand the process? Is it the most straight forward collaboration and interfacing? If not: there is additional time savings potential.
Does the team use the most effective methods and tools?
Tools that don’t automate processes are overhead. Are there data duplications, redundancies or does the activity provoke to re-invent the wheel every time it is exercised? Goal: just one tool or document or better even: re-use existing ones.
Roles & Responsibilities
Are the right experts collaborating?
This is probably the one area to provoke most discussions. Based on real world examples: is there frustration within the marketing group because stakeholders change frequently, won’t provide quality input or nobody seems to know who is best to support the process?
This might be an area where vast resources are wasted because people chase quality input, responses are delayed or decisions are not taken swiftly.
Is there a chance to outsource?
Marketing teams react to economic pressure by cutting external cost. After a while and as put under scrutiny it might become clear that some tasks are better done externally by specialists who are fast and consistently provide a high quality.
If additional staff cannot be hired outsourcing is always an option to review and weigh the pro’s and con’s. If resources need to be gained some classic marketing or administrative tasks might be well suited to achieve that goal.
Cut to the chase
That “efficiency table” might be well packed with ideas now.
Summarizing the potential time savings in man hours supports the next steps when decisions need to be prepared and taken.
Before doing so and in order to add another element to the workshop that the marketing team might appreciate as a good challenge but also to look outside the box: switch roles with the stakeholders that will be impacted by the gathered ideas and changes:
- Assign Sales, BD, PM, Management roles to challenge the suggestions
- Develop “mini” value propositions to sell to the stakeholders and decision makers
- Decide who will lead the changes and how to communicate after decisions
At the end of the effort (which might take days or weeks depending on scope and size) there won’t be 50% of savings that can be achieved or the entire marketing machinery should be questioned as such.
But with this different, more aggressive mind set and approach the goal to save 20% resources in order to re-assign them for more important tasks is more realistic and way bigger than that last pencil someone is not allowed to buy.
As an important side effect: the marketing teams will have a chance to take the 30’000ft Helicopter view and refresh their operational understanding, empathize with tram mates and stakeholders and take ownership of the group’s performance.