Marketing. A never-ending river of tasks. How do you make sure you get enough done without drowning your team? Or, to mix metaphors, burning them out.

I’d like to introduce you, as a marketing leader, to the idea of pace, or what some people call tempo. I often hear these two terms bandied about while I’m watching Premier League soccer early on weekends in my office (my way of procrastinating before I get down to writing). The idea is that the dominant team sets the tempo and thereby controls the game. A useful concept for a marketing leader who wants to win in their market.
How can you dominate the competition by setting the right pace? One that’s not so fast that you burn out your team, but fast enough to make the competition have to chase you? Finding that balance and setting that pace is a crucial skill for any marketing leader. Here are a few techniques I recommend.

Know Your Competition
How fast is your competition moving? That’s crucial to know. How can you find out? Start by literally sizing them up. Go to LinkedIn and find out how many people are on their team and who they are. How good are they? You can usually get a sense from their backgrounds. Chances are you know someone who knows people on your competitions’ marketing teams.
Once you know each of your competitor’s team, find out the game they are playing. You do this by doing a competitive review of their go-to-market. Not their product or service, but how they are marketing and selling it. Assign your team leads to look into their channel, advertising, demand strategies, messaging – whatever you can.
If this sounds hard, it really isn’t. There are some great tools out there for spying on your competition. You can also run a fun exercise I’ve written about before called “ Be the Buyer Day,” where you act like a customer and try and buy a product from you and your competition. It’s amazing what you will find out.

Implement Agile Marketing
First, a definition
At its core, Agile marketing is a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.

On my teams over the last few years, we have divided up our annual plan into twelve months. We then set monthly objectives – between three and five per person – and review them in our weekly meetings. Some weeks we will cover them in detail. Other weeks we will just review those that are not complete and if there are any “blockers” as they are called. Not only will you get the work done, but you will focus your team. Those who take on too much will stand out and can be managed, as will those who are falling behind. (If you want to know more about how to implement agile marketing, you can read my post of the topic here.)

Take a Breath and Talk to a Customer
Sometimes you just need to get off the treadmill and find out what’s really going on. You and your management team should spend time talking to customers. How you do that will depend on your industry, but you will find out a lot. Is what you are doing even working? Maybe there are programs you can cut out. How is the competition doing?

Get out of your building. Heed the adage that nothing important happens in the office. Your team may object at first. How, they will ask, can we attend all of our internal meetings and get our monthly objectives done and have to time talk to customers? That’s when you remind them that there are no buyers in the building. Marketing stems from the word market, and that’s where they need to spend some time. And as a leader, how will you have any idea if you are running your team at the right pace if you do not understand how your business actually happens?

One last thought on pace. You should explain to your team what you are up to. I’ve found most marketers respond well to the idea of outrunning the competition. If you don’t explain why the team is performing competitive analysis, keeping lists of objectives, and interrupting their work weeks with customer visits, you run the risk of being known as a taskmaster rather than a pacesetter. And you can’t run away from that.

Leave a Reply