is_allowed_country: 1

The Productivity Cheat Sheet That Every Marketer Needs

The Productivity Cheat Sheet That Every Marketer Needs

By Pratik Dholakiya

The modern marketing director is pulled in dozens of different directions at any given moment. Clients and stakeholders increasingly demand that they jump on the latest bandwagon to come out this month.

With so many demands, how can you stay on track? Use this productivity cheat sheet to help you become a master of productivity.

1. Measure What Matters

Modern marketers use so many metrics they don’t know what they mean anymore:

  • Facebook Likes
  • Email subscribers
  • Twitter followers
  • Inbound links
  • Average time on site
  • YouTube views

The problem is that most of these metrics are completely useless, especially when they are treated in isolation.

It’s also deceptively seductive to fall back on the tried and true measure referred to as return on investment. But investing more money in the strategy with the highest ROI isn’t always the best way to boost profits. Diminishing returns can easily sneak in, and you can quickly discover that the ROI decreases as the expenditure increases.

Worse, many strategies take months or years before they really take off and reveal their “true” ROI.

With so many metrics and so little predictability, the measurement problem starts to look impossible. As marketing director you know the pressure to provide measureable results, but it is increasingly difficult to decide where to invest your money in order to maximize profits based on any kind of quantitative analysis.

When all is said and done, what really matters? Here it is:

The lifetime cost and lifetime value of cohorts, and their return on marginal investment.

What does that mean?

  • A cohort is a group of people who were all exposed to the same marketing strategy, or who all took the same action.
  • The lifetime cost of a cohort is how much it costs to use a strategy on that group of people
  • The lifetime value of a cohort is the total revenue generated by that group of people
  • The return on marginal investment is the ROI of any new dollars you spend on the strategy. If your ROMI is 0, it means that you’re earning the most possible profit you can from that strategy, and that spending more will reduce your profitability. You want to invest your money in the strategy with the highest ROMI, not the strategy with the highest ROI.

Here are a few possible applications:

  • Measure the cost, value, and ROMI of customers who Like your Facebook page compared to people who don’t.
  • Measure the cost, value, and ROMI of users who visit your blog compared to those who don’t.
  • Measure the cost, value, and ROMI of consumers who have seen your ad in the paper compared to those who don’t.

Obtaining figures like these isn’t always easy, and sometimes they need to be estimated using surveys or statistical models. Nevertheless, these are the metrics that actually matter. If you can’t get your hands on these metrics for a particular strategy, your hunch is probably going to be more useful than whatever proxy vanity metric you happen to be using.

2. Make a Daily To-Do List

This might sound like productivity 101, and it is, but most of us end up skipping it anyway.

A to-do list forces you to do a few things:

  • List everything that’s truly important
  • Focus all of your attention on a specific task (multitasking has been scientifically shown to reduce efficiency)
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Eliminate what doesn’t really need to get done

That last bit is the most important takeaway. The Pareto principle has a way of infiltrating almost everything we do unless we take action to prevent it. Odds are good that you spend about 80 percent of your time working on things that are only responsible for 20 percent of your results. This is a tremendous waste of resources.

It’s why we succumb to opportunity cost.

By making a to-do list, you can clearly see what you need to get done. If you focus your attention on that, putting off the less important tasks, you may discover at the end of the day that the less important tasks didn’t need to get done at all.

In a similar vein, an activity log can be immensely helpful. By logging what you are doing and then reviewing the results, you can start to see just how much time you are investing in certain activities, and how wasteful they really are.

3. Get One Thing to Work before Moving Onto the Next

I’m not going to argue that you should master a marketing channel before you move onto another. I am, however, going to argue that no strategy works efficiently at first. Marketers often waste opportunities by either giving up on a strategy too soon, or worse, investing in it for too long without even actually giving it the full treatment.

In online marketing, far too many businesses fail to focus on email subscriptions and retention before moving onto Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Quora, and whatever the next big thing is. Email is still the most reliable way to reach a repeat audience, and if you can’t get it to work, you probably won’t have much success with any of the other strategies, or their platforms that you have no control over.

If you are currently experimenting with dozens of different marketing channels, giving none of them the full treatment, I would strongly advise you to declare “marketing channel bankruptcy” on as many of these approaches as possible, and invest all of your efforts on a single channel.
Give that channel a few months of remorseless attention. Then if you can’t get it to work, move on and don’t look back.

Please understand that the most common way of doing things is rarely the best one. Whatever channel you use, learn from the outliers and the best in class brands in that medium. You need to differentiate yourself from them, of course, but they are the examples to learn from.

Don’t bother with “best practices.” Average efforts yield average results. There’s no way around it.

4. Find the One thing that Makes You Different

You know I’m not saying anything new here. All I’m saying is that you need to find your unique selling proposition, hone it, and get laser focused on it.

And yet, if you’re like most marketers, this probably isn’t where you are.

Marketing suffers from “feature creep” the same way that products do. In an attempt to grow, we try to reach a broader audience, and the inevitable result is a broader message. But this isn’t the way to grow your numbers. Apple’s over the top success, with the highest revenue per retail square foot in the nation, is not owed to trying to reach everybody. It’s about appealing to a very specific kind of person with a very specific set of skills.

And it’s not just about the product.

Marketing itself needs a unique selling proposition in the modern environment. Consumer access to marketing information is increasingly voluntary. We’re not dealing with captive audiences anymore, and that means we need consumers to choose to be marketed to.

Few modern brands embody this quite as successfully as Old Spice, with its quirky commercials that earn tens of millions of voluntary YouTube views.

More pragmatic brands have discovered the value of marketing-as-a-service campaigns. The real estate company Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward was able to survive the recession and even grow to become a leading brand by launching a high-end magazine and blog called The Completely London.

By viewing marketing as a product itself, with its own unique selling proposition, you can deliver results that would otherwise be near impossible on a limited budget.

5. Embrace the Loose Tie

The day of the full-service in-house marketing team may be nearing its end.

Online marketing is moving us away from “campaigns” and toward “experiments.” This is a very different way of looking at marketing. The one-off blog post, infographic, or video, as well as the experimental PPC ad, is nothing like the meticulously planned print or TV ad.

The thing is, experiments don’t lend themselves well to full-time staff. While there are certainly some positions that should never be outsourced, freelancers and small, specialized firms are often the better choice for these kinds of experiments.

A few examples of what I mean:

  • There’s no need to hire a full-time graphic designer when you can pay a freelancer for an infographic
  • You might get better results if you periodically commission popular bloggers to guest post on your blog than if you hired a full-time blogger
  • Unless you plan on starting a weekly or daily video blog, it’s usually going to be a better idea to commission a cinematographer than to hire one, especially for one-off projects like promotional videos or KickStarters.

In general, the more experts and authorities you work with, the more audiences you will be able to reach. When you hire or develop relationships with a wide variety of influencers, you avoid the problem of exposing yourself to the same audience over and over again. Instead, you continually reach new people, and you do it by paying a specialist to do something valuable, instead of paying a platform to display an ad.

Of course, loose ties also make you a more productive marketer and by using good project management software to manage this, you can become exceptionally good at what makes you unique. Meanwhile, you can commission specialists to do what they do best, and achieve results with fewer resources.


The productive marketing director cuts through the clutter to measure what really impacts a business. They whittle down their tasks with daily to-do lists, and they get one process up and running before they commit to new ones. Finally, they outsource to experts in order to expand their reach and specialize in their unique talents.

If you found this productivity cheat sheet useful, we’d love it if you shared it. If you have any thoughts to share, let’s hear them on Twitter @workzone.