Checklist Marketing

Marketers today are busier than ever. Add to this the fact that budgets are lean, making the prospect of more help seem like a distant dream. It’s no surprise that during our Social Strategy Boot Camps, I’m often asked, “What if we can only do one thing with social media?” Recently an attendee had a variation on this frequently asked question, “We have a very limited amount of time. How should we spend it?”

In considering the answer, it made me think about how we spend time as marketers. We live in a culture that tends to promote and reward a lack of focus. We often mistake more marketing for more effective marketing. We chase shiny new things — new social networks and new tactics — to ensure that we are doing it all regardless of the quality of the results.

While it’s good to be forward thinking and keep track of what’s next, this can encourage “checklist marketing” where you execute as many marketing efforts as you can as though you were crossing items off of a checklist. Beyond the fact that these efforts are often executed marginally, the bigger challenge is that they lack focus and tight alignment with what matters most for your business.

So, What Should You Do?

As a University educator, I often see students struggle with checklists or angst around “doing it all.” I usually advise them to be pare back some of their pursuits and instead do one thing with razor sharp focus as opposed to doing too many things marginally.

This same advise applies to marketers looking to build better brands online. Instead of making sure you’ve planted your brand’s flag on Pinterest and that you’re using Instagram video and Vine, take a step back and consider your own brand promisewhat your brand does for whom. With this business-focused objective in mind, list out different social media strategies you can use to achieve this. From here, select the option that best achieves your brand promise.

For some, this may be being brave enough to eschew social networks in favor of creating useful content on a blog. Or it may be using Twitter to share helpful tips and rounding up the news from your industry. There’s no right or wrong answer here as what you do is being driven by what moves the needle for your business. Not the business you just read about in Fast Company.

How Should You Do It?

Regardless of the strategy you arrive at, flesh out your plan completely. This doesn’t mean getting lost in planning to plan. Rather, sketch out your objective, your strategy, your tactics, what you’ll measure, and how you’ll work on getting this done.

Again, don’t overcomplicate this. Unless your plan is extremely complex (another warning sign you might be heading down a rocky path) you should be able to fit this quick action plan into a concise one pager.

With this plan in your back pocket, switch gears and focus on that flawless execution. If you’re truly time limited make your “one social thing” as much of a routine as possible. Standardize the time and the team inputs you need to make this happen. Plan the work and work the plan. Content may be king but consistency is key.

Should You Keep Doing It?

Once you’ve “rinsed, lathered, and repeated” a few times, how do you know if your one thing is even the right thing?

While you may have boiled your social efforts down to one razor sharp tactic, you didn’t do this willy nilly. Instead, we chose our one thing based on a unique business need. Instead of staring into the cornucopia of available engagement data (likes, followers, shares, etc.) you can look at the metrics that matter and measure them.

For example, if you own a local paint store, you may want to inspire people to take action with room makeovers. To accomplish this, you created Pinterest boards showcasing bold new colors and themes with a link to a contact form on your site for a free consultation with one of your in-store experts. This should have driven an increase in both online engagement and offline appointments.

Avoid Checklist Marketing by Making Choices

At the end of the day, checklist marketing and “doing it all” are a direct result of not making choices. This seems like a no-brainer but forgetting to do this lays a foundation for marginal efforts with an unclear ROI because they aren’t based on a tangible result aligned with your business.

As my friend Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Director at Monetate, says, “There’s no single formula that works for everyone.” Instead of checking everything off of the list, you need to implement and iterate until you find what works best for your business. (For those in Boston for the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in a few weeks, Rob and I will be speaking on this very topic).

Don’t worry about not having a presence on the shiny new thing just so you can cross it off of your checklist. Ultimately, it’s your business and your marketing. Don’t be afraid to make choices.

Photo via Flickr user kkirugi