I don’t know a single marketer who can’t relate to the inescapable “marketing request” that comes at the marketing team from all angles: Bosses, teammates, VP of Sales, your CRO, your CMO and – hell – even your CEO.
And we all know requests come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes we’re asked to put together full-blown briefs with every minuscule detail accounted for, while most often we get requests for smaller items like an email or a one-pager.
Other times, though, we’re given a request in the form of a statement, last minute, in a meeting - on a Friday. It might sound like the following:
- "We NEED to launch this campaign by EOM."
- "We NEED to bring more qualified accounts/leads in this quarter."
- "We NEED to start the year off right with this new initiative and I need all hands on deck."
Any of this resonating with you? I'm sure at least one of these requests sounds familiar. What I’ve found is that nearly all marketing requests are rooted in a similar equation. They revolve around a NEED someone has, which will require your TIME and always involves MONEY (in two ways: how much the request will cost and how much it can yield).
So let’s consider a common scenario. You’re in a meeting and you hear those famous words from your VP of marketing: “I have a marketing request.” Then he goes on to explain that you need to launch a brand new campaign by the end of the month. Did your stomach just churn at the thought? Oh, baby, I know mine did! But before you get overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Starting at square one doesn’t have to result in certain doom.
Here are my steps to decoding (even the most rushed) marketing request:
Decoding the NEED
Sometimes the “need” part of the request is pretty straightforward and simple. But if it’s a larger or more complex effort, the best rule of thumb is to gather as much information as you can. First, ask simply:
Does this new request take priority over the other ones I’m working on?
Once you have a sense of prioritization, you can ask subsequent questions to give you a better grip on context and timing like, “Where does this all fit into the grand scheme of what the team is already working on?” and, “Is it dire for you to launch by the end of the month?”, or even "We have XYZ also launching at EOM, which of the two takes precedence in outreach, social, and even internal resourcing?"
Depending on the responses you get, you may be able to negotiate for a later end date. No matter the task at hand, it’s almost always helpful to have as much of a time buffer as you possibly can.
Certain marketing requests (like this example of launching a full campaign within a month’s time) might seem a little out of control, but you the marketer are always able to control some portions of the outcome. And understanding this is a helpful first step in controlling expectations for your internal stakeholders.
Speaking of stakeholders...
Who's requesting this?
The person who makes the marketing request is rarely the only one involved with it. It’s up to you to find out who the main stakeholders of the project are, and who you should be working with to get it knocked out. Oftentimes, especially with rushed and frantic projects, there’s a tendency for too many people to get involved and muddy the waters, or for not enough people to volunteer to help support it. It’s best for everybody if you define who is involved from the get-go, and what part of the initiative each one owns. The more clarity and communication, the better.
What is driving the timeline?
In corporate jargon, you might hear, "we needed this yesterday.” And if you didn’t know about the request until today, it can be endlessly frustrating to hear comments like this because they’re not productive and can come across as condescending. Your best bet is to move past these sorts of distracting comments and find out what the true driver is behind the timeline.
Did we need to hit a TV spot we purchased? Are we trying to ride the coattails of an upcoming event or webinar? Do we need to hit a higher quota to pull the business out of bad times? You might find that the requestor is really just putting pressure on the team without a solid motive. If this is the case, then you can work together to nail down a more reasonable plan that meets everyone’s expectations.
Who's this campaign for?
So at this point, you know what the campaign is, who is involved, what the timing is and most of the details. But do you know WHOM it’s intended to reach? Of course, the target audience is a key part of the process. Ask if you’re using this campaign to reach a new audience or an existing one? And then bring the discussion toward KPIs, goals, or outcomes the stakeholders are looking to achieve upon the completion of this campaign.
It’s imperative that all of you agree on KPIs and goals before any work is done on the project. For example, a stakeholder might assume a new ad spot on Spotify could yield them three times in return because they are looking to attract millennials. But unless you outline the money spent and money you project it will earn, you won't have a great way of measuring whether this is a good idea or not.
And while we’re on the topic of measurement, don’t throw your best practices out the window and fail to measure progress and returns, even if it's a rushed project. When you’re having these important conversations upfront, be sure you’re defining goals in GA and monitoring progress through analytics after the project is well and kicked off.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention how budget and resources come into play…
Who's going to help you accomplish this goal?
Aside from understanding the stakeholders and reviewers on the given task, ensure you know what you can spend (in terms of time and money) and who you might be able to leverage to do so. If your company is looking to launch a new PPC campaign, for instance, you’ll need to double check that you can tap a designer, a Web developer for a custom landing page and maybe your friendly tech ops buddy to help you knock out a custom nurture program that is specific to leads coming through this campaign. If you don’t have the money to use, or can’t involve the people you need, in order to handle the effort well, you might be facing a lot of obstacles before you even get started.
But Hey, Take it All As An Opportunity
While the request might be down a windy road packed full of tight deadlines, a little chaos, and a lot of work, take it all in as a big opportunity for you to position yourself as the trusted person, to tackle any requests that come at you.
In short, not all marketing requests are created equal and the amount of variance between them can make it difficult to know how to proceed in order to be effective. But even though the scope can differ, you can bet that all marketing requests are going to center on needs, time and money. To handle them from start to finish with ease and achieve all the expected outcomes, your main job at the beginning should be to gather as much information as you can. Once you’re armed with insight into timing, stakeholders, resources, and goals, you can get down to business, yield some impressive results – and maybe even earn some well-deserved kudos along the way.