Getting wrapped up in the go, go, go mentality of marketing is a slippery slope. Marketing budgets have been under fire for the last several years, so teams are doing their best to make the most of what they have. It’s easy to get hung up on the minor details of a project or, worse, overlook them altogether when resources are limited.
Too often, B2B marketing projects are derailed by sloppy project execution, ineffective resource allocation, and miscommunication. How can marketers balance the demands of their profession with the quality of execution that will set their campaigns apart from the competition?
The Secret Sauce: Center Your Why + Enter Your Flow State
Here at Digital Meaning, we’ve cracked the code on how to keep projects on time, on message, and on budget. We believe it all comes down to centering our “why” and entering our “flow state” to move work forward.
Keeping our why—the reason we’re doing the work—at the forefront of every project is crucial. Meanwhile, achieving a flow state of momentum allows us to stay in tune with top-level goals without missing the essential details that drive results. Think of this approach as a ‘method to the madness’—a blueprint for your team to achieve repeated campaign success.
Let’s dive into the practical steps you can take.
1. Start with Why
It may be a cliche at this point, but that’s because Simon Sinek is on to something crucial: start with your why. Step back and determine the real business challenge your team wants to solve—define why you’re doing this project in the first place.
You may feel pressure to “do SEO” or “invest in social” because that’s what other companies are doing. Or you may be responding to business requests, like publishing a series of go to market deliverables to announce a new product feature to promote an upsell opportunity. But these are tactics, not meaningful strategies driven by a powerful why.
Slow down, think methodically, and develop research-driven steps to take to accomplish your goals. This will help you develop an actionable plan—or what we call a B2B marketing playbook—that you can execute on your own or outsource if you choose.
Your B2B marketing playbook should also include the insights and guidance your team needs to stay aligned on and meaningfully navigate the real challenge you’re addressing.
It also helps keep the end goal in mind—knowing where you want to go will get you there. Questions to answer at this stage include:
- Why are we doing this work?
- Why are we experiencing this challenge, and what’s the real challenge we are trying to solve?
- What are the key business considerations?
Take some time to get curious about your audience and competitive landscape. Who are you talking to? What are their questions, concerns, and needs? What is their product/solution awareness level?
2. Set Achievable, Detailed Tasks for Completion
Once you have articulated your why and painted the full picture of what you want to accomplish, you’ll be able to clearly define the project’s scope and break it down into achievable tasks. It is this sharp attention to the essential details of each task that have a tremendous effect on the outcome and results—and the first step to unlocking a flow state of work.
When starting an initiative, ask the following project-defining questions to get the scope of what a completed task list will look like:
- What should your audience take away from this?
- How will you make your content useful, urgent, ultra-specific, and unique?
- What media type will be the best fit for this message?
- How will the content be made?
- Who’s responsible for each step?
- What are the specifications and elements to include?
- What happens after it goes live?
- How will you measure success?
- How will you know when execution meets strategy?
From there, go into “journalist mode” and write a thorough “story” for each task, starting with its “headline”. This is the most important step in moving from project lists to business results. Projects will often get stuck here when tasks aren’t clearly defined. But, once they are broken down in a detailed manner—boom—tasks catapult forward.
Once each task is defined, you’ll be able to determine which deep-domain expert with related specialties is perfectly suited for each task and allocate resources in the most effective way possible.
Running a project where everyone is up to speed on the expectations for each task and enlisted for their specialties allows marketing teams to avoid frustration and miscommunication while also moving projects forward more smoothly. Your flow state has started.
3. Show, Don’t Tell
Teams can be tempted to be too precious and private with their work. But we find projects move forward faster when collaboration happens earlier. Take a deep breath, swallow your creative pride, and show your work as you go.
Just go ahead and write the dirty draft. Put your ideas down. Get your first concepts out there and start a conversation. It’s much more helpful for everyone to look and react to the same artifact than to have abstract discussions where everyone is only reacting to their own imagined version of what creative work could be.
We’re not alone in this belief. Teams from Mailchimp, Shopify, AWS, and other B2B companies have joined the One Page / One Hour movement, committing to the pledge “I will spend no more than one page and one hour working on any deliverable before sharing it with my colleagues.”
This early-and-often approach to collaboration keeps your flow state moving swiftly, and avoids unnecessary rework down the road.
4. Navigate as Needed
Once your flow starts, it’s natural to want to keep the momentum going without interruption. But the truth is, unexpected information will come in that will affect the course of your project—creating what the Harvard Business Review describes as “friction-filled work.”
“Novel work is often full of friction, which inherently slows progress and can cause stress,” HBR notes. The article goes on to say, “[But] if you show up and do the work, you will make progress.”
No marketing team works in a vacuum. New findings will come to your attention, and you must be able to be flexible and absorb these new ideas while keeping work moving. That’s when “being a juggler” becomes crucial to navigating friction-filled work.
Think of a juggler who seemingly has their hands full but can incorporate a new ball (or knife, or flaming sword) into their rhythm. That’s how project managers need to respond when stakeholders throw an additional CTA, updated audience research, or a last-minute event into the mix.
Stay flexible, evaluate the new information, and adjust your understanding of how your work fits into this new context.
5. Mind the Communication Gap
While early collaboration helps everyone align, don’t let good communication get lost in the shuffle. Know the impact of words and the power of presentation, impression, and perception. This is key to staying in your flow state and keeping your project on track.
Go beyond tasks and status updates to mind the potential for communication gaps. This is the place where misalignments, miscommunications, and misinterpretations happen—especially when working across marketing and creative teams, who may not always speak the same language.
Some good communication rules to follow are:
- Be honest and direct about your progress, what your team can manage, and what areas you need support in. Don’t wait until you’re drowning to ask for help.
- Keep communication upbeat, clear, and respectful, both verbally and in writing. Even if it’s a quick email response, every interaction matters.
- Facilitate collaboration among the team. They may be shy or uncertain about collaborating with one another.
- Translate business-speak into creative-speak (and vice versa). It will open up an otherwise lacking dialogue needed to turn business goals into creative possibilities.
It’s often helpful to go back to your B2B marketing playbook and reference your why. This helps everyone align around your shared, stated goals—and when that happens, the stars align, and a glorious marketing utopia is revealed. Working harmoniously toward the same solution unites strategy and execution.
6. Follow-up with Project Progress Updates
Follow-up is a foundational component of keeping the flow state going while maintaining good communication and accountability. Status updates, check-in calls, and progress reports keep the conversation moving forward and empower everyone with the information they need to be successful based on what was discussed, negotiated, and decided.
Our most powerful protocol is a templated follow-up project progress update that records the outcomes of every meeting, every deliverable, and every decision.
Here are the five sections to include in the update:
- Refreshing on terms since the previous update.
- Aligning on deliverables.
- Recapping important takeaways from calls.
- Defining action items.
- Managing expectations for the following period.
With this approach, we have a stellar track record of staying on target with our clients. Our plans and discussions just keep moving forward, essential details are tracked, and we are always ready for the next project move (or conversation).
And, don’t just follow up. Follow through. (more on this coming soon in another post!)
7. Review, Review, Review
Even with hours of thought and work put into the perfect execution, mistakes can still happen. Pre and post-launch checks help avoid those tiny typos or bad links that are a thorn in any B2B marketer’s side. You’ll also catch those rare but crucial instances where versions weren’t saved correctly, deliverables weren’t attached, or scheduled emails didn’t go out as expected.
Going back over your work and verifying its quality keeps your team’s stress levels down and end consumer satisfaction rates high.
We also conduct internal retrospectives to figure out what worked, what challenges we faced, and how well we did at achieving our goals. Our team will discuss questions like:
- How did this communication piece or campaign perform?
- Was the timing of the delivery effective?
- Were the visuals impactful?
- Was our message impactful?
- What was the process of the first phase of the campaign that may have changed during the second?
- Did the meta details, subject line, keywords, or hashtags (depending on the medium) perform?
- Was there a good mix of impressions and engagement?
- How did content perform on each communication channel?
- What did we learn about channel algorithms, email deliverability, current trends, or the like that we can apply in the future?
Asking post-campaign questions helps you optimize for next time—and in turn, see greater results. (Or, at the very least, drive reliable and scalable results that the client can count on.)
Following these practical steps will help your team center their why and achieve a flow state of moving B2B marketing projects through completion. We’ve been crafting, testing, iterating, and improving this approach for the past twelve years while helping clients achieve their marketing goals.