Humans – well, all living things really – are programmed to like repetition and routine. That’s why I always order chicken tikka masala, keema naan and pilau rice, why I’ve watched The Office US all the way through 7 times and why I have precisely two coffees every morning. Predictability gives us a sense of security and a sense of control.
In our work lives, routines and processes help us get the jobs we have to do everyday done faster, and with predictable quality. In marketing specifically, processes help us do what we need to do to stick to our overall plan or strategy – produce content, schedule social media posts, send emails.
But in marketing, as in life, sometimes, a break from the routine can not just be refreshing, but vital to growth and learning.
So with that in mind, here’s a bit of reflection on the importance of having processes in marketing, and when it can be useful (or even necessary) to break out of them.
Sticking to the process: Predictability
As I’ve already touched on, one of the major advantages of a repeatable process is predictability – and this is advantageous for a number of reasons.
First of all, there’s predictable quality. If a process has worked several times before, you have a good idea of what results you can expect from it. In fact, you might be able to guarantee those results. You have tested and refined the process over a significant period of time and significant number of repetitions – so you’ve ironed out the kinks, and you know you can get a desirable outcome in a predictable amount of time.
Which leads me to my second point – predictable timings. This can be very helpful if you’re an in-house marketing team with a lot of responsibilities and if you’re an agency with several clients. Knowing exactly how long things are likely to take helps you plan accordingly.
For example: you’re an agency who offers inbound marketing and marketing automation support. Your client may never have done this activity before and may not have any real insight into what will work for them. What you do have is a process – you have a set of automations, lead scoring frameworks, and funnels that have worked for other clients. So you start there, and you refine them for their organisation and their audience once you have some initial results.
Sticking to the process: Accountability
When you have a process in place, you are accountable for it, and accountable to it. No process means no accountability. If you and your team have predefined steps to follow, with each individual accountable for part or all of the process, then success is more likely. No process means unexpected results – the thing isn’t done, or it isn’t done to the expected quality, because there was no process to follow, or no one accountable for it.
Let’s look at an example – one we use quite a lot. You as a marketing team decided it would be a good idea to regularly update your company’s blog. You’ve read a bit about inbound and you want some of that action. You all agree this is a great idea. Off the back of the initial discussion, someone feels inspired, has a bit of impetus and writes a post. It’s great, you’re thrilled with it, you upload it, and pat each other on the back. Then, nothing else gets written or uploaded, and 6 months down the line you’ve got one blog post. Why did this happen? Because you didn’t align the idea with a process – planning, scheduling, writing and uploading. But also, as part of that, who’s responsible? When does it need to be done by? Making this clear as part of an individual, or agency’s responsibilities is crucial to getting it done in a repeatable fashion.
Breaking the process: Flexibility
In life, as well as marketing, sticking doggedly to a process or a routine can mean you miss out on opportunities. Breaking out of your process can expose you to a number of opportunities – both commercially, and creatively. It can help you to innovate, discover ideas you hadn’t come across before and ultimately provide more value – to your clients or your business. It can also, sometimes, help you get things done quicker.
Say you’ve got a process in place for making changes to your company’s website. You review, you propose, you get feedback, you implement, you test, you make live. It may take a couple of weeks to get it done. But what about if that’s not quick enough? What about if you want or need to test a change now to drive more leads? Then it might be time to break your process – try a sprint model instead, deploy and test in small increments, instead of doing a mass update.
Breaking the process: Innovation
As I’ve already touched on, breaking away from your usual process can help to stimulate innovation. Finding new ways to approach something you’ve done previously can you give you a unique perspective on the task or project. It can even help you to improve the process in the long term by identifying where there’s been gaps or bottlenecks previously.
Let’s say for example, you follow a particular process for generating blog title ideas. You follow a process devised by a well-known purveyor of inbound marketing (you know the one) – you consult your buyer personas, you find good keywords, you think of blog titles. Great. But what happens when that idea well has run dry? Do you keep flogging that content planning horse or do you try something else? In this case it might be helpful to source ideas from other departments, target resource pages, do some broken link building based on competitor content, or try a myriad of other tactics to create interesting and valuable content.
At Inflowing, we like to think we know when to stick to our proven processes and when to break them a little. We’re dictated and driven by customer needs – and if the customer needs us to break out from the norm, that’s what we do. Want to chat to us about a marketing challenge? Get in touch and let’s have a natter.