“Hey, can you send me the latest copy of the brochure?”
“What was that thing we did last year?”
“Print up 500 cards for me, need it tomorrow.”
We dream about running marketing departments that function more like production companies, that churn out award-winning campaigns that convert and get kudos from all over the company and the industry at large.
The reality is that we spend most of our days fielding thousands of minor and pointless requests for business cards, asset updates and—most hated of all: “can you send me the latest version of X brochure?”
It’s enough to drive one to drink.
You, like other marketing managers, have become an order taker. Your activities are controlled by the needs of others. You’ve lost control of your team’s momentum and are resigned to just playing whack-a-mole with minor requests.
Corral those frivolous marketing requests and take control of your team’s project sheet. Start increasing your value to the organization by applying a few simple changes:
Set up a queue
Internal requests are like a mob of unruly children. They come from everywhere at once: email, instant messenger, over the phone and even through the grapevine (e.g. “hey, Director X told me to tell you to print up new business cards for Employee B”).
You waste so much energy trying to keep track of them all that you won’t be able to properly prioritize these requests, let alone determine if they’re actually necessary.
Establish control over how requests come in. Set up a process where people can make these minor requests. It could be an online request form, a specific email address, or a single contact person. The point is to direct all requests to that one channel so that they’re all in one place and easier to review.
And—this is the critical point—stick to the rules. If you are requiring people fill out a form to request business cards, don’t accept an email request even if it’s just “this one time.” Word will get around that the form is meaningless and people won’t follow your new system.
Open a self-serve lane
What do you think is more efficient: flagging a waiter every time a diner needs water, or leaving a pitcher and letting them serve themselves?
Your team needs to take the same approach.
Make as many tasks as self-serve as possible. For example, post assets in a single accessible location such as a shared drive or a digital asset management platform. Announce the location internally and tell people that they can pick up whatever they need from that library.
There are really advanced DAM platforms that can even templatize the production of digital assets, where a sales person can just type in customer-specific details like name or industry, and be able to publish pre-formatted brochures themselves.
Human nature being what it is, people will still ask you for stuff, but now you can point to the shared drive and say, “get it from there.”
This frees up your team for bigger and meatier projects that will be more worth their time.
Treat yourself like a customer
Don’t get so caught up in doing other people’s tasks that you forget to do your own. Your tasks should take just as much (if not more) importance over everyone else’s.
If you need to trick yourself into doing this psychologically, then fill out your own request form and put it as a ticket in your project management system.
Stick to your own established deadlines. Fight the temptation to shelve your tasks just to accommodate whoever is screaming the loudest.
If you managed to do the above two steps, then you should have enough breathing room to begin doing more of your own work.
Let me just mention that there’s nothing wrong with a department that functions as order-takers—if that’s what the team was built to do. It fulfills a strong tactical purpose, and that’s perfectly fine. On the other hand, if you’d rather have a self-motivated department that creates strategically valuable projects?
Time to set up the take-out window.