Reducing the stress factor

StressWhether you’re successfully part of an internal marketing team, at an agency or even a business owner – you’ve got a skill that you probably take for granted. You’re a master juggler. You can’t execute successful marketing today without that ability. You’re used to having lots of balls in the air and even if you can’t always see each one, you’ve been doing it long enough that you’re confident that you’ll be able to catch them all. No stress for you.  It’s all just part of the day-to-day.

But here’s the part that we often forget. What we take for granted freaks our internal or external clients out.  That’s why they’re micromanaging you, asking you for updates all the time and making it harder for you to do your work.

Guess what – that’s on you. Their reaction and concern is natural and fair. It’s our job to keep them in the loop by over communicating so they can take a deep breath and be comfortable. It’s also good for you because when you reduce their stress, they’ll give you a little more breathing room.

Here are some tools you can use to keep everyone in the loop throughout the life of your work.

Project timeline: Marketing often looks simpler than it truly is. It’s a little like the duck swimming on the placid lake.  At first glance, the duck looks like he’s serenely floating on the water. But as we all know, under the surface, he’s paddling like crazy.

That’s why an initial project timeline can be a lifesaver.  But setting and correcting initial expectations right up front, you save yourself a significant amount of trouble down the road. It’s much easier before a project ever starts to help a client understand that the website will take ten weeks rather than three weeks in, they suddenly share that they need it next week for a trade show.

Real-time budget: On larger projects that are going to stretch out over months, it’s a good idea to establish a preliminary budget with the caveat that it’s based on what we know today. Then, keep that budget updated real-time. It’s a bit of overkill to do it every day, but once a week should help everyone feel very connected to the project and reassured that it’s going according to plan.

The other advantage of this is that it forces you to identify trouble when it’s still small enough to deal with. So it’s a bit of a CYA move as well.

Weekly status reports: This is a simple Excel spreadsheet that lists all of the projects you’re working on (if you serve more than one department or client, have a separate document for each audience) and tracks progress.

To make this manageable, keep it simple.  Include the project name, the ultimate due date, the stage of progress it’s in right now, next steps and who is responsible for that next step.  If you share it with everyone (marketing team, other players in the mix, client, etc.) on Thursday mid afternoon, it gives everyone a chance to wrap some things up on the next day so you start the following week on time and on target.

The bonus feature of this report is that it serves as a gentle nudge. Let’s face it – it’s often the client (internal or external) that is holding something up. But they’re also the client so you can’t get on them like you do your internal team. So this is a bit more client friendly but still gives them a good poke.

None of this is rocket science but I often discover that because we take our ability for granted, we forget that our clients don’t.  Implementing these tools will reduce their stress and it helps keep you on track as well which ultimately allows you to do better marketing.