How can you make time for long term actions when the short term is all-consuming? In hard times, like now, it can feel overwhelming. I see it among the marketing managers I coach. They can see how many areas need attention, but where to focus?

If revenue is under pressure, senior people often come up with ideas for the marketing team and get frustrated when they’re not acted on.

Let’s take an example. This marketer is in a medium-sized business facing revenue pressures because of Covid. Her function is fairly new, with not much history or information for her to work with. The sales team can’t answer her questions about where customers come from, what they value, and how to find and retain them. Starting to collect data on the customer base is essential. But right now, to others in the organisation this looks like digging foundations when the roof is leaking. Senior people are saying, never mind that, do some advertising! They don’t want to hear that such spending may be futile. But no one likes a naysayer, so how to handle that? Here’s my advice.

  1. Embrace the short-term

Agree your short-term priorities, and what this means for other work. Schedule important things into Q2, Q3, Q4 … give yourself permission to park them until later.  Make sure your short-term focus is aligned with the business priorities. That way you can justify the things you are not doing – to yourself, as well as to others. If business priorities change, yours can too.

  1. Put your helpful colleagues in the customer’s shoes

Lack of revenue is your problem, not the customer’s. Use customer-centric thinking to push back gently on those colleagues who think they know what you should be doing. Encourage them to imagine how it is to be a customer right now, what that customer is thinking and feeling, and what we can do to help them to buy. Those clamouring for price cuts may be right – but are there other barriers to purchase that need to be removed as well, or first, to enable prospects to buy? Your revenue problem is best addressed by identifying and addressing customer problems and needs.

  1. Don’t take instruction – take direction

Sometimes it seems everyone’s a marketer. In response, work with them to agree the problem. Then engage them in the aspects they really know about. Find ways for them to be involved in the solution. In one case, Covid restrictions mean that a service business cannot show prospective customers around, leading to low lead conversion and a revenue shortfall. A senior person who’s demanding advertising can contribute by providing expert answers for an FAQ on the website, written or on video, to fill the gap left by being unable to meet customers in person.

  1. Think big picture even for short term tasks

This doesn’t mean things that are important for the longer term have to be neglected. It means you will address them through specific examples. Feel your social media is a mess? Focus on how it can help with the short-term revenue problem. Make it work better for today’s priorities and build on that later.

Read more: Three ways to respond to pandemic uncertainty

How much of the change that’s been forced on us by the pandemic will stick?

Thought leadership | March 2021