Do you work in a fast-paced environment? Does every marketing project or task seem urgent? Are your sales teams/clients pushing you to go live ASAP? Dealing with conflicting priorities? Feeling like you are making mistakes in your haste to get things out the door? Republishing marketing materials because of those mistakes?

This probably sounds familiar to those in marketing, both brand and agency sides. While some industries are certainly more fast-paced than others, no vertical escapes the push of launching marketing campaigns and initiatives as quickly as possible. Surrounding that push to go live is often the feeling that there isn’t time to stop, consider and then plan and lastly do. How could you take a step back and reassess when there is a deadline fast approaching?

While leading a small team that developed and executed over 120 annual projects from content creation to marketing communications for several B2B and B2C teams, my team repeatedly heard me say, “Let’s take a step back.” It became a mantra of sorts. A part of this team had been sitting in the sales team until a new team was structured under the marketing department and my guidance. In that prior environment most projects were urgent and the team members felt the pressure to "do".

Common errors occur in an ‘it’s all urgent environment.’ Simpler errors could include spelling and punctuation to being incomplete or poorly designed. More fundamental errors could include: having no strategy to being off strategy; no research or test and learn plan; and lack of positioning and/or unique selling proposition. Quite often I also saw a lack of focus.

The first step was to start with better inputs. It was a “Stop. Think. Plan.” strategy that the team adopted. This meant a marketing brief complete with inputs from the sales team. We didn’t start development until we had met the requirements. Milestones were created. 

Changes in direction still occur, even with the best plan in place. It was at these changes that I would ask the team to ‘take a step back' and reassess. Typical questions included:
• Is this truly urgent?
• Is this change mandatory or a nice to have?
• Will this impact strategy?
• Is this a change in offer or product?
• Is this a change in target audience?
• How does this impact the USP (unique selling proposition)?
• Will this significantly improve perceived benefits, customer perception or quality of end product?
• Will this impact go live date?
• Will this impact budget?

The answers to those questions indicated how to move forward. The team’s ability to effectively communicate the impact of this change in direction was essential in managing the sales teams’ and department expectations. My team was evaluated on strategy, time and budget. Those three metrics helped guide conversations and align the various stakeholders. My team had a score of over 95% for delivery on those three metrics. I’m confident the "Stop.Think.Plan" strategy and frequent reassessments helped with our success. This strategy didn’t negatively affect our ability to launch on time with high-quality and compelling work.


Photo: Amy Mikel, Chicago, June 2016.