7 things that keep marketers from doing marketing

Everyone seems to think marketers spend a majority of their days pondering their next big campaigns. The truth? Marketing is hard. The life of a marketer is far from glamorous.

Marketers analyze data, conceptualize campaigns, craft copy and content, design creatives, generate reports, study the competition, and test different ideas. But a vast majority of marketers rarely find a few quiet hours to tackle their real responsibilities. Often, things pop up that derail them from being able to focus on the most fun and most impactful parts of their jobs.

The seven deadly distractions marketers face?

Burdensome meetings

At Bain & Company, Michael C. Mankins and his colleagues analyzed the Microsoft Outlook calendars of workers at a large organization to understand how employees utilized their time. From the study, the consultants “found that people there spent 300,000 hours a year just supporting the weekly executive committee meeting.”

Meetings can be an unnecessary burden for professionals. Simply scheduling and organizing them can be soul-sucking exercises. Attendance, similarly, causes a lot of issues.

“Passive meetings are also a problem, and get more problematic as you rise in seniority,” says James Rice, head of digital marketing at WikiJob. “You will be invited to meetings you can’t contribute to much, as the host of the meeting would like you to be there, either for reassurance to answer potentially tricky questions.” Sometimes, even courtesy invites do more harm than good. “Being in any meeting for an hour in which you contribute for five minutes is a huge waste of your time. Without irritating people too much, you want to foster a reputation for asking why you need to be in that meeting, and in many cases politely declining, or asking for the minutes.”

At times, marketers find themselves stuck in meetings with at least one person who is notorious for straying off-topic. For Robert Manigold of digital agency Code Koalas, one of his peeves is a meeting that “[changes] the context of a person’s focus.” Instead of tackling projects you set out to do, you spend time discussing unimportant topics and solving other people’s problems.

Constant one-off requests

Here are a few eerily familiar situations:

  • The sales team needs you to design a new deck for an urgent, upcoming client meeting. Deadline? Tomorrow morning.
  • Engineering wants updated copy for the website. They are doing a release later that evening.
  • Finance asks for receipts for purchases you made eight months ago, preferably delivered by EOD.

Marketers are constantly assigned tasks that support other departments’ initiatives. Though certain projects may take only fifteen minutes or half an hour to complete, these distractions keep marketers from doing any real marketing.

Email bombardment

Marketers spend 14 percent of their day managing email—and it is largely unproductive.

At work, Courtney Lindbeck, director of internet marketing at Venta Marketing, tends to “get distracted by the large amount of emails that come in throughout the day.” That is because clients and company management demand timely responses. “My agency has always been valued by how responsive we are to clients, but many times this ‘quick response’ approach is more so distracting than productive.”

Sometimes, simply picking up the phone saves more time than explaining things over a lengthy email thread. Manigold of Code Koalas knows how frustrating it can be when clients send “multiple emails on an issue that could be handled with a quick phone call.”

Excessive reporting

Everyone loves data, but for their campaigns, marketers are the only ones that know how to accurately analyze and report on it. “One of the areas where a marketing team needs to be firm is reporting, for the simple reason that management will often ask for more and more detail on reports, even if they never act on them,” notes Rice of WikiJob.

“If you’re spending the whole of Monday putting reports together, you’re losing 20% of your week collating insight that you probably already knew was the case. Automate reports as much as possible, streamline them as much as possible, and make the case that they should be monthly rather than weekly.” Leverage automation tools to extract the insights you need to be better at your job, impress your boss and ‘wow’ clients.

Ideas and suggestions

Whenever they come up with a new idea, your colleagues start to believe they could do your job for you. As newly minted experts in marketing, they offer their most brilliant suggestions for ways to create brand fame and fortune.

Though it is fun to entertain their ideas, many simply are not practical. Non-marketers rarely factor in budget and resource limitations when they conceive money-making schemes. After listening to their proposals, you may spend another hour dissecting why it just is not feasible.

Persistent management check-ins

Ronnie Deaver, marketing manager at ICT Asset Recovery, feels, “The most distracting thing in my day is upper management frequently asking for updates or ‘what’s new’ throughout the week. This is particularly prevalent in my company because our marketing department is so young – unlike sales, we can’t measure results in days and it makes people nervous.” Explaining what you do to your non-marketing peers gets old quick. It almost becomes a regular exercise in justifying your role and salary, which can be hard to do when you only get a few hours in the day to actually complete anything marketing-related.

Show and tell

Well-intentioned conversations about work can have unintended consequences. Pulling someone aside for a quick chat can be detrimental to their overall productivity. “I have found trouble with my boss or other co-workers wanting to ‘show me’ something or go over work,” shares Venta Marketing’s Lindbeck.

Many people find it hard to seamlessly jump from one thing to another; doing so is usually a painful context switch. “When distracted, it can take close to 20 minutes to get back on track,” adds Lindbeck. Internally, a solution Venta Marketing’s team found was “scheduling blocks of uninterrupted time followed by meetings of things we need to address that day. It helps a lot and keeps us from continually interrupting each other.”

To combat the endless distractions at work, marketers should establish guidelines and processes that allow their clients and colleagues to be heard but also enable marketers to focus for hours at a time and prioritize their primary workload. As a result, companies improve interdepartmental collaboration and produce better marketing.

Post by Danny Wong

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award winning menswear company focusing on luxury made-to-measure garments) and does marketing at Grapevine (a platform that drives eCommerce, helping retailers partner with YouTube celebrities). Tweet him @dannywong1190