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By: Eric Hollebone on January 16th, 2018

Can’t get more marketing budget? Try bending the laws of physics.

Light blue piggy bank surrounded by coins to support marketing budgeting efforts

What if you could get the budget to hire another person on your team? Or pay enough overtime to squeeze an extra 300 hours out of every team member?

Every marketer has a wish-list of projects and initiatives they’d love to get underway if they could only secure more budget. But while bigger budgets are hard to come by, time is a more flexible resource. Albert Einstein discovered this more than a hundred years ago, but it’s taken a little longer for marketers to figure it out.

Squeezing more time out of the day may not be as sexy as squeezing more money out of the organizational budget, but it can have an incredibly powerful impact. Time-saving strategies helped me reclaim 1.7 person-years in my 17 person marketing department—time I used to launch new campaigns, increase leads, and improve ROI. And that, in turn, gave me the justification I needed to secure a bigger budget the following year.

In this three-part blog series, I’ll look at how marketing leaders can uncover the areas where lost and unproductive time is weakening their effectiveness, how they can recover that time, and how they can use those gains to demonstrate their value to the organization.

Start seeing time differently

As a marketing leader, it’s always a struggle to secure more resources for your department. Here’s the conundrum: without resources, it’s hard to achieve measurable results, but without results, it’s hard to make the case for more resources.

Without resources, it's hard to achieve measurable results, but without results, it's hard to make the case for more resources.Click To Tweet

Focusing on time lets you break this vicious cycle. Start seeing time as a resource that’s as precious and finite as your budget, but within your control. When you find ways to stretch that resource by reducing the time that’s lost to inefficiency, you have effectively increased your marketing budget by boosting your team’s productivity and output. And the next time you need to negotiate for more marketing dollars, you’ll come to the table armed with some impressive figures to prove your value.

Step out of the whirlwind

Most marketing departments function on two speeds: busy and super-busy. That whirlwind of busy-ness kicks up a lot of dust and hides a lot of unproductive, low-value activities.

The first step in the process is to step aside and examine day-to-day operations objectively:

Does your team struggle to meet deadlines?

What percentage of your deadlines are missed or need to be renegotiated? If it’s more than 10 percent, why are you and your team perpetually behind the 8 ball? Are you unrealistic about the time involved? Or are you failing to factor certain types of work into your calculations entirely? Sometimes those side-of-the-desk projects are taking up a lot more time than so-called priorities.

Where are your people spending their time?

Are they focused on creating and building programs that get customers through the door? Or are they dealing with internal, ad hoc requests for promotional materials? Marketers who analyze the breakdown of time are often amazed at the amount of time that goes towards activities that do nothing for their own department’s bottom line.

Capture the realities

Asking tough questions will start to reframe the issue, but that self-assessment needs to be confirmed through the collection of objective data.

For a period of two to three months, set yourself and your team the goal of recording the activities that fill the workday by filling out daily timesheets. This may seem like a lot of work, and it requires discipline, but the process will uncover valuable insights.

You can use spreadsheets for this process or a timesheet solution such as Clicktime or Toggl; the important thing is to set the system up to collect three categories of activity:

1. Conversation.

This category captures the time spent gathering project information and going back and forth to collect missing information, clarify details, and flesh out the creative or campaign brief.

2. Execution.

This category captures the time spent creating and deploying the creative piece or the campaign, and it includes ideating, designing, programming, refining, distributing, and launching.

3. Reporting.

This category captures the time spent analyzing and reporting on marketing activities, and it includes collecting and verifying performance data and generating or manually building reports.

To ensure your staff complete their timesheets, lead by example and keep your own timesheets up to date.

Analyze the results

This categorized timesheet data will enable you to clearly see where your staff are spending their time and identify the activities that are time-intensive and potentially inefficient. With this information in hand, you can start to look at ways to claw that time back through systematization, automation, and data integration.

From analysis to action

In this post, we showed you how to reboot your attitude towards time, track its flow, and analyze the data to diagnose the biggest time bandits draining your productivity. In the next post, we’ll look at tools and approaches you can put in place to streamline the workflow and see big gains in time savings.