Marketers usually have a surplus of ideas, dreams and excitement for their marketing programs, but too often do they neglect a key part of the process — finishing the projects they’ve started.
I’ve fallen into this trap before and likely you have too, where you start that podcast or begin to publish YouTube videos and eventually your efforts trail off and these tasks go unfinished.
Usually, we can’t find the time to get it done, the project gets lost in the shuffle or another seemingly reasonable excuse pops up to block our progress.
The ability to execute a marketing campaign from start to finish in a timely manner is what distinguishes successful marketers from those less likely to achieve results.
In Jon Acuff’s new book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, he introduces a straightforward framework that can help you finish your most important marketing tasks.
Acuff is a finisher himself. He’s a New York Times bestselling author of five books and hands down one of my favorite writers and marketing minds.
Here are three takeaways from Acuff’s latest book to help more marketers finish what they’ve started.
One of the most prevalent challenges to successfully completing a marketing task is aiming for perfection.
Marketers tend to follow what their competitors are doing to reach their customers and that leads to an over prioritization of perfection.
For example, you can’t help compare your budding podcast to a competitor’s in your field.
They have a seemingly perfect podcast with beautiful graphics, engaging hosts, world-class guests, high production quality and regularly tout the vast number of downloads they have.
You’re having difficulty getting your company’s podcast any traction and when you look at the perfect podcast specimen of your competitor it actually influences you to stop working on your show prematurely.
“This is the first lie that perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn’t perfect,” says Acuff.
We tend to believe that perfect is the only standard, suggests Acuff, which leads to a sense of “what’s the use of going further” with whatever initiative you’re working on.
It feels like this is much more prevalent in marketing than other fields as the work in this industry is public facing and regularly compared and contrasted to others.
According to Fast Company, even though perfectionism is widely used to delay finishing work, research shows there is no marked difference in the way others perceive your delay.
Basically, aiming for perfection isn’t a valid excuse for failing to finish regardless if it makes us feel better or not.
Acuff suggests coming to the realization that your goals won’t be perfect and that you’ve got to develop a tolerance for imperfection.
There will be failures along the way as you navigate your campaigns, but that doesn’t mean you should stop because of a misstep or two or maybe even three.
With marketing, there will be times when it does make sense to cease a particular activity because it’s not driving the intended ROI you’re after.
But that decision should be made after you’ve completed the timeline for a campaign or if a project is clearly having a negative impact.
Stopping due to an unexpected hiccup in the process is not the same.
“The problem is that perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress,” said Acuff.
Stay focused on what you’ve accomplished, recognize that the end result won’t likely look perfect and that finished is better than stopping for the wrong reasons.
Reduce Your Goals
Maybe your goal is to drive $20,000 in revenue from YouTube this month or accumulate 200 links to your website for SEO purposes this quarter.
We tend to overreach with our goals initially making them more difficult than they need to be, which ties back to our pursuit of perfectionism as well says Acuff.
He suggests cutting your initial goals in half to make them more attainable as we typically fall prey to planning fallacy, the tendency to make plans unrealistically close to best-case scenarios.
For instance, your goal for YouTube would be reduced to driving $10,000 in revenue and your link building efforts decreased to generating 100 links per quarter.
A researcher at the University of Memphis studied the members enrolled in one of Acuff’s courses and found that “90 percent of the people that cut their goal in half said they had an increased desire to work on their goal; it encouraged them to keep going, and it motivated them to work harder because the goal seemed attainable.”
He found that people were more eager to continue forward and finish their projects when their goals became manageable and the pace was adjusted accordingly.
Yet sometimes your boss might set a work goal for you as a marketer, which might mean it’s not possible to cut it in half.
Instead, consider asking their permission to reduce the goal only slightly or extend your timeline to give yourself more bandwidth to reach the objective.
According to Acuff, another way to handle this is to set better goals from the very beginning.
Refer to data from the past to help set sensible marketing goals, while doing your best to realign expectations to ease dangerous optimism and counteract planning fallacy.
Identify the Rules, Then Break Them
“Perfectionism is a desperate attempt to live up to impossible standards,” said Acuff.
These impossible standards are secret rules or limiting beliefs we all abide by that direct our work and make it more difficult to complete the tasks we’ve committed to.
A common secret rule is that only miserable, difficult goals count says Acuff like running to lose weight because that sounds more taxing than Zumba, which you’d rather be doing.
There are lots of marketing best practices to be aware of that influence your strategy, but secret rules usually lurk below the surface and hold you back from completing your goals.
For example, as a marketer there’s an unspoken rule that you’ve got to move quickly to be on the latest channel first or immediately use the newest, shiniest marketing tactic that’s just become available.
Marketers frequently rush to get their business active on a new marketing platform at the expense of figuring out whether it’s a match or not.
It’s certainly important to continue to learn as a marketer, test new channels and opportunities and discover what’s next for your marketing programs, but with purpose behind your actions.
The prevalence of this secret rule leads marketers to spend too much time testing new options, neglecting their existing investments that have already proven to work for their organization.
This rule is widely rewarded too as there’s an obsession in the marketing community around attracting new customers and building bigger audiences over spending time paying attention to your current customers.
There should actually be a better balance of time spent on customer acquisition and customer retention to both expand a brand’s audience while fostering loyalty among existing customers.
To account for this distracting and false code of conduct, identify the specific secret rules that hold you back and clarify why they are false.
Acuff recommends asking yourself a range of questions like ‘what’s your real goal?’ and relying on someone else’s expertise to help identify the rules you shouldn’t be following.
Lastly, replace any cumbersome rules with new ones that are flexible, reasonable, healthy and truthful.
A rule to substitute the tendency of marketers to move too quickly to try new things might be to practice restraint with marketing to avoid abandoning old investments for newer, shiny ones.
To start learning how to become a finisher, check out Jon Acuff’s new book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done available now for pre-order wherever books are sold.
[As a reward for finishing this article, I’m giving away three Kindle copies of Finish! Leave a constructive comment below this article to be entered and three commenters will be randomly selected to win Jon Acuff’s new book. Comments will be counted as entries up until 12 AM ET Tuesday, September 12th, 2017. Good luck ya’ll.]