Don’t Screw Up Your Deadlines
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Your marketing team is working on a new lead generation campaign, and in order to do so you need data from the sales department.
You set a deadline for when you need that information. But that end date comes and goes—and still, there’s nothing but crickets in your inbox. So, you follow up.
The sales team tells you that they couldn’t quite get to it. They assure you that it’s on their list, and they’ll send it over when they can.
Now, your team is at a standstill and you’re behind on a deliverable that you needed to accomplish—which will send a ripple effect through your entire workflow and undoubtedly end in plenty of stress and chaos.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? But, it’s also common in the marketing world.
According to our own 2016 State of Agile Marketing report, one of the biggest issues marketers face when collaborating with other departments is getting necessary information on time (with 16.7% of marketers citing that response).
Additionally, a report from The Creative Group found that painfully slow approval processes are one of the major challenges that creatives need to overcome when collaborating with other departments.
While the delay in getting the materials you need is enough to make you clench your jaw, in many ways it’s understandable.
“Each department has their own projects and processes,” explains Michelle Kubot, Marketing Director at Ambrosia Treatment Center, “It’s human nature to care more about our own priorities.”
But, as easy as it is to point the finger at other teams for their nonchalant approach to your deadlines, you have a part in this too.
How Can You Make Your Deadlines Stick?
Fortunately, there are some tactics you can implement to proactively manage that relationship and inspire the other departments within your organization to honor and respect the deadlines you set.
1. Tie Projects to Results
When you submit requests to other departments, what does that look like? We’re willing to bet you send an email that says something along the lines of:
We need you to submit last year’s sales data by this Wednesday.
There’s a lot of context missing from that request—mainly how that activity contributes to any results.
“The biggest actionable tip is to tie marketing projects and goals to real results,” shares Barry Dyke, Marketing at ServiceBridge, “If you can frame the value of these projects with a number, be it customer retention rate or potential sales value, it’s much easier to get the team to pay attention and move the project forward.”
Remember, other departments are results-oriented just like you (particularly sales departments). They all care about achieving their own goals and milestones.
With that in mind, a more effective deadline request would look like:
We need to take a look at last year’s sales data to figure out how we can be more effective at generating leads this quarter (and, in turn, help you meet your sales quota). Please have that data submitted to me by this Wednesday.
A statement like that one incentivizes the sales department. You’ve provided context and informed them of how their completion of that relatively small task will produce much larger results for the company (and them individually!). You’ve linked them to the greater goal, as opposed to pulling an arbitrary date out of thin air.
2. Provide Painfully Clear Instructions
While the blame game is tempting, you have some responsibility in this relationship as well.
Think of the last time you were given really vague, unhelpful directions. What did you do? If you’re like most people, you continued to push that project or task to the back burner. You were intimidated by the idea of getting started, so you simply didn’t start.
It’s normal—which means if you fail to provide clear instructions, other departments will respond that same way.
“Anytime you’re in a specialized role and an expert in a certain practice, you communicate things in a way that doesn’t make sense to someone without that knowledge,” shares Dyke.
He provides the example of asking a support technician to write a blog post or respond to a review. It’s easy to forget that a support technician doesn’t have the experience to do those things in the same way you do.
“It’s our job as marketers to guide these other teams through the process and give them specific directions with supporting knowledge, so that they can carry out these tasks,” Dyke adds.
Not sure if you’re being clear enough? Provide other departments the opportunity to ask you questions or for clarification—before you assume that they’re moving forward with that assignment. It’s a simple act that can make a world of difference.
3. Lead By Example
“Saying and doing are all too often diametrically opposed,” says David Taylor, Chief GROWer at Grow in London, “If you want other departments to honor deadlines (and anything else for that matter), you must do what you say, not just what you said you were going to do.”
This means a few different things for your team.
First and foremost, your department needs to take your own deadlines seriously. If other teams see you letting your own deadlines slide, they’ll think that they can treat them with that same lack of care.
Secondly, you need to honor the deadlines that other departments set for your team. “If people see you deliver on time every time, they are going to respect you, your work ethic, and hopefully also your deadlines,” says Kubot.
4. Communicate Constantly
Frequent communication is important—but especially when you’ve set deadlines further off in the future. It’s easy for people to get caught up in putting out fires and let those other longer-term projects slip right off the radar.
Hence the importance of constantly keeping that task top of mind. “Before, during, and after each project, communicate constantly,” says Taylor.
He advises that you should do the following during each distinct project stage:
- Before: Communicate what needs to be accomplished, the key stakeholders, and their roles and responsibilities.
- During: Resolve any misunderstandings and keep all stakeholders informed and aware of progress and roadblocks.
- After: Review achievements against your goals. What worked and what didn’t?
“Anyone who works in marketing knows timelines are ever-evolving,” says Diane Domeyer, Executive Director of The Creative Group, “Approvals can take longer than expected and unforeseen obstacles, like technical issues, can arise. Ongoing communication and empathy are key to keeping projects moving forward and on track.”
By making regular communication a priority, you ensure that the other department is consistently aware of the task, any relevant changes, and the approaching deadline—making it that much tougher for them to breeze by it without a second thought.
5. Ask Instead of Tell
Sometimes there’s no room for negotiation with a deadline—the end date is firm. But, when you have some extra breathing room? Involve that other department in the process of setting the deadline.
Instead of saying, “I need this by X date,” begin that conversation with something more collaborative, such as, “What do you think is a realistic timeline to get this done?”
“Not only does this help ensure that the deadline is realistic, but it helps other departments feel respected and a part of the project,” says Kubot, “This makes it more likely that they will reciprocate that respect by honoring the deadline. They also don’t have much ground to complain about the deadline when they’ve set it themselves.”
Moving Forward (on Schedule!)
In order for you and your team to do your job effectively, you need other departments to respect your deadlines. But, that’s often easier said than done.
There are a few different strategies you can use to get others within your organization to respect your schedule and timeline for projects, including:
- Tying projects and deadlines to results
- Providing clear instructions
- Leading by example and meeting all deadlines yourself
- Communicating constantly
- Involving other departments in the deadline-setting process
Do those things, and you’re sure to witness some improvements over time.
“Keep at it,” concludes Dyke, “You aren’t going to get other teams excited about marketing and get them to be effective in assisting you overnight. But if you keep educating, promoting, and explaining the value, it will click eventually.”