Part 2: Man-Hour Marketing Math And Why You Are Failing

One of the challenges I see across companies of all sizes trying to achieve online marketing success is the big gap between what an organization would like to do versus what it really takes to successfully implement digital marketing activities. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but I think one of the biggest culprits leading to a lack of success is a resourcing challenge related to the man-hour marketing math gap.

In Part 1 of Man-Hour Marketing Math, we covered why it is critical that you optimize the full scope of your marketing activities INCLUDING the front end.   In Part 2 (this post) we will examine some of the underlying reasons that cause this gap to exist.  Bottom line… stop making excuses and start implementing, but here are some of the common reasons I’ve seen as to why measurement on this topic has challenges.

A Few Man-Hour Marketing Math Reasons You Are Note Seeing Online Marketing Success

People lie about how long things take.  I see this all the time and if I’m going to be truthful, I do this more often than I’d care to admit.  The reasons vary but the net impact is the same.  Here are a couple variants on the “how long to complete” challenge that I’ve seen:

  •  Irrational exuberance when going for the win and closing on new business.  This one can be particularly brutal if you are an agency as suddenly you can find yourself deep into a project and realize you are totally upside down!
  • Telling the boss what you think they want to hear at the time.  I get it – we all want to deliver  online marketing success to our organizations but I can assure you, your boss does not want you to lie to them.
  • Unreasonable expectations on the team.  Time is money and of course, the goal is to “spend” less time… but is the correct way to achieve outcomes?
  • The eternal optimist – it is great to believe in oneself and the team you are with, but that is not a substitute for reality.
  • Overconfidence… Of course we’re all better than our competitors, or possibly even the expert firm that just gave you what you think is a very high quote (despite the fact that they are an expert in a particular activity which is why you reached out to them in the first place) and naturally you think you can do this better and cheaper than they can.
  • We can wing it. You can’t.  Please don’t pretend that you can.  And why would you want to anyway?
  • The rose colored glasses approach where you pretend yourself into being successful without really considering reality.  This one is a great one because it allows you to experience all your pain only at the very end.  This is a particularly great tactic that works particularly well with the ole “pass the buck” maneuver whereby it is never your fault (unless of course, it works out, in which case it is entirely your doing…)
  • It looked so easy in the webinar I just saw… And yes, we’ve all been there.
  • The gap between the white board and execution is always bigger than organizations realize.  This is an offshoot of the webinar example.  If you are going to run through a white boarding exercise do yourself a big favor before you green light your project and make sure you’ve done your homework.  Just because something is up on a whiteboard does not automatically mean it will be a success!

In addition to challenges around being upfront about how long things take (man-hour math) to realize online marketing success, perhaps even more fatal is jumping into something before knowing how long things actually take.  A few takes on this one…

  • Lack of research – make sure to scope what is required and how long will it take. Going back to the webinar… Don’t get so excited about the amazing outcomes you are going to deliver that you don’t take the time to truly research what it will take to deliver those outcomes.
  • Not sweating the details!  Without proper scoping often times there will be additional marketing activities that emerge as dependencies prohibiting you from completing the initial task.  Want to implement a conversion rate optimization program? Not so fast… turns out you’ll also need to be ready with enough copywriting and/or design resources for example, and both of these activities are very labor intense on top of the CRO project you just implemented and are totally upside down on.
  • Scope creep.  The difference between online marketing success and online marketing spaghetti can at times be frustratingly small.  One script not firing correctly and you have a mess on your hands.  Suddenly you are in the weeds and you’ve forgotten which way is north, and then a few follow-on projects emerge that inadvertently divert you from you initial objective.  With digital, this is a particularly acute issue.  And you can now totally forget about that timeline you worked up a few weeks back…
  • Internal resources can also be a challenge.
    • SMB: I’ve seen many SMBs fall into the trap of assuming that a digital marketing task might require 60 hours, but the truth is those would be 60 continuous hours and in many SMB’s employees wear multiple hats and are expected to deliver outcomes across multiple activities, and further those 60 hours are when you actually know how to do the activity at scale (i.e. you do the particular digital marketing activity professionally).
    • Sole Proprietor: If you are a solo-prenuer this can be an even bigger challenge as the constant stream of competing priorities is relentless.
    • Enterprise: Enterprise sized organizations are not immune to resourcing challenges; perhaps there are more available but often times given the complexity of the challenge there might not be enough experience on a topic which in turn will greatly increase the number of man-hours required for learning, implementation, and optimization all need to be factored in.
  • Go back to start!  This one can be particularly brutal, but this is a constant reality.  Introducing any new online marketing activity is fraught with risk and often times the first attempt out of the gate doesn’t get it right. So what happens is you need to start over again, re-track your initial steps, figure out where you went wrong and then start over.  If your run enough projects the law of averages says this will happen at some point.
  • You are not time tracking so the truth is you really have no idea what you and your team are able to deliver and at what pace.  This is an inexecusable shortcoming and yet I am constantly amazed at how few teams actively do this!
  • We’re already optimizing on outcomes.  Yep – this is great. Congratulations for doing this (you are likely already ahead of your competitors!) but just because you are optimizing the tail doesn’t excuse not implementing some man-hour marketing math best practices to also optimize the head and ultimately to bring your team up to full ninja level!

The last factor I’d like to explore related to man-hour math and successful online marketing is to look at the organization. With some organizations, this is not as big an issue, but more often than not the pressure to deliver seems to overshadow the reality of what it will take to deliver.  A few big areas that lead to a huge man-hour marketing math gap include the following:

  • Target only marketing.  The year starts and you have a target.  How you get there is your problem.  Sometimes this works as necessity can facilitate outcomes.  But other times this causes the team to lose sight of the journey, and when you get into more complex projects, planning becomes more and more critical to success.
  • Too much noise.  There is a certain reality to this – noise is unavoidable no matter what size the company.  But what is important is that you give yourself permission to step above the noise, to be thoughtful and to make very conscious decisions that you will then fully support to a good conclusion.  If you take on too many projects suddenly the man-hour math no longer works.
  • Poor man-hour math culture.  This one is fatal on so many fronts, but in this context, I’m referring specifically to man-hour marketing math culture.  If your organization is not time tracking and project planning, then there is no way to objectively measure how long things take and for that matter the true ROI of your online marketing initiatives.

No More Excuses – Time to Start Down A Man-Hour Marketing Math Path

So there you have it.  Take stock of the above and if you are already not implementing a solid man-hour marketing math process use the above as a sort of “no more excuses” list to get your team started.  The pressure to deliver marketing outcomes will only increase and your ability as a top-shelf marketer will increasingly come back to the ROI you (and your team) can deliver to your organization.  If you don’t have a firm grip on the resources required there is no way you’ll ever be able to fully answer this question – and perhaps even more critical there is no way you’ll be able to successfully chart your path forward in any meaningful kind of way.

And now that you are ready to get started, please be sure to go back to read Man-Hour Marketing Math to get some ideas on how to get started.

Image Credits: 

Peter Drucker Photo By Jeff McNeill – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffmcneill/5789354451/in/photostream/CC BY-SA 2.0Link

Background vector created by Eightonesix – Freepik.com

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David Gadarian
With deep expertise in both digital strategy, and the "online narrative" David has helped businesses of all sizes to better define and to further expand their digital footprint. Prior to entering the world of 2.0, David spent 15 years living in working in Los Angeles as a television producer where he set up projects at networks including CBS, NBC, FX, TNT, Showtime and Comedy Central.

David is currently employed at Dassault Systèmes as the Digital & Social Media Sr. Marketing Manager for North America. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are in no way affiliated with Dassault Systèmes, but rather reflect the personal views of David.
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