Finding Your Marketing Focus: A Guide to Strategic Direction

Wendy Melville, Fractional B2B Marketing Director
🧠  How Wendy Melville Finds Marketing Focus And How You Can Too! Read time: 5 minutes Navigating the world of marketing requires a sharp focus. In this session, Fractional B2B Marketing Director, Wendy Melville shared the tools you need to hone in on what’s essential and steer clear of distractions. As a long-standing, highly valued […]

Table of Contents

🧠  How Wendy Melville Finds Marketing Focus And How You Can Too!

Read time: 5 minutes

Navigating the world of marketing requires a sharp focus. In this session, Fractional B2B Marketing Director, Wendy Melville shared the tools you need to hone in on what’s essential and steer clear of distractions. As a long-standing, highly valued member of the TMM community, it was absolutely lovely to watch Wendy on the TMM stage. She covered:

✖️ Good vs. bad focus – how to discern strategic paths from shiny distractions.

⏰ Keeping yourself focused – how to manage your time and priorities effectively.
🕴️ Keeping your boss focused – tips for guiding various types of bosses towards a common goal..

👓 Keeping your marketing focused – how to align your efforts with your core value and messaging for consistent success.

Read on for the key takeaways.

🤬 The F Word

Focus can be hard to find – either because you have 101 things to prioritise, or because your boss or client is constantly changing direction – it’s a big challenge for a lot of us.

In order to gain clarity and find marketing success, Wendy recommends starting with 4 key areas:

  1. Good focus vs bad focus

Ticking tasks off your to-do list can feel very satisfying, but it doesn’t always mean that you’re focused on the right things. There is such a thing as bad focus – this is where you zone in on something that is not contributing to the strategic direction the business needs to go in. To counteract this, Wendy has developed some skills and cheat codes for keeping herself and her non-marketing bosses focused on the strategy. 

She explained that it’s all about making sure your to-do list is in the right order. Being able to distinguish between good focus – the strategic kind of focus – and bad focus – shallow distractions – is vital to the success of any of your marketing efforts.

👍 Good focus

Good focus is based on data rather than your gut feeling or the latest trends. 

Ask yourself – are you focusing all your efforts on this campaign/project/launch rather than something else? 

If your answer is based on data, then you’re on the right track. Good focus has a consistent approach – it’s iteration and optimisation rather than just jumping from one thing to the next. Good focus is also realistic and based on your available resources. It’s about making sure you get the most significant potential return and impact from the time, money or talent you’re investing.

👎 Bad focus

Bad Focus is very reactive. It’s when you jump into new things without really considering how they fit into your broader strategy.

Bad focus is also usually based on isolated decisions made in silos without consideration as to how they fit into the wider strategy. It can often be based on personal preference for what you’d like to focus on. Bad focus is about the short term and it’s not sustainable. It ignores the data and worst of all, it’s swayed by the loudest voices in a room.

Four tips to help you discern strategic paths from shiny distractions

  1. Revisit your core objectives – sanity check everything you’re planning and make sure it aligns with the path you set out at the start.
  2. Use a decision framework – having a set criteria for how you look at new opportunities and where to work and what to work on can really help work out what is helpful.
  3. Set clear KPIs – this will help you to measure how effective your work is. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
  4. Have an experimental budget – yes, you want to stick to the plan but innovation is very important too, so allow a small percentage of your budget to test new ideas. This way you can test and learn and experiment with a fixed budget without significantly diverting your primary focus from your core objectives.

2. Keeping your marketing focused

Gareth Turner hosted a session earlier in the season on how to write a killer brief. In this he mentioned the red thread analogy that connects your brief to the business need and reminds you to keep the business objective and end user in mind throughout your project.

As a marketer, you’re so often pushed into focusing only on the tactics, but how often do you check back to your strategy doc or your marketing objectives to make sure that you’re still moving in the right direction? How often do you step back and make sure that red thread is still there? 

Ask yourself: does your company have that defined value proposition and core messaging doc? If you do, does it get used?  

3. Keeping your bosses focused

Wendy shared a few different types of bosses that she (and many of us) has encountered over the years:

  1. Butterfly bosses – flitting around, asking you to jump from task to task.
  2. Magpie bosses – easily distracted by new, shiny things.
  3. ‘I-used-to-do-all-the-marketing’ bosses – these are often found in small, fast-growing businesses and they often have a problem letting go of the marketing decisions.
  4. Micro-manager bosses – need to be involved with every decision.
  5. ‘Marketing-is-just-the-colouring-in-department’ bosses – these people don’t see the true strategic value that marketing brings to the business.

Learning how to say no to any of these bosses is a skill, and can feel very scary. If saying no feels too difficult at times, practice learning how not to say yes. Sometimes just saying you’ll consider their suggestion shows that you’re respecting their perspective and also gives you time to explain your reservations. 

Wendy then shared how to keep each of the above boss types focused:

  1. The Butterfly Boss
    1. Circle back to the main objectives of the strategy and the goals consistently with this boss.
    2. These bosses tend to be visually motivated so any visual tracking tools that highlight progression of projects will help keep them on track. Visual trackers are also a great way to subtly demonstrate that while new ideas are welcome, the team is already working away at great existing initiatives.
    3. Structure is essential for successful meetings with a butterfly boss. Keep your meetings specific and only have discussions about the matter in hand. 
  1. The ‘I-used-to-do-all-the-marketing’ Boss
    1. Acknowledge and collaborate with this type of boss. Recognise their experience and ask for their input at certain stages so they still feel like they’re involved but at the right time.
    2. Educate them using data and industry best practices to demonstrate why certain strategies or tactics might be more effective now. Bring them on the journey with you and explain why you’re making the decisions.
    3. Set really clear roles and responsibilities upfront. This can really help set boundaries and avoid this boss trying to get involved with everything.
  1. The Micromanager Boss
    1. You can’t over-communicate with a micromanager boss. Give them frequent updates before they ask so they feel involved.
    2. Build trust. Start with smaller tasks or projects where they already trust your judgement and gradually move them baby steps towards letting go of bigger responsibilities.
    3. Set boundaries. Respectfully communicate the negative impact that excessive oversight can have on team morale and productivity.
  2. The Magpie Boss 
    1. Before jumping onto this boss’ new shiny idea look at the cost-benefit. Provide a brief overview of the resources and time already invested in your current projects and the potential returns.
    2. Reporting is a big one for these bosses. Periodically share successes and milestones of your ongoing campaigns to reinforce the value of completing projects.
    3. Keep that test and learn focus. For a magpie boss, Wendy recommends building in a small fund so you can spend most of your resources on the primary strategy whilst having an innovation budget to allocate to new ideas when needed. 
  1. The Disrespectful Boss (aka ‘Marketing-is-just-the-colouring-in-department’ Boss)
    1. Smile and breathe. Then look at what will help keep them focused, which is continuously demonstrating the value of marketing and showing a return on investment.
    2. It’s all about tracking and measurement and being able to justify your spend, activity and the existence of your department.
    3. Educate them as to what goes into the planning and execution to help them understand the depth and breadth of what marketing entails.

4. Keeping yourself focused
How do you manage your time and your priorities effectively?

Wendy starts her week by writing a to-do list which she then applies into an Eisenhower Matrix, also known as an Urgent Important Matrix.

This can help you to prioritise your massive long to-do list by urgency and importance – weeding out the less important and less urgent tasks that you can either delegate or spend less time on. 

Her other tips include:

  • Batching tasks together
  • Using The Pomodoro Technique
  • Time blocking
  • Use tech to limit distractions
  • Keep learning
  • Protect your time