The Bottom Line: Action is at the Heart of Marketing’s Productivity

In a recent article, David Dodd wrote the innovations in Marketing “have promised to improve marketing effectiveness and efficiency, and numerous research studies purport to show that they are delivering a wide range of benefits. But have these innovations really improved the bottom-line productivity of B2B marketing? Can we show – in a credible and convincing way – that B2B marketing is more financially productive today than it was 10 or 15 years ago?” He concluded that it is not. Why is that?

Marketers in general believe they are working harder than ever. They are measuring and reporting more often and with more detailed data. They have made technology and skill investments designed to make and prove that Marketing activities and programs add economic value for their organizations. I believe the lack of improvement in productivity has to do with understanding the difference between activity and action.

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Action and activity on the surface may seem the same. They are quite different. Merriam-Webster defines “activity” as: “the quality or state of being active”. Action, on the other hand, is the process of exerting a force or bringing about an effect.” Many of us are familiar with the proverb “It’s better to do something rather than nothing.” So many professionals fill up their day with activity only to land on the never-ending Marketing hamster wheel. In the business world, activity without purpose falls into the category of “busy work.” You and your team may be busy doing tasks, but without action the energy and time invested will never produce an outcome by itself. You need action.

Action is what achieves our goals; action moves something, such as your business, forward. It has direction. Action is an act that will achieve a result. Action is based on a plan. Our CMO-level customers sometimes admit their organization is so tactically oriented that there is no point in having a plan. There is a set amount of money and it is up to Marketing to invest that money and then show how those investments made a difference. Your Marketing plan guides you and your team’s daily action. Your plan is not about executing a list of programs; it’s about ensuring each Marketing action is directly related to a business outcome – every day!

When you transform your Marketing plan from a list of activities into an action-oriented blueprint you are signaling a change to leadership regarding Marketing’s role. You bring the focus to action rather than activity. This approach enables you, the Marketing leader, to determine whether (and where) a new activity needs to be plugged into the “blueprint”, and what effects it will have up and across the plan in terms of investment and metrics. Your plan serves as productivity improvement tool. Experts on the topic of productivity all recommend having and working a plan, staying focused on quantifiable outcomes, working to deadlines, and minimizing distractions (a.k.a. as activities) to drastically increase productivity. To improve Marketing’s productivity, decide to move from activity to action.

Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is the co-founder and President of VisionEdge Marketing. Laura was among the first pioneers in the area of Marketing Performance Management and is the driving force to bring science to the discipline of marketing to help clients to use data, analytics, metrics, and processes to prove and improve the value of their Marketing. She has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Elsevier, Howden, Kennametal, Safe Systems, Southwest Airlines and TUV. She is the author of the book “Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization”. Laura spent 20 years in the industry before co-founding VisionEdge Marketing in 1999.
Laura Patterson

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One comment

  • David August 18, 2017   Reply →

    The old efficiency vs effectiveness debate in a new guise? Defining an “Action” as having an outcome and contrasting this with “Activity” seems a first step but really the point is to continuously measure the EFFECTIVE actions by their outcomes and focus future activity, which is really only a group of actions after all, on being more effective.

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