Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar, an American author, salesman, and motivational speaker born in 1926, once said, "You can't be too busy chopping wood to sharpen the ax."

Important advice for marketers.

It's so easy to get caught up in the vortex of daily activities: the website updates, the email campaign that needs to be developed, the tradeshow or event that requires attention, the constant care and feeding of various social media platforms, and the new product launch plan, not to mention efforts to improve search engine optimization, monthly tracking, and, well, the list goes on.

Despite your best efforts, the to-do list never seems to dwindle. But that mindset keeps you focused on chopping the wood when, as Zig suggests, the chopping would be so much easier if the ax were sharper. The amount of "wood" collected would then depend on the quality of the ax, not the number of swings.

Value creators who understand and apply this principle are able to improve and prove the value of their marketing efforts. And they take the following steps.

1. Focus on impact vs. activity

You will never have enough time or resources to do it all. Home in on those efforts where you will have the greatest impact. Not sure which ones have the greatest impact? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Which business outcome does this activity support?
  • Do you know how this activity is expected to move the needle for the business outcome?
  • How will you know whether the activity had the desired impact?

If you don't know the answers to those three questions, stop chopping.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM