It's that time of year again—when some CMOs have realized that the marketing plan they finalized at the start of the year has gone sideways. Maybe there was too much in the plan to begin with, or maybe company and market changes happened, making the plan less relevant.
It's easy to feel stressed out by plans that don't work out. Often, the source of that stress is the fear of missing out (FOMO), a condition that affects us all, even professionally.
For CMOs like me, FOMO can be related to missing out on trends, technologies, and buzzwords (what even is a "micro-moment"?) that our competitors might have mastered before we realize how our perfectly laid plans have changed. And marketing FOMO can lead to marketing overkill: doing too many things at once with the belief that going to market with "more" is better.
It isn't. Because plans always change. Always.
Taking strategic inspiration from the master of tidying up, Marie Kondo, I now focus on looking over my marketing plans and efforts with a critical eye, asking "Will this marketing effort spark results? Does it spark joy?"
Whether you're decluttering your closet or updating your marketing plan, the key is to be thoughtful and critical. To hold in your hands—or in your mind—the initiatives and activities that spark joy.
That joy might come from knowledge that the initiative is likely to deliver leads. Or it might come from a sense of adventure at taking a new risk. It might just be the chance to tackle a creative concept your team hasn't yet dreamed of.
In this article, I've outlined a way to think about your marketing plan—the Kondo way.
Step 1. Kondo says: Lay all out all your clothes on the bed
Marketing translation: Idea-purge
One of the first steps Kondo takes in decluttering a home is tackling the space where we tend to hide our excess: the closet. Most of us have trouble keeping our closets organized, and that's largely because we have too much in there to begin with. Kondo asks her followers to take everything out of the closet and place it on the bed or in the center of the room—only then can we truly see what we're up against and begin to formulate a plan to reduce the pile.
What does this closet strategy mean for your marketing planning process? Get your teams in meeting rooms and fill up the whiteboards with blue-sky thinking: different tactics, strategies, channels, and out-of-the-box thinking.
Lay out all the possibilities. Put everything on the board: even the things you know are too expensive, time-consuming, resource-intensive, etc.
Only by seeing it all in one place can you begin to sort through it all so you can focus on what's really going to be important.
Step 2. Kondo says: Pick the clothes that mean the most to you
Marketing translation: Parse down and streamline
Kondo asks her followers to look at a mountain of clothes and think of how much a person truly needs. Only when items stack up to daunting excess do people truly begin to feel the need to single out the items that meant the most to them.
A good marketing plan focuses on keeping customers, attracting new ones, and enabling sales teams. It's strategic and there's an ROI analysis that's based on objectives and figures. A tidied-up closet required, in Kondo speak, holding item of clothing in your hands and deciding if it "sparks joy."
So, to spark joy in your marketing practice, you have to consider which ideas on the table spark the most joy: the ones that are thoughtful, strategic, and data-driven. These are the initiatives that not only get you the most excited emotionally but also provide the greatest potential for ROI for the business.
Step 3. Kondo says: Fold things neatly
Marketing translation: Only fully baked initiatives
Kondo teaches us that we should take care of the items that we have (after all, they bring you joy!). So, by all means, fold your clothes; be organized and avoid disorder.
Same goes for marketing initiatives: I have rarely seen half-baked marketing initiatives make an impact—in the right way, that is. Where most marketers and companies go wrong is that they try to do all of the activations or channels at once, creating all sorts of chaos. Or, they make assumptions about data (by the way, there is a person behind every data point) and focus on the wrong audiences, missing the mark on messaging, positioning, and sales opportunities.
The thoughtful, artful folding and storing of clothes is analogous to prioritization, discipline, and focus in the execution of marketing efforts. The goal is to make sure you are actually investing the right time and resources into each campaign and tactic. Regardless of results, you need to have confidence that you actually gave it a good attempt.
You can't be or do everything
Saying "no" doesn't come easily to marketers. We can't help but want to maximize our opportunities, so we avoid saying no altogether, putting us at risk of accomplishing far less than we hope. This isn't a radical discovery about our industry, but acceptance of it does feel like one in a world where relentless multitasking is a way of life.
The pressure isn't always a self-inflicted one. CMOs are continuing to add to their collection of responsibilities, in part because of market complexity and the drive to "run lean." That may explain why CMOs' average tenure is considerably shorter than those of their CEO, CFO, and CTO counterparts. Picking up additional duties can be a deadly self-inflicted wound.
Instead of focusing on how many things need your attention, focus your attention. Prioritize your backlog based on what you know needs the most attention first, and let the other stuff go for a while. Like clothes that don't spark joy and end up in the giveaway pile, that "other stuff" just might fade away forever as marketing and business plans change.,
When you focus on the initiatives that get you excited, you can do less, and make fewer things more meaningful. When you do less, you might find you can do more.