How to market efficiently

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"How do I market more efficiently?" is a common question. You've probably asked yourself that very question. No one wants to waste time, money, or effort. And nonprofits and small businesses have little to waste. Before I dive into the "how", let's discuss what efficiency is and is not.

What is efficiency?

Efficiency is accomplishing a task while using as few resources as possible. Or you can reverse it. Efficiency is getting the most productivity out of your invested resources. (That’s not the book answer, but it gets us where we need to be.)

“The most productivity” is hard to define. It could mean the most Tweets or Instagram posts published. It could be the most words written for a blog post. However, those numbers are irrelevant. You don’t win for tweeting the most. I’ll cover this better in the next section.

For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to focus on output. I’m going to focus on being frugal with your resources. That is something we can all appreciate (and probably improve upon). Waste not, want not.

What efficiency isn’t

Efficiency is completely different from effectiveness. You must not confuse them.

Some languages use a single word for both ideas. Luckily for us English speakers, we have separate words and that lets us keep the ideas separate in our head.

Effectiveness is doing the right thing. Efficiency is doing the thing without wasting resources.

Effectiveness is measured by results. Efficiency is measured by investment.

If you’re effective but inefficient, you will get results but they may have too high a cost. If you’re efficient but ineffective, you won’t get the results you want but you won’t have invested much. I guess they are related since doing the wrong thing is always a waste of resources.

The question you have to answer for yourself is…

Are you trying to be more effective or more efficient?

They both have an important role, but you must know what you’re trying to improve.

If you’re focused on your efficiency, keep reading.

What causes inefficiency?

It would be simpler to answer “what doesn’t cause inefficiency?”

Instead of chasing that never-ending list, I’m going to focus on the biggest source of inefficiency I see at nonprofits and small businesses: Amateurs.

New/green employees are amateurs. Your volunteers are amateurs. And, this is hard to say but I must, you are an amateur. You’re a pro at what you do – an expert within your expertise. But you’re not a professional marketer. You’ll never be. You’re too busy with all of your other responsibilities.

The question you really need to be answered is: How can amateurs complete their marketing tasks with limited resources? Not poetry, but it’s the real question.

Amateur marketers differ from professionals in 2 key places. The pros have better systems and processes. And the pros set more realistic standards.

Becoming more efficient: systems & processes

A professional knows what needs to be done and the order in which to execute. They have a process. The best have a defined process for everything they do.

Amateurs don’t. They wing it. They create the steps as they go. This leaves them vulnerable to problems caused by errors, missteps, and omissions.

The solution

Define your processes in full detail. You will have to invest some time on the front end, but the results are amazing.

A well-defined process

  • will give you consistent results
  • can be tested and refined to create a more efficient and more effective process
  • can be given to an amateur (or subcontractor) to execute

For more information on this, read Work the System. It is a very actionable book focused on this idea.

Becoming more efficient: goals & standards

This article is already too long. I’m going to fly through 3 issues and get right into the solution. If you want me to dig into this topic more, email me.

  1. There’s a famous quote about this from Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. Ira says that, as a beginner, your skills don’t match your taste. In other words, you simply aren’t good enough to do what you want in a timely manner – not yet.
  2. On top of that, reality is rarely as amazing as the vision in your head. Professionals aren’t just better at execution. They’re better at tempering their expectations. You may be chasing the impossible.
  3. Your standards are too high in general (or focused on the wrong metrics). You’re trying to be perfect and that’s rarely needed.

The solution

When you set your goals, ask yourself “What is good enough?” Perfection for the sake of perfection is silly. You aren’t been evaluated on how well you “do marketing”. You’re trying to accomplish something. What does it take to do that?

There are many ways to approach this idea. Here are my 2 favorites.

  1. 80/20: Ever hear of the Pareto Principle? Applied to efficiency, the idea is that the 1st 20% of your effort will get you 80% of your results. Completing the final 20% will take the remaining 80% of your effort. Is it always worth it? Would you rather have 1 task completed to 100% or 5 projects completed to 80%? There’s a place for both.
  2. Minimum effective dose: What is the least you can do and get the results you want? Do you need to do more than that? What’s the benefit of doing more? Is there a benefit to doing more or are you wasting resources?

No one wants to be the person who only does the minimum. No one loves “80% projects”. But we’re talking about efficiency. We’re trying to squeeze everything we can out of our available resources.

If a task is 88.2% done and getting you the results you wanted, getting the project to 100% may be a waste of resources. Perfect is the enemy of done.

Your homework

I hope you don’t feel betrayed that I didn’t talk about specific marketing tactics. Those are tactical decisions that only you can make.

These are strategic solutions. Using the Pareto Principle can drastically boost your output. Creating processes lets you delegate tasks. That lets you focus on tasks only you can do instead tasks only you know how to do.

I want you to read (or listen to) Work the System. The previous link is to the hardcover on Amazon. This link is to the free ebook and audiobook. There’s a big red button in the middle of their page for you to click.

And here are some questions you should spend a little time every week answering:

  • Where can I lower my standards – just a little – to raise both efficiency and authenticity?
  • Where am I chasing perfection? Is it worth it?
  • What task have I repeated this week? Is it documented?
  • What tasks am I doing because no one else knows how?

Work the System. Pareto Principle. Minimum Effective Dose.

Keep those things in mind. Get out of your own way. That’s how you can become more efficient at marketing and everything else.

Featured image by Glenn Carstens-Peters

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