While we are enjoying a blissfully mild Minnesota winter, there’s always a certain amount of seasonal weather-proofing. One of my least favorite chores is sealing up the drafty window in our kitchen, a project that involves about 20 feet of rope caulk, sheets of see-through plastic, a stepladder, several awkward angles and just a few four-letter words. I’ve done this every year since we bought our house in 1999.

This December, it suddenly it dawned on me, wedged precariously into the sink and behind the light fixture: we could replace our 60-year old window with something better fitting and more energy efficient.

We could eliminate the tedious workaround and solve the problem once and for all.

But we’ve always done it this way …

It’s no surprise that it took me twelve years to reach my a-ha moment. Going about our day-to-day tasks, we focus on checking off items on the To Do list, not analyzing whether the way we accomplish completion is the most efficient or effective. We fall into the trap of “because we’ve always done it this way” and simply stop seeing the issues—or the possibilities.

Every marketing department has more on the wish list than resources allow. Identifying and reducing your workarounds is one of the best ways to work smarter and improve capacity.

Find your MacGyver opportunities

Start your marketing overhaul by recognizing your MacGuyver opportunities—those operations held together with chewing gum, old gym socks and good karma. Where do systems lack integration? How often are you re-entering data? Which tasks take seven steps when three should do?

Use these three criteria to address your top issues:

If it’s broke, fix it. Find the tradeshow fixture held together with duct tape. The graphic design software three versions out of date. The database server that can’t process today’s query load without a reboot each morning. Document the problem, repair or replace what’s inexpensive and make sure large-ticket items make it into the next round of budget allocations.

If it’s out of synch, re-engineer it. Consider the monthly lead report that requires consolidating data from four different systems. The contact lists that need line-by-line updating before each mailing. The campaign budget tracked in three separate Word documents.

Diagram your processes, then count the touchpoints and see where a new template, an automated system or an upfront commitment from stakeholders can reduce time and interactions. Examine the tools in use—often workarounds occur simply because a task is “force fitted” to an application not designed for that use. Invest in staff training, research the right software for the job or hire a temp or consultant to automate the process correctly.

If it’s time-consuming, re-assign it. Evaluate whether learning HTML or Adobe Illustrator to update the website once a month makes sense. The monthly newsletter copywriting. The collating of literature for tradeshows and sales fulfillment. Be honest about your own strengths and skills, and don’t assume a hands-on approach is always best. Find specialists or outside firms who can complete specific tasks quickly and accurately, and free the in-house team for other activities.

Getting those “new windows” installed will brighten the marketing outlook, add bandwidth and create a solid foundation for growth. Challenge frontline staff to re-envision their typical workflows, and research the web for best practices and new solutions.

If you’re still struggling to see where workarounds occur, ask a colleague to shadow you for a day. Fresh eyes will provide a new perspective.

 

This post comes from our Winter 2012 B2B Marketing Newsletter. Subscribe today.