22 ways you're making marketing difficult

Ian Lurie

A lot of Portent-ites helped me write this. They submitted their ideas. I added the attitude. So please don’t blame them if this is obnoxious. It’s allll me.

You’re too busy. Nothing works. Everything takes too long. You can’t get anything done. There are too many distractions. Your boss is a jerk with ridiculous expectations. These are the reasons you’re overworked, tired, stressed.

Excuse my phrasing, but donkey poop.

You’re making life hard on yourself, by:

  1. Logging into 5 sites every day to get your analytics data. Consider using Google Spreadsheets to pull all the data into one place. Or, hire someone on Amazon Mechanical Turk to do it for you. At a minimum, get your data e-mailed to you each day, so you don’t have to go to each site.
  2. Allowing information overload. Learn to manage and filter before you even look.
  3. Checking Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/YouTube every ten minutes so you can ‘keep up with the industry’. When I see my staff on Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever, I don’t want to stun them with my +1 Stare of Evil Bossedness, but I wonder if I should. The greatest minds in marketing aren’t Tweeting stream of consciousness. They may post every hour or so, tops. Or they write books. Try checking in every 1-2 hours, instead. Hat tip to Portent’s @Mattgratt for this one.
  4. Claiming “ADD”. When a CEO tells me “I have A.D.D.,” I want to slam my head in a metal filing cabinet. You don’t have attention deficit disorder. Very, very few people do. You’re disorganized, bored, lack a clear sense of mission or need a break. Walk away for a few minutes. Learn to manage interruptions. Grow up.
  5. Naming your files “Document”. I actually think computers should deliver electric shocks when you name a document “document”, “untitled” or “stuff.” By the way, I’d probably be dead if they did. Give your documents descriptive filenames. Consider (gasp) putting them somewhere besides your desktop. That way, when you need ‘em, you won’t spend an hour trying to find ‘em. Kudos to my lead copywriter/head of word-fu, @JaelitheMilich for raising this one without pointing directly at me.
  6. Scheduling meetings without agendas. Some believe that, when we die, we spend a long time being judged, doing penance, etc. Centuries. Millennia. We don’t need a preview at work. Schedule meetings with a clear, focused agenda. Set a hard stop time—when you reach that time, end the meeting, even if the CEO is sitting there. Don’t be scared. I’ve been fired for lots of things—being respectful of everyone’s time is not one of them.
  7. Dwelling on past failures. Yep, you really screwed the pooch when you blocked every search engine and cost us $10,000. Seriously. Lame. But it’s over now. I just invested $10,000 in your education. You’re an intelligent person—you’ve learned. Don’t let it make you hesitant/tentative later. Sure, we may taunt you occasionally, but it’s all in good fun.
  8. Getting pissed off before you know all the details. Cough. Wheeze. I would never do this myself but some people I know when I look in the mirror are awfully good at this. Getting all bunched up and angry is a huge time-waster. Doing it for no reason is even worse. And I just smashed every wall in my glass house.
  9. Not researching existing solutions. You just built an entire video hosting web site? Congratulations!!!! Now, go use YouTube, and slap yourself in the face a few times. Thanks. Great one from @ajrocks.
  10. Not asking for help/waiting too long to ask for help. Sometimes, it’s great to learn on your own. Sometimes, though, spending four hours trying to figure out why you can’t get rid of a bullet using CSS is just stupid.
  11. Using spit and baling wire as a long-term solution. YES! You just shaved 30 minutes off your time to build a form by leaving every field named “field_1”, writing to a text file instead of a database and skipping form validation. NO! You’ll now spend an hour a day patching it back up when people find new ways to break your handiwork. Do it right the first time.
  12. Carving David when a washer is all you need. I know it’s beneath us to design banner ads, or write ad copy for the latest in tube socks. You can’t make it better by writing your ads in iambic pentameter. Do what needs to be done. Make it clear. Then go write the next great sonnet.
  13. Never pushing back. The client just added another 10 features. 1 day before launch. Maybe this is a good time to say ‘no?’ Sometimes that leads to an argument, or even gets you fired. There’s no way around it: You can give in, suffer, and produce a crappy product, or hold your ground, create something extraordinary and/or be a happier person. If you’re really scared, and work at an agency, get some backup: The project manager, your boss, whatever. I bet they’re on your side.
  14. Always pushing back. On the other hand, arguing for 45 minutes over a 5-minute change might not be the best use of your time. Try to keep that in mind.
  15. Never RT’ing the F’ing M. Read The Freaking Manual. If someone took the time to write down all the procedures, best practices or requirements, the least you can do is read it before you hold up the entire project waiting for Frank from Accounting to get back from vacation, because you can’t remember how to file your TPS report.
  16. Not taking notes. I have a Nerf gun on my desk. If I do a 45-minute project launch meeting and the person I’m talking to writes nothing down, my palm starts to itch. I picture them with a dart suckered to their forehead. Sometimes I resist temptation. Sometimes I don’t. You feel lucky?
  17. “Saving money.” I cry… actually, wail, when I see an employee laboring away on a computer that looks like it should be on the set of Wargames. A brand-new, speedy computer will cost me, what, $1500? A copy of MS Office, even at Microsoft’s ridiculous pricing, is another $500. So all you have to do is promise me that, in the next 2 years, those purchases will save you 20 hours, total. Don’t trip over dollar bills to pick up pennies. It make boss sad.
  18. “Saving money”, 2. On the other hand, I want to rip out my own spleen when you tell me you spent 4 hours coding a WordPress plugin because the one someone’s already built, tested and launched costs $7. Sometimes, software costs too much. If you can pay for it with lunch money, this isn’t one of those times. Make your life easier. Make me happier. Buy the plugin and bill me.
  19. Not keeping a task list. If you don’t have a list of ‘next actions’—simple, one-hour-or-less tasks that are next up on the agenda—you’re probably wasting a lot of time. Try it, just for a day. Get your to-do list in order. I’ll bet you a free book it’ll help.
  20. Reveling in chaos. Yes, your desk looks like a landfill. Yes, you have messages written on every flat surface in your office. And woo hoo for you, you’re doing 12 things at once. That doesn’t make you important. It makes you disorganized. It makes you extremely expendable. But not important.
  21. Burning the midnight oil. All the time. We all have deadlines. Sometimes I work until 1 AM. But even I, the utterly psychotic insomniac, take a break after that. If you work 18 hours days, seven days in a row, you don’t impress anyone. All folks remember is the result. Which, I’m sure, would’ve been better if you’d had eight hours’ sleep between coding jags.
  22. Not taking a break every day. Walk out of the office for 5 minutes. It makes an amazing difference.

Also-rans from my team and my family: Not getting Ian a Kit-Kat. Involving the CEO (hmph). Asking daddy how something works. Not asking directions. Add yours below.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Not providing context! I have 8 employees, and have my head in 50 different things during the day. If you walk into my office and say “Can I ask you a question about that thing you asked me to do?” I’ll have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Give me a 5 second summary and then ask me what you need to ask.
    In the same breath, don’t do that to your clients. They too are probably working on 50 things.

  2. @Aaron So true. Also, don’t come into my office with a problem unless you have at least 2 possible solutions, no matter how outlandish.

  3. #3 is so true. There really is no need to check every 10 minutes. Unless you are moderating a very active community (I’ve moderated a community that averaged 150 forums post per hour) there isn’t a need to be on any social tools that often.
    Keeping a to do list also helps keep employees off these tools 🙂

  4. I so agree with 18 – buy the plugin. You would think nothing of dropping the $7 on an impulse snack that will be gone in 5 minutes. But investing in a $7 plugin that will yield ongoing benefits because it is software outside of scope is seen as an optional purchase.

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