Are your marketing deadlines more like strong suggestions than hard and fast realities?
A missed deadline can be a travesty. It keeps coworkers waiting to finish their work and deliver the publication to subscribers, clients, and those browsing your website.
Deadlines are often fuzzy or approximate in the world of marketing. The real world won’t end if a piece of content or other marketing material doesn’t make it over the finish line on time.
However, flexible deadlines can seriously hamper marketing results. Every day a piece is delayed is another day it could be generating results.
Here are some proven ways to get your marketing team to deliver content and campaigns on time.
Fight Against Dropping Deadlines
When you’re tempted to solve deadline stress by eliminating them, don’t do it!
It never makes things better.
It simply encourages people to do less work and deliver it later. Missing one deadline will impact all the work that comes after, resulting in a deadline domino effect.
Key takeaway: If deadlines aren’t enforced, a task won’t get done. And neither will the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. Enforcing deadlines results in a more disciplined approach to developing marketing assets. When one gets done on time, it’s more likely the next one will, and so will the next.
Make it clear which assignments are time-sensitive and which are not. For example, an article for your blog that publishes — and is visited by readers — daily is urgent. An e-book experiment that may generate leads is important but not as urgent.
Note the difference: Urgent versus important.
People naturally focus on what must get done. They set aside important but not-so-timely tasks for later. Oftentimes that later never comes.
Change that dynamic by requiring marketers and creative people to set aside a block of time daily to work on “important” yet not “urgent” tasks. This simple mandate forces workers to concentrate their “urgent” work into a time block, usually early in the day, and provides time, typically later on, to take on “important” projects. Because important projects are generally more fun, innovative, and inventive, marketers will speed the completion of their deadline-driven projects into the allocated time to get to work on the “fun stuff.”
It’s a win-win because everything gets done on time, and everyone enjoys doing it.
Key takeaway: Set work priorities and define the time people should allocate to finish them. It will change your team dynamic. People will complete urgent work on time and also get to the less urgent stuff.
Friendly Check-ins Get the Job Done
Setting deadlines can be stressful. But establishing consultative check-ins is supportive.
Schedule regular meetings with the people on your marketing team. Make the tone of the sessions positive and proactive. Encourage dialogue around what’s been accomplished. Offer advice and counsel on how to break through barriers.
It’s a friendly way to keep projects on track that goes beyond mere calendar watching. It rewards accomplishment and offers encouragement. In the end, it may even lead to better quality work.
Key takeaway: Scheduling can be managed with a whip or a carrot. In this case, the carrot will be more effective.
Get Management Buy-In
You can only achieve deadline success if top-level leadership is behind it. Leaders need to explain the value to the organization of meeting — or exceeding — deadlines. They can explain the impact on bottom-line results and maybe even incentivize timely delivery.
Key takeaway: Company leaders must be able to explain the “why” behind marketing deadlines and put their power behind incentivizing meeting them and not penalizing failing to.
Make It Hard - But Not Impossible - to Get a Deadline Extension
Even under the best circumstances, not every marketer can meet every single deadline. Stuff happens, and things take more time than expected. When delays occur, a marketer should be able to ask for (but not automatically get) an extension.
It’s essential to make people request more time for a project in writing. People take these types of requests seriously because they’re concerned about what their manager will think about them. It could make them look incompetent or communicate that they’re a poor time manager. The request process helps ensure an extension is for justifiable reasons because they will have to be documented.
Examples of good reasons to extend project timing include:
Interview subjects couldn’t be booked as expected.
An agency was understaffed due to the flu or COVID outbreak and couldn’t complete design work.
The project's scope unexpectedly expanded because ways were found to make it better and more engaging to consumers.
A formalized request process will help ensure deadline extensions aren’t being granted just because “I couldn’t get it done.”
Key Takeaway: You can extend deadlines for justifiable reasons and prevent extension requests for bad ones if you implement a written deadline change process.
In the end, deadlines done right can make your marketing team more effective and help you get additional projects done. Follow the steps outlined above, and your marketers will be firing on all cylinders.