“I don’t know where my day goes” said a top product marketing executive. He’s not alone. We hear this refrain many times in our client engagements. We’ve actually done time and motion studies with product marketers to help them see where their time is going and to optimize their workload. We’ve also used this to help them manage upwards. Let’s start by looking at what’s demanding the marketer’s time.

Demands on your time:

  • Sales team needing latest customer presentation, competitive intelligence or product roadmap
  • Executive needing to see your plan and metrics reporting or asking for support on a customer meeting, industry event, analyst briefing, board meeting
  • Field marketing asking for help on customer seminars and events
  • Digital demand generation team wanting more, better content and offers for campaigns
  • Product management wanting to see the full go-to-market plan for an upcoming product release
  • Social media team wanting more compelling, timely content
  • Competitive intelligence team wanting a point of view on a competitor’s announcement
  • Channel partners wanting latest collateral, tools, and enablement materials.
  • Individual contributor work writing blog posts, creating/reviewing copy in collateral

So how do the top performers deal with all these demands yet also manage upwards so that they meet or exceed expectations? Well, here are the top five proactive practices we’ve seen work well.

  1. Time and Motion Study: every day, sit down and put down a tick mark on each task you do in a simple time tracker spreadsheet. See above for example time buckets. Do that for a couple of weeks and then observe where you are spending your time. Once you have that awareness you can adjust your time allocation to better match your business priorities.
  2. Proactively manage your calendar: look out over the next two weeks on your calendar to book time with yourself. Block chunks of time with yourself to ensure you spend time on the deliverables, people, planning that would be of greatest value to your business. You may override the time slot at the last minute but at least you’re making conscious choices versus reacting to everyone else’s priorities.
  3. Break it down: break down a quarter – 13 weeks – into 2-week chunks. Think agile marketing. For each chunk ask yourself, “what is the win you want to create as a contributor or as a team”? You may be working on 4-5 things, but choose one deliverable or contribution that would be a win for you and your team. Promote the win.
  4. Horse trading: when the product market keeps a PowerPoint slide and tracker with all their current and upcoming projects as well as due dates, owners, priorities, status, and dependencies they can use it to explain their workload to others demanding attention. This allows you to “horse trade” when a new request comes in and something else must move out in time or be deprioritized. You can also use this to review your priorities in your (at least) bi-weekly 1:1 with your executive. Use it as a platform to negotiate changes.
  5. Manage expectations: educate others in the organization to avoid last second requests. Too often marketers are asked to do a full blown launch when they’re only given one month’s notice of a new product release. Work together with your partners to plan well ahead of the next product launch. Educate your internal stakeholders on what product marketing does, has done to deliver value, and why long lead times are so necessary.

Hopefully you’ve seen here a few practical tips that your fellow product marketers are doing to get ahead of the daily reactivity that so often characterizes high growth businesses. We’d love to hear from you on what you’ve found works to get proactive, get ahead of the curve, and manage upwards better.