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There is no doubt that marketing is complex – and is becoming more so as the state-of-the-art advances. Particularly in law firms, marketing complexity is driven by a growing number of channels – events, web, social media, email, SEO and PPC advertising — each requiring different strategies, content formats, analytics tools, data models, attribution approaches, and integrations. The rapid evolution of digital technology demands constant learning and adaptation, as well as choosing the right platforms and keeping them up to date. And the organizational structures of law firms – especially those with multiple practices, policies, markets, and growth plans – only exacerbates the challenge.     

In our day-to-day work, the inherent complexity of marketing results in more tools, more meetings, more stakeholders, more reports, more PowerPoints, more metrics… the list goes on. And as complexity proliferates, it becomes harder to get things done and demonstrate results. 

We Do It to Ourselves

From experience, we all know this to be true. But what if I told you that a considerable portion of the complexity we face as marketers is not inherent, but self-generated?  

In his book Simply Effective, consultant Ron Ashkenas enumerates the many ways that organizations impose unnecessary complexity on their people and clients. For example… 

  • Convoluted business processes that involve excessive steps or approvals make tasks more difficult and time-consuming than necessary. 
  • Failure to streamline or update process steps over time leads to outdated and inefficient work methods. 
  • Excessive layers of hierarchy, rigid rules, and bureaucracy can slow down decision-making and stifle innovation. 
  • Ineffective communication methods or lack of clarity in instructions can lead to misunderstandings and inefficiencies. 
  • Using too many disparate tools or systems that do not integrate well can create confusion, require excessive training, and hinder productivity. 
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities can lead to confusion and inefficiencies, as internal stakeholders may not know whom to approach for different issues. 

From the above list, it is clear that complexity has real costs. Sometimes these costs are justified – for example, a rigorous information security protocol is essential to prevent malicious actors from crashing core systems. But more often, complexity is self-imposed – for example, when a well-meaning manager introduces new rules or policies to solve a particular problem, without considering whether the complexity is justified by the benefits it provides. 

One of our most important roles as marketers is to guard against unneeded complexity. In fact, we should act as champions for simplicity in our teams, programs, campaigns, and deliverables. We need to embrace simplicity as a strategic advantage in marketing to obtain the benefits of improved efficiency, enhanced creativity, and better outcomes.  

Tools for Simplicity

How can we do this? Following is a “Simplicity Toolbox” that we can apply to de-complexify the work of marketing. Using this framework, a marketing team can systematically identify areas of unnecessary complexity in their processes, enabling them to streamline, simplify, and improve overall efficiency and effectiveness. 

  1. Seek Alignment on Broad Goals: Ambiguity in expectations is the root cause of much unnecessary complexity. Some teams try to address ambiguity by getting very precise about minutiae – for example, counting clicks on an email message. While performance metrics like this are important (see below), they need to exist within a broader framework of clear goals for an entire team: for example, the expected outcomes of major campaigns. Once the team (and its stakeholders) are aligned on what is important, it becomes much easier to simplify work. 
  2. Identify Core Processes: Pick your spots — not every task your team does needs a detailed process flow. Begin by pinpointing the specific tasks within your marketing team that need to be standardized, using criteria such as those with most impact on revenue, or most prone to redundancies or bottlenecks. Engage employees who are responsible for these tasks to highlight areas that need attention.  
  3. Map and Document: Once you have identified the need for a detailed process, determine what goes into the process (inputs) and what comes out (outputs), which helps in understanding the scope. The next step is to create flowcharts and diagrams. This involves mapping out the entire process step by step, which helps in visualizing the flow of activities, decisions, and handoffs. Lastly, it is crucial to highlight decision points in the process. These are points where decisions are made, causing the process to branch into different paths.  
  4. Interview Stakeholders: Gather insights from those directly involved in the process – both the people who do the work and the people they serve. Ask about pain points, bottlenecks, and areas they find overly complex. If applicable, understand how the process affects the end user. Identify areas causing dissatisfaction or confusion. 
  5. Conduct Root Cause Analysis: There are many techniques we can use for identifying the underlying issues in a process. Here are two useful ones: 
    • 5 Whys Technique: Repeatedly ask “why” to drill down to the root cause of a problem. For example, ask why a process is complex until you reach the underlying issue. 
    • Fishbone Diagrams (Ishikawa Diagrams): Use this tool to visualize potential causes and categorize them into different branches (e.g., people, process, technology).
  6. Define Performance Metrics: Determine the metrics that matter most for each of the defined processes (e.g., cycle time, error rate, resource utilization). Collect data on these metrics to analyze how the process is performing against objectives and benchmarks. 
  7. Assess Use of Technology Determine if the technology being used aligns with the requirements of the process it supports. Check for integration capabilities and user-friendliness. Look for overlaps or redundant tools that might add unnecessary complexity. 
  8. Assess Organizational Structure and Communication: In some cases, structure contributes to complexity. Identify if there are too many approval layers or unclear reporting lines on your team. As well, evaluate how information flows within the organization. Identify bottlenecks or gaps in communication. 
Implementing Change for Simplicity

Once we have used the Toolbox to identify simplification opportunities, it is time to implement. Even though a streamlining project may make life better for team members and stakeholders, it still requires change (and generates resistance). We suggest applying the principles of change management when simplifying work methods and processes. Start with small-scale changes or experiment before full-scale adoption. Plan for a gradual transition rather than a “big bang.” Communicate consistently about the change, and make sure it the full support of leadership. 

Over the longer term, focus on making simplicity one of your team’s core values. Ensure team members feel empowered to challenge the status quo. Encourage marketers to proactively reassess their processes, prioritize simplicity, and pave the way for greater efficiency and innovation in their marketing endeavors. Celebrate successes in making life simpler for the team and its clients. 

In a world where marketing complexity seems inevitable, embracing simplicity becomes a strategic imperative. The journey toward streamlined, effective marketing demands a deliberate shift in mindset—one that acknowledges how much unnecessary complexity we impose on ourselves. By nurturing a culture where simplicity reigns, where every team member feels empowered to challenge complexity, we carve a trajectory toward not just streamlined workflows but also a landscape ripe for innovation and meaningful outcomes from our work as our marketers. 

Let’s Connect

If you are interested in learning more about how Calibrate can help optimize your firm’s marketing operations, let’s connect! We’d love to partner with you.

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