One of the more boring — but necessary — regular functions during my role as a publisher was to participate in review meetings with upper management.
But it was in these meetings that I learned a productivity “secret” that I’ve used many times over the years to turn otherwise boring meetings into unlikely sources for breakthrough marketing ideas.
Back in the day, these review meetings were pretty routine, and you’ve no doubt been a part of them in your business as well. They’re often an opportunity to review how a particular business (or a group of products) is performing relative to the goals that were previously established.
The topics were usually the same in these meetings: Is the business growing? Have the marketing campaigns been successful? What new ideas did we try? What were we behind schedule on?
During my time at a large newsletter publisher, these meetings were led by the company’s founder, the company’s consultant/CEO and the company’s CFO.
At the time, this was a relatively new arrangement for the company, which had enjoyed explosive growth. I was fortunate to be a part of that growth and rose quickly in the company despite being in my mid-20s.
These meetings, though, didn’t do much for me. I realize now that my attitude was due in part to my youth at the time, but my general feeling was that the division I was running would be judged on the results we produced. So why go through this exercise of reviewing goals every so often? It seemed redundant to me…but I was too young to know better.
What I found out after the first few meetings, though, was that we often had more on our agenda than we could possibly get to in the time that was allotted. Often, these meetings were scheduled for the upper-level executives in fairly tight blocks of time…so there would often be someone else waiting outside for their meeting while mine was unfolding.
The “magic” length of time, I learned, was about 30 minutes. We could cover important ground in the first 30 minutes. But once we got beyond that point, the attention in the room began to wander…and we’d get a diminishing return on our efforts beyond that.
At least two of the executives would become distracted by the marketing samples — or the drafts of new promotions — that we would have on the table for discussion.
So while we might be talking about a revenue goal — or maybe a retention series — some of the people in the meeting would be looking at front-end promotional copy and jotting down new headline ideas.
In fact, many of us would use this distraction “technique” intentionally if we knew we were heading into a tough review meeting where we had to share bad news. We would always make sure to have plenty of samples spread out on the table so that there would be plenty of distractions while we shared the bad news…and hopefully we’d be spared much of the ridicule and admonishment that came with those missed goals.
(I came to discover, though, that we weren’t really fooling anyone with our distraction technique. It was simply that the company’s executives felt the same way I did — after the important ground had been covered, our time was better spent developing and evaluating marketing ideas than it was reviewing anything else.)
But this lesson of meetings and distractions stuck with me even long after I had left that company: spend your time on what’s important. And generating the revenue is usually tough to beat as far as being the most important thing to talk about.
Later in my career, I’d go on to lead meetings similar to these — including with sales teams, copywriters, marketing directors, CFO’s, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, supplement marketing business owner and others — and I always kept two things in mind:
First…if you have any important ground to cover, do it in the first 20 to 30 minutes of the meeting. After that, the attention span just isn’t there — and I’ve found this to be true no matter who is in the meeting.
But second — and perhaps more importantly — EVERY meeting is an opportunity to come up with new marketing ideas.
Those “distracting” marketing pieces or copy drafts? Those are fodder for great conversations. And many times the very best ideas are sparked by someone you might not have expected.
I’ve had a hugely successful headline idea that came from a veteran salesman who held up a piece of marketing copy in a meeting and essentially said, “my customers never talk about this…but they always bring up THAT.”
I’ve seen the idea for an entire campaign — one that was a control for well over a year — emerge from a simple discussion of why investors would ever care about a specific new law that was being passed.
And I’ve had countless investor awareness campaigns improve simply because a CEO or entrepreneur saw something in a marketing piece I put in front of him and said, “This is great — but we actually do things better than they do…and here’s why.”
Most of us, obviously, are not fans of long, boring business meetings. And sometimes they are simply unavoidable I suppose.
But whenever I have the opportunity — either to set the agenda or be somewhere near the head of the table — I always try to make sure after the scheduled subject matter is discussed that I steer the conversation to where the real money is made: the next breakthrough marketing idea.
Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with 30 years of breakthrough marketing experience. To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit www.MadronMarketing.com.