Looks Good vs. Performs Well

The danger of designing something new is involving both designers and marketers and expecting them to agree. Most designers and marketers want different things.

Designers want to design something that looks good. Something that looks good should work better, says the mind of the designer.

Marketers want to design something what performs better. And they’ll use data and analysis to prove to themselves and to others what performs better.

And the dirty little secret is that the best design is not necessarily the best performer.

So how do you solve this problem?

You address it at the outset. The project manager, who should serve the role of mediator between the two sides on any disagreement, should lay out the goals of the project so that everyone understands them. And the decision to test multiple versions should be made. This gives designers a sense that they are designing for performance, and that performance will be measured.

At the end of the day, I am a marketer and am biased toward the marketer’s point of view. But the results of a performance test should tell you which design is best, based on which works better.

How to Gain Manager Buy-in

Depending on what situation you work in, it can take more than a great idea to succeed. It might take you selling that idea effectively to your manager. When you need your manager to sign off on a new plan, idea, or project, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds.

  1. Sell it. Become a sales person and treat your manager like a prospective client. If you really believe in this project, show it. Present it with power and outline all the possible benefits.
  2. Give them a chance to ask questions. In the process of selling it, encourage questions. You want to hear your manager’s concerns so that you can respond to them appropriately.
  3. Have the answers prepared. I have heard people say that when PHD students go to present their thesis, they should leave an obvious question unanswered so that they can better predict the questions they’ll get and have answers prepared. I’m not recommending leaving anything out of your presentation, but if you can try to figure out what types of questions you’ll get from your manager, you can be prepared to answer them right away.
  4. Calm as many fears as possible. Identify the risks in this project. What if it doesn’t work? What is the worst case scenario? The more you can identify the risks, the more you can show your manager how you can manage them. Managing risk doesn’t mean eliminating it, but it does mean have a plan of attack should things not go 100% to plan.
  5. Can you test it? When you’re doing something brand new for the first time, you can manage risk by testing your way into it. Not all projects allow for testing, but if you can start small and work your way up, especially when it comes to money spent or time committed, it’s helpful.
  6. Involve them in launch. Have a place for your manager to get involved if they want to. Encourage them to become an active player in this new project, which could help allay their fears and make them a strong supporter.
  7. Develop a track record. The more you work on projects that succeed, the more faith your manager(s) will have in your ability and judgment. Keep track of past successes and use them to your advantage.

Encourage Creative Thinking

Your team relies on you to set the tone. Different managers lead in different ways. But more and more studies of behavior and work performance continue to suggest that more creative work environments lead to more productive teams.

As managers, what can you do to encourage creative thinking and innovation?

It starts with telling your employees, and showing them, that taking chances and thinking outside the box is encouraged. If they see a way they can help the company, they are encouraged to do it, even if it lies outside their direct area of responsibility.

And if someone tries something and it doesn’t work, approach the failure as a success. We tried, and found out what doesn’t work. That’s a victory.

Once other employees see that failures are not punished or discouraged, they will all feel that they too can think more creatively.

Incentivize your team to come to you with new ideas. Create an innovator of the month for the person that comes up with the best new idea, and treat them to a gift card or free lunch.

In dealing with customers or marketing, employees should be encouraged to go off script and create fresh, exciting consumer experiences. That gets people talking about your brand. It should be encouraged and rewarded.

Finally, you can remove some of the structures and strictures that discourage creativity and innovation. Flexible hours, comfortable office environments with unique perks and features, fun and friendly inter-office competition may all seem a little outside the box when it comes to corporate culture. But these are small ways you can change the nature of work for your employees that will show them you mean it when you say you want people to be more creative.

Creating a culture of innovation takes effort. And it starts at the top. Once you commit to it, stick with it. You will find that your teams will slowly start to adopt the new values and become more productive.

Best of Management on ZachHellerMarketing.com

Management tips have become a regular part of this blog, and every once in a while we like to take our newer readers back to some of the most popular content that they may have missed. Below, I have assembled links to and summaries of our nine most popular posts on management. Enjoy!

Save Time By Hiring the Right Marketing Talent

Hiring is a skill we should all master. A good hiring decision can make all the difference. A bad hiring decision can cost you unnecessary time and money. Here are some tips on how to hire better talent.

Marketers as Facilitators of Communication

The role of a good marketing manager is not just to manage the marketing staff, but to cross over department lines and make sure that the company as a whole is on the same page as far as what they’re selling, to who, and how.

Run More Frequent, Shorter Meetings

Meetings can be a drag on productivity. But executed correctly, they should help move projects forward, encourage team building, and offer an opportunity to make better key decisions.

How to Get More Out of Your Employees: Part 1

Management is all about getting the best performance you can out of those that you manage. There are many ways to encourage, inspire, and lead. This post offers an introduction into how you can get more out of your employees.

How to Get More Out of Your Employees: Part 2

Continuing the theme of part 1, this follow up post shows managers what they can do to inspire their workers to be even more productive and successful.

How to Manage by Doing

One problem of managing employees is that often managers don’t fully understand what it’s like to do the jobs they manage. Try spending a day in the shoes of every employee you manage to gain a better understanding of what they all do.

The Case for Paying Your Employees More

Rising wages are not necessarily bad for business. In fact, many times paying your employees more will make you more successful. This post explains why.

The Case for Paying Your Employees Less

We made the argument for paying more, but we cannot ignore the other side. There are times when paying less makes sense. Here’s the reasoning behind it.

A Guide to Firing Your Marketing Agency

Not all relationships last forever, and the one you have with the agency who handles your marketing is no exception. When it comes time to make a change, here is a helpful checklist to consider.

A Guide to Firing Your Marketing Agency

Without a doubt, every small business owner and marketer will run into this situation. You are using a marketing agency to handle some aspect of your marketing, and performance is just not where it needs to be.

So what do you do?

After exhausting all other options and trying to work with them to improve performance, it might be time to let them go.

Here is a quick checklist for when you have to fire your marketing agency:

  • Have a heart to heart with someone at the executive level. Let them know that performance is not where you need it to be. The goal of this discussion should be to give them once last chance to improve and make you happy.
  • Start to look around for an alternative solution. You never want to be left in a situation where you let your agency go and there is no one to pick up where they left off. Either you need to find and retain another agency or hire someone to manage the work internally.
  • When you find an alternative you are happy with, assuming performance with the old agency is still lacking, it’s time to pull the plug. Give them the news over the phone, and let them know what your plans are moving forward. Most agencies, knowing they still have a reputation to uphold and thinking that they could one day win the business back, will do everything in their power to make the transition an easy one.
  • Prepare for a temporary dip in performance. Anytime you move from one agency to another, or bring work in house, it will take a little time to get everything up and running at 100% again. The first few months might be dedicated to getting all your ducks in a row, and performance may not improve as quickly as you might want it to.
  • Don’t burn any bridges. You may find that poor performance gets even worse. In some cases, you might want to return to the original agency because they know your account and can get you back on track, at least to where they had it before.