April 11, 2012

How To: Ruthlessly Prioritize

Carrie Kerpen

I went to visit my favorite company ever (um, Facebook, obviously!) a few weeks back. At one of my meetings, I sat down with a pretty high ranking person in the ad department to talk about our relationship. I wanted to address a few concerns…why has the level of service changed for us? Why are there no longer people dedicated to servicing agencies, even ones that are Preferred Developers like we are? We collectively place millions of dollars in Facebook ads for our clients, our cost-per-like rates are 40% lower than the published average, and we are a major brand advocate for their company– hosting webinars for small businesses on the importance of Facebook ads toward your marketing strategy. Where’s the love? I had to know.

“Carrie” she said, “We love you guys! You are phenomenal partners. But we as an organization believe in ruthless prioritization. We need to, in order to properly scale.”

She went on to explain that there was a lot of double work going on with agencies and direct client teams, and discussed some of the ad minimums to receive the level of service that we are used to at Facebook. Those minimums? By individual client. NOT by agency.

At first, I was floored. How is this possible? The team clearly adores us, they know how much we evangelize their product, and they know we produce 40% higher engagement on Facebook for our clients than their competitors do.

And then I realized that the strategy was brilliant.

In order to scale and build an organization that works, you need to practice ruthless prioritization. By focusing on everything, you accomplish very little. You have a stressed-out team, unhappy customers, and a company that is inconsistent in its performance.

Leaving the meeting, I knew that the ads portion of our Facebook relationship was changing. But I felt good about how it was handled. I felt that I had insight into how Facebook is going to move forward as an organization. And I was inspired by how I might incorporate some ruthless prioritization into my own company. I ran (okay flew across the country) back to my office, called a meeting and got started:

Here are three steps you can take today to ruthlessly prioritize:

1. Determine what your priorities actually ARE.

Do you know what your organization’s priorities should be? Are you focused? If not, that’s most certainly the first step. Think about what your organization is best at, and weigh that with what is the most scalable and profitable. Chances are, your company is doing way more than what that you’re best at AND make you money. Stop doing those things. Like, now.

2. Communicate early and often.

Anytime you are ruthless, feelings get hurt. You may have customers who don’t like that you’ll no longer be sweeping the floors for them, or testing the latest and greatest social network because it’s “cool”. If Facebook hadn’t explained to me WHY I was getting a colder shoulder, I might have been really angry. In fact, this entire blog post might have been about how Facebook is abandoning its most loyal customers– the agencies that advocate for them! However, because I was communicated with, because I got a peek behind the curtain, I felt empowered and informed. Communicate with your current customers about changes, no matter how ruthless they are. Be prepared to lose some. Communicate with your employees about changes. Be prepared to lose some of them too.

3. Create a process and prioritize WELL.

Once you have your priorities, and you’re focused, you need to make sure that you have your stuff together. Create processes for that focus– make sure your entire organization understands how to focus and what the focus is. Be prepared to execute on that focus, and make sure every marketing activity that you do ties back to that priority in some way shape or form. Be internally structured to ruthlessly prioritize, and externally showcase your best case studies that feature your priorities. That will help explain to future employees what their jobs are, and future customers what you do well.

This works in your personal as well as professional life. I recently saw an article about my idol, Sheryl Sandberg (by the way, I am fairly certain that “ruthless prioritization” comes from her as well). She leaves work at 5:30 every day to have dinner with her kids. She communicates this to her team and the world about this. She creates workarounds and processes (rumor has it that she starts answering emails at 5am) to make this work for her because her kids are something that she ruthlessly prioritizes as well. Do you think anyone thinks less of her for it? If they do, do you think she cares?

What do YOU need to prioritize in your business and your life, and why haven’t you gotten started already?

Tags: Best Practices, Facebook, Strategy

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