The Curse of “Can”

by · March 27, 20144 comments

In my job at SME Digital, I get to talk to some of the world’s best brands to help them focus, expand, grow, enhance, develop (or all of the above) their social strategy. And in doing this amazingly awesome job for these really cool companies, something struck me lately that might be causing a really big problem in our ever-evolving digital world. I call it the curse of “Can”. We are all so busy asking if we “can” do a new social promotion or mobile application or content marketing strategy, that we rarely ask if we “should”.

In fact, some of these large global organizations aren’t even sure who makes the “should” decision. They all know who makes the “can” decision. It is usually IT. And their answer is: “Of course you can, just takes time and/or money.” Which raised the question for me; who is responsible in any organization to answer the question “should we?” And you know what I learned, no one knows who that is! So, let’s make this insanely simple, let’s all own the “should”. Can we rally around this? I think if we can, the customer will thank us.

To push this forward, I’ll start by putting a few stakes in the ground and throw out some ideas on guardrails in the quest to be more focused on what we “should” do as marketers. And in the comments section, you guys can add to the list. Sound good, let’s do it!

Should-We-Do-ItDoes it make it easier for the customer?

This is the biggest and easiest one for me to see. We are not asking this enough when we talk about “can we”. For example, “Can we stand up a new niche website?” Of course you can. But if this site is not going to make the path to purchase easier for the customer or add value to the relationship, then the answer is no, you shouldn’t. Making a decision to introduce new things to customers should be about making it easier for the customer to do things with your brand.  There are easily 10 off-chutes of this one, so I am hoping to see a very full comments section later today!

Is it necessary or just making us busy?

I fall prey to this one sometimes and I think we all do. Sometimes we can latch ourselves onto an idea that has no point other than making us appear busy and it is not needed in the business. Busying ourselves with things like this can take our eye off the ball and that is always bad for the business and for the customer.

Is it measurable?

As a profession, we need to get better at this and  ingraining the measurability question into our decision-making process will do nothing but endear us to leadership and advance our careers. Focus on measurement and you will be able to quickly make the “should” decision very simple.

Is there a way to test it?

Because there are 1,000 ways to try new things these days, find ways to test the “should”. Define small steps to rapid prototype things so that you can measure its “should-y-ness”. Testing helps you find ways to measure, which as noted above is a good way to make your bosses in the C-suite sing “Happy”.

Does this tie to a business objective?

This one might be the reason for this post. Far too frequently we are going forth with things that do not align with the objectives of the business. This is the place where many a new bright shiny object comes to die. If the new bright shiny object in the marketing landscape does not readily tie to business objectives, it might be a big shouldn’t.

So, five isn’t too bad of a start. What do you think? What other questions should we be asking to validate the need for new ideas? Because the speed at which we are evolving business and technology, anything (literally ANYTHING) is possible. So, we shouldn’t worry as much about “can” as we should “should”. And if we are the future of marketing, we must be the people who are the keepers of the “should”!

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About Tracey Parsons

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.

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