Dealing with Uncertainty in Marketing

Uncertainty painting insetIn a previous post, I talked about some tips for overcoming mental blocks in marketing work. Along similar lines, I want to focus today on the topic of uncertainty in marketing projects. Uncertainty can arise for many different reasons, and it proves difficult to deal with sometimes. Perhaps there are not enough analytics available to truly measure performance of a project in a meaningful way. Or, maybe you’re launching a campaign using an untried new media outlet. And sometimes just the ever-changing nature of the 21st-century marketplace can cause anxiety because of the unknown.

Here are some tips for marketers facing such scenarios that have helped me in the recent past to deal with uncertainty (though I’m no expert on the subject).

  1. Overcome roadblocks in a systematic way. If you’re stuck on something, make sure to identify what the “pain point” of that project is. Then, list steps to overcome those obstacles. Finally, note the next action that would be required were you to start tackling those problems. Now you have an idea of what has to be done and where to begin working.
  2. Know when to focus and when to walk away. Drilling into a task and entering a pace of “flow” is very helpful to make rapid progress on a project. But if you’re feeling stuck with a certain task–like a hamster on a wheel–working on something else to clear your mind can be a helpful tactic.
  3. Communicate effectively to management. If a project faces uncertain results for a variety of reasons, tell this to your higher-ups so that both you and your bosses are viewing the situation under the same lens. This goes a long way to avoiding situations of misaligned expectations.
  4. Seek to quantify and stay accountable. This may seem counter-intuitive, but more accountability can help reduce uncertainty if structured in a productive way. Whether they are budgets, project statuses, or KPIs, metrics and realistic goals shared with others can help induce a positive feedback loop of motivation and recognition of your work (when set targets are achieved).
  5. Just work through it. Keep in your mind that “this is a difficult, not an easy situation” and to not expect easy results. Knowledge of that fact alone should help ease the anxiety of expectations that you may set on yourself.

What ways have you found to deal with uncertainty in your own work?