You've just finished documenting your marketing strategy for the next quarter, planned out all your projects, and set your goals. So much work goes into this aspect of your job, you can't help but feel a little exhausted from the process. 

And quantifying the value of putting so much time into this process is difficult. You know (or hope) that all this work isn't in vain, but putting a hard number on the return on investment is no easy feat. 

My company, CoSchedule, recently surveyed over 3,500 marketers in the 2019 State of Marketing Strategy Report. We explored how the front-end planning activities contribute to your bottom line, if at all? Does making a plan, setting goals, and getting organized mean you're more likely to be successful in your marketing?

Or is all that hard work, just busy work?

These are the questions we set out to answer in our recent survey. 

1. The most organized marketers are likely to report success.

Aside from making your work life easier to navigate, there is actual value to getting organized. In our survey, those who reported being "very organized" were 397 percent more likely to report success. That said, good organization skills could be one of the most important things to look for when hiring a marketing manager.

This is kind of astonishing. By simply getting organized, you're more likely to be successful. 

Let's dig into the science. 

Princeton University researchers produced a study in 2011 that found the act of being disorganized actually makes it more difficult to focus on tasks. When overwhelmed, the visual cortex has a difficult time focusing attention to complete tasks efficiently. As you implement processes to declutter, organize projects and aggregate to do lists, team members will be better able to focus their attention and complete projects on time. 

What do I recommend as a business owner? Start by communicating the high-level business strategy to all employees. This can help them organize and prioritize based on where the company is heading. 

Secondly, invest in tools that help increase visibility and shed light on your roadmap -- like a project management or task management tool. These tools help people collaborate more efficiently, get organized, and save time by replacing endless meetings.

2. Getting organized while setting goals is the best way for your marketing team to achieve success.

Written goals are your roadmap. They're the measuring stick by which you gauge success. They also lay out how each employee contributes to the wider strategy of the organization... or do they just fall into a black hole never to be looked at again? 

According to our survey, these goals do indeed serve a purpose. Our report indicates that marketers who set goals are 376 percent more likely to report being successful. Before you can achieve success, you need to quantify what success looks like.

What's more, research published by Oxford University shows that there is psychological well-being associated with meeting goals. "Having important goals in one's life, believing that they are attainable, progressing towards them (at an appropriate pace), and achieving them creates a sense of well-being." 

Lots of research has been done about the psychology of goal setting and the role goals play in motivating employees. However, according to research done by Florida State University, there are a few things to keep in mind when setting goals. 

  1. Do not form your goals solely around output quantity. This can lead to lower quality overall. 
  2. Make sure goals are attainable. Unattainable goals can result in excessive risk and unethical behavior.
  3. Setting a cross-team goal can increase cooperation, while individual goals can decrease cooperation. 

3. Document your strategy.

The final way to ensure that your marketing team is set up for success is to document your strategy. That is, map it all out on a calendar, project management tool, or spreadsheet for all to see. 

According to our survey, those with a documented strategy were 313 percent more likely to report success than those who skipped this step in the planning process. 

The documented strategy serves as the single source of truth for all team members and is the engine that ensures clear communication. 

In fact, a team from MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory documented "the behavior of teams that 'click.'" Using what they dub "sociometric" badges, they collected data on communication behavior within teams. They found that patterns of communication were one of the most important predictors of a team's success.

So, what does this mean? For starters, getting organized, setting goals and documenting strategy is indeed time well-spent. If you're looking for ways to improve your team's odds for success, these three areas are good places to start. By simply devoting some time on the front-end and perhaps implementing a new project management/communication tool you'll greatly increase your chances of launching successful marketing projects. 

Published on: Apr 3, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.