I’ve been in SaaS marketing for almost 10 years now and driven millions in ARR through my work. As a marketing leader, it can get overwhelming and stressful since you’re directly responsible for revenue. It’s easy to get distracted by all of the tasks to do, but that doesn’t mean your priorities have to compete for your attention.
Below, I’ll share six principles I rely on every day as a Head of Marketing at a SaaS company. These principles help me stay productive and achieve results without feeling overwhelmed.
1. Schedule work in advance
Waiting until the end of the quarter is too late to start planning. Instead, be proactive about planning for the next month, by planning a couple of weeks ahead. This way you make sure that your team has a clear view of what needs to be done in the coming month.
Similarly, waiting until the start of the week is too late to start planning for the week. Notice how your week’s productivity changes based on scheduling work in advance versus scheduling work on-the-go.
For example, every Sunday, I use 30 mins to plan my whole week. Usually, it’s three things that I need to complete for the week to be successful for me. Yes, urgent requests come up, emergencies happen and things break, but as long as I complete those three things I planned on Sunday, my week will be successful.
It’s easy to spend the whole day or week just fire-fighting, tackling projects as they come. But when you look back at the bigger picture, you’ll realize that you didn’t really move the needle on the important things even though you were busy.
Similarly, with my team, I push for planning almost a quarter in advance, so we can make progress on the projects and revenue goals that we had planned for the year. Even with our meetings, we share the agenda a day before the meeting. That way, everyone is aligned on what we’ll be discussing (instead of defining the agenda in the call itself and wasting time).
2. Win the morning to win the day
What you do in the morning impacts your entire day. If you start your day off energetic and with a plan, then odds are that energy will carry throughout the day. For example, if I start my day by waking up from a good sleep, completing a good workout, and having a clear list of objectives to complete for the day, it’s likely my day will be as energetic and organized.
On the other hand, if you get off track or don’t start things the right way, then it’ll likely be harder to recover from it the rest of your day. For example, if I wake up with little sleep, skip breakfast, start working on the first thing that pops up on my Slack, it’s likely that I’ll be working in a chaotic manner throughout the day.
To help win the morning, start by planning your priorities for the day. That way, you are focused on the projects that matter and not spend time on busy work.
I like to look at my calendar the night before and make a list of things I want to accomplish. This routine sets me up for success. When you are prepared and have a plan, it makes winning the morning easier.
3. Eat that frog first
This is a metaphor (from the book Eat That Frog!) for doing the most difficult task first, so you can start your day on a good note. The frog is the most difficult task that needs to be done, and it’s also the one you are most likely to procrastinate on. If you eat it first, the rest of your day seems easier by comparison.
When you start your day by eating the frog, it makes the rest of your day easier to manage. Think about how satisfying it feels when you take care of a difficult task early in the day. You can move on with your day without any stress.
Personally, it helps me:
- Better assess what tasks are truly important and need to be completed first
- Reserve my best energy of the day to work on those tasks
- Avoid procrastinating on important tasks
You can apply it by looking at your to-do list in the morning, identifying the most important task from your list, and tackling that as your first task for the day. By completing “frogs” of the day every week, I ensure that I make progress on the things that matter and not get distracted.
4. Follow the 80-20 rule
The 80-20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of the work you do. It’s not how much time you spend on something but how effective your time is that counts. To apply this principle to marketing, I usually choose tasks that will bring in the most revenue and/or engagement to the business.
Each week, I identify three main areas where my team needs to achieve certain goals (e.g., increase conversion rates or create content briefs for writers). Then, I break down each area into smaller pieces so that they’re manageable—and then prioritize them according to their potential impact on revenue or engagement numbers for that specific channel or campaign.
5. Less is more
I’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business and he lays out the case for “less is more.” The author talks about how the most successful people in business have figured out how to get things done effectively and efficiently. They have learned that if they can do less, they can focus on what really matters and move their projects forward faster.
When planning work for the week, most of us tend to overestimate how much progress we can make in a week and that leads to project delays and inaccurate forecasting on our KPIs. Sometimes, it can even lead to procrastination of other important work.
That’s why I always tell my team to take up less than you can handle. Here’s how it helps:
- We commit to completing our projects
- We end up prioritizing the projects that move our needle
- We’re more productive without spending long hours at work
The next time you plan your weekly sprints with the team, instead of asking “What are you planning to work on this week?”, ask this question:
“What are three things that you can commit to completing this week?”
6. Me vs me
It’s easy to get caught up in comparing your work with others. We’re all guilty of it at some point, and we can’t help but notice when our co-workers are doing better than us or receive more resources or recognition for the same amount of effort. Or our competitor announces a large funding round despite having an inferior product. Or a Head of Marketing peer is killing it in their role when we’re struggling.
It doesn’t do any good to compare yourself to others. You just end up wasting time. Why? Because you don’t have full information of the circumstances that got them to where they are. You only have full information of the circumstances that got you to where you are.
That’s why you should focus on comparing yourself to where you were. Identify what you need to improve and focus on getting better.
Sit down every year and reflect on your year compared to the previous one. Was it different? Did you progress? Did you make more wise decisions? Did you grow? Are you doing the work that you dreamt of doing two years ago?
This yearly reflection will force you to focus on the only helpful comparison: comparing yourself to your previous self.
Stay productive and achieve results
These principles help me stay focused on my most important tasks and responsibilities. They help me consistently keep a calm headspace. I’m not a perfect person, but following these principles helps me avoid getting distracted and make progress on the things that matter most to me.
Take a look at your routines and see if there’s anything that can be improved. If something isn’t working well, try a different approach until you find what works best for you.
Madhav Bhandari is a SaaS marketing consultant who helps early stage SaaS companies grow from $100K to $5M ARR. He regularly writes on his SaaS marketing blog.