Start Only What You Can Finish, Finish What You Start

Start Only What You Can Finish, Finish What You Start

Marketers create. That’s what we do.

Marketers are also creative. We like to reimagine campaigns and content.

Both of these attributes are as much blessings as they are curses. Last year, I recall reading 60% of B2B Content Sits Unused on Forbes. The article offers advice on how to educate and inspire your colleagues to use content more effectively (it’s good stuff, you should read it). But that isn’t the point of my article.

I’d argue that much more than 60% of content sits unused. And we can’t blame our colleagues. This is 100% our fault.

The Content Marketing Institute cites the studies where these statistics come from. As marketers, it’s frustrating to think we work so hard to create content that won’t see a return. And it’s easy to blame sales, or others in the company for not using the content. However, if we hold up a mirror to how much of our time and energy is wasted on content creation, the majority of that blame falls on us.

How many drafts of blog posts never see the light of day? How many meetings have you had about conducting a survey that will never manifest? How much audio and video equipment are gathering dust in a supply closet somewhere? You probably have notes and a brainstorm in your inbox about an infographic that never happened. Chances are you wrote “DO NOT ERASE” on a whiteboard next to your next great idea, but that was 6 months ago.


Marketers are incredible at starting and exploring new projects. Crossing the finish line is a weakness.

Make no mistake, projects should be abandoned when we realize it cannot provide value (also why we should be understanding of colleagues who don’t use content if it isn’t going to provide value). It is disappointing, however, how half-assed marketers can be when starting or exploring a new project. So many projects are poorly thought through and, as individuals or teams, we march down a path until we meet resistance. And then abandon the effort.

Why do we get frustrated when other teams don’t make full use of our efforts, but are so forgiving to ourselves when we discard a project?

Our time and energy is precious. So let’s find ways to protect it from all that could waste it (including ourselves).

It comes down to planning, process, and execution. Think Every Project Through. ALL. THE. WAY. He are 5 considerations to think through before you create content or start a project.

1. Results - Start with Success and Work Backwards
What is the desired result of the content, campaign, or project?
“I don’t know, I just think we need an active YouTube channel”. DO NOT START.
“We have never done an infographic before. It could be really fun.” RUN FOR THE HILLS.
“You know, X is a popular trend. We should have content about that.” HELL TO THE NO.

Results need to be specific and measurable, preferably tied to a metric—revenue, opportunities, leads, traffic.
“[Customer] needs a one-pager about [feature] before starting the pilot program.” GREEN LIGHT!
“Research around [popular trend] is hard to come by. We could drive lead gen and publicity with survey results.” LET’S DO IT!
“We have a powerful story here that has strong visual language. An infographic can help help drive awareness and engagement.” GO FOR IT!

2. Determine the Message
Marketers often commit to the medium before they even know the message. The examples above (all real) are proof of that. As quickly as possible, you have to determine what you are trying to say. What do you want your audience to remember and repeat? If your message isn’t memorable or repeatable, it may as well not be shared.

3. Commit to a Timeline
“But I hate committing to a timeline. It’s hard to know cost/timing/dependencies.” That is exactly why you must commit to a timeline. It is a forcing function to figure out the remaining steps. Otherwise, the content or project will consume resources and continue on indefinitely without any guarantee of completion.

4. Focus on the Finish Line
Marketers have to multi-task. During any given week there are a dozens of projects that we are starting, managing, or reviewing. Be wary of letting your imagination get the better of you—don’t come up with a new project if your plate is full. Your next big idea can wait. A lack of discipline here can compromise all your work.

5. Set Others Up to Succeed
Just because you finish a project, doesn’t mean that others are ready to use it. That new research you just published? Create some emails, social messages, and a blog post others can use. Made a video? Reach out to relevant teams and let them know about the asset and provide detailed suggestions on how they can best use it. The Forbes article has more useful suggestions.

I love to create. I love being creative. I love marketing. However, I don’t love when my efforts go to waste. Yes, a lot of published content does go unused. But far more of our efforts go to waste if we don’t properly plan, develop process, and ruthlessly execute. That is on us.

Start only what you can finish, and finish what you start so you can keep doing what you love!

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