24 Questions to Eliminate Marketing Innovation Barriers

Clear the cobwebs in your crowded closet

What contributes to building marketing innovation barriers? Overstuffed calendars.

These overstuffed calendars are akin to crowded closets. The more new clothes you buy to fill every corner, the less polished you feel.  During your morning routine, you  randomly grab whatever isn’t earmarked for the dry cleaner– or whatever isn’t piled on the floor.

In this scenario, most of us would feel overwhelmed, even distracted.

How crowded is your calendar? If this closet analogy hits close to home, chances are you are unconsciously creating marketing innovation barriers within your organization.

Among our CMO communities, the predominant cause of marketing innovation resistance is overwhelm–often triggered by the inability to prioritize and say no to ad-hoc requests from stakeholders.

Over-committed leaders leave me wondering how many marketing innovations they are leaving on the table for competitors. Many call this an opportunity cost.

Then there’s the psychic impact of crowded calendars and lack of personal scheduling boundaries. How often are they letting the day to day operations steal every ounce of their natural gifts and creative energy?

Strategic organizations–no matter their size–have the courage to step back and conduct an “innovation clean sweep.” I work with companies who want to transform their marketing organizations into value-creating innovation machines, and that mind shift requires reflection and resolve. Complacency and order-taking comes with a much higher price than the risk associated with exploring new growth avenues.

Take a look at your marketing organization’s current state. How well do your cultural norms, goals, and accountability systems work to promote innovation and agility? How often are you conducting marketing project reviews and re-prioritization?

Once you discover the energy-sapping skeletons, you will be able to eliminate programs and habits that perpetuate a constant sense of overwhelm and over-commitment. You will more easily conquer marketing innovation barriers.

I have developed 24 questions to identify the root cause of marketing innovation barriers and personal paralysis. Whether you are a $5M startup or a $50B blue chip company, I think you will find them useful.

Strategic Fluency

  1. What are your top 2-3 priorities for the coming year? (if you have more than 4, go back to the drawing board).
  2. How often does the leadership team communicate your strategic plan?
  3. What is your organization’s “growth mantra?” (operational efficiency, customer intimacy, or product leadership?)
  4. What percentage of your team can recite the top strategic goals “on the fly?”
  5. As a marketing team, how often do you explore specific marketing programs that can fill that “growth gap?” (for example, trade shows, integrated marketing strategies, branded customer community program, new content strategy, etc.)

Setting and Keeping Priorities

  1. What criteria does the leadership team use for setting priorities? (do you have a mapping process or a model to identify and rate programs, based on high business value, ease of implementation, etc.)?
  2. How consistently and independently can your group consistently follow this prioritization process without supervision?
  3. Which team/leader excels at saying “no” to non-essential priorities or ad-hoc marketing requests? (How can you reward, replicate, and clone these behaviors?)
  4. What external networks hold you accountable to optimize program execution and self-management practices?
  5. To what degree does the organization encourage time for reflection and review?
  6. On a 1-10 scale (10 = excellent), how well does your marketing team stay the course with priorities?
  7. How about other groups within the company? (are other teams potential role models whom you can emulate?)


  1. What behaviors or cultural norms get in the way of sticking to your priorities?
  2. Can you think of any examples where someone in the company killed off a good marketing idea before it could be tested or validated?
  3. Any examples where you quickly abandoned a program that provided little or no return?
  4. In a typical week, what percentage of your time is spent on internal planning and budget meetings?
  5. How does that compare to the percentage of your time spent with Sales, Finance, IT, or other stakeholders?
  6. In a typical week, what percentage of your time is spent with customers, or at customer/member events? (tweets, blog posts, and email exchanges do not count)
  7. In what ways does your leader encourage you to “fail fast” and learn from experiments?
  8. On a 1-10 scale (with 10 being extremely quickly), how quickly have outdated or poorly performing programs/projects been cancelled in the past?
  9. How does this pace compare to your competitors? (If you are unsure, how can you find out?)


  1. How quickly do you alter quarterly performance goals in response to a competitive, regulatory, or market opportunity/threat (and  make room by eliminating or re-sequencing outdated goals)?
  2. How do you recognize and reward teams when they quickly jettison under-performing programs?
  3. When did you last showcase  and celebrate a marketing initiative that did not go as planned, but from which you learned and improved?

The first step towards making marketing innovation a habit is to eliminate the saboteurs and scraps. Remove them from your annual budget, and your life. These questions will clear the cobwebs.

Want to learn how your peers are tackling innovation resistance? Join us November 9-10 for CLIC ’17 (CMOs Leading Innovation Conference). Get your seat and details here3 spaces remain.

Related posts:

FastCompany: 5 Rules for Winning Over the C-Suite

HuffPost: Forget New Year’s Resolutions — Choose Reflection

Copyright 2017, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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