You wouldn’t hire a marketer who was 30% efficient, would you? They don’t strike us as very efficient or effective.

Consider this though; as marketers we spend a lot of our time being creative, coming up with new ideas for a range of different things. We’re trying to stand out, to be different, and that takes effort.

We might spend some time putting together a proposal for something, only for it not to be selected by our line manager, for a host of reasons. Then it might get through the first gate and so we spend time – and sometimes money on a third party – developing the idea and finalising it for sign-off by the budget-holder. Sometimes the budget-holder might dismiss it out of hand, in which case the effort is gone. Or, they might ask for a few changes, and because they’re super-busy the revised version might languish in their inbox for a while, by which time we and they have moved onto other things. If enough time has elapsed, and we get back to it, the business has moved on and it needs extensive re-work. This is how it is working for a business of any size with lots of interconnected priorities and resources.

When I worked in an agency, we would be commissioned to come up with a campaign. We would brainstorm a bunch of ideas, work up the 3 or 4 best ideas, and present them. Only 1 idea was selected, or sometimes elements of a couple of them. You could argue that the other 75% of the effort was wasted, except that it wasn’t because it was part of the creative process that enabled us to get to the best solution.

I used to feel that when I was a marketing employee about 70% of my output did not end up being put to wealth-generating use. The other 30% was. This is the natural, organic nature of things in a business. It’s not unusual. That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t strive to improve the ratio of successful to unsuccessful output.

As a consultant, I find the efficiency rate is good bit higher, perhaps because I’m better at what I do now, and perhaps because a company is more careful with the time it spends with external suppliers, and more profligate and cavalier with its own staff’s time.

When you think about it, then, the 30% efficient marketer is a lot better than we first thought.