Back it up (with bass, if needed)

Oct 08, 2018

Marketers for professional services firms should expect, and be prepared for, inevitable setbacks in the submittal process.

I play bass in a classic rock band. We were doing a sound check at a recent gig when I hit the last note of the song and – plunk – I broke a string!

Close to 60 percent of bass players polled by the website Ultimate Guitar said they have never broken a string. I have been playing since 1988 and this is the third or fourth time this has happened. Suffice it to say, this issue pops into my mind every time I am packing up for a gig. A backup instrument always comes along for the ride. After the sound check incident, my panic subsided when I glanced over at my second bass just waiting to be picked up.

When backups are mentioned, most folks immediately think about information technology, computer files, and databases. What about our marketing world? A study by software developer Workfront indicated that 80 percent of marketers say they are overloaded and understaffed. This lethal combination of too much work being done by too few staffers screams the need for backup. Here are three areas we should look at:

  • Who has your 6? The phrase, commonly associated with World War II, refers to having someone’s back. Marketing is the ultimate team profession, but just knowing that other people are working on the same initiative does not equate to having all the bases covered. It is wise to designate a specific individual as your backup in case anything goes wrong (that never happens, right?). The relationship should function like the lead actor and the understudy who is ready to step in at any moment’s notice without missing a line.
  • The magical “Save As”. File Explorer, OneDrive, SharePoint, marketing automation tools, custom tools – take your pick on how you manage submittal documents. The landscape may be different, but the premise is the same: You should have duplicity while storing proposal files. The horror stories are endless, including corrupt files, checked-out documents that live in limbo, red team reviewers locked out of systems, and so on. Play the “save as” card as frequently as possible so you can go back to a version of the documents that can salvage the whole process.
  • Car 54, where are you? I feel like a preacher, but I am compelled to always talk about the actual submittal of a proposal or critical marketing document, easily the most overlooked step in the process. Probably due to human nature, people take for granted how little has to go wrong to effectively ruin a submittal, from car accidents and huge traffic jams, to power outages and downed servers. Always, always have a backup plan for this crucial step. If you are hand delivering, plan to drive way in advance and be ready to assemble a second set of documents and a second driver in case something goes wrong. If you are uploading a proposal, have staff in different offices with access to the documents on call in case you are unsuccessful. Do you have a local print shop that can immediately print your documents if your printers malfunction? I can go on forever, but you get the picture.

Non-fiction author Chris Guillebeau said, “If plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters.” Marketers for professional services are programmed to look first and foremost at being compliant with a solicitation, so it should be a natural progression to prepare for inevitable setbacks in our submittal processes. In other words, being ready for plans A, B, and C while dotting all the “i’s” and crossing all the “t’s.” Do not let a broken string ruin your gig. Have that second bass ready to rock – even if it’s a fretless one that you have not played in a really long time.

Javier Suarez is the central marketing and sales support manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at

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