My Love-Hate Relationship with Deadlines by Carie Dunn, CPSM

What drew me to this industry was deadlines.

Yes, you read correctly. Let me explain. After I graduated, I went on interviews for marketing positions in a variety of industries. I was desperate to find a job, but each time I interviewed somewhere new, it didn’t feel right. Then I went on an interview for a marketing coordinator at a large design and construction firm. They stressed that I needed to be able to meet deadlines while juggling multiple projects. I had just finished up grad school and was used to this kind of chaos. I remember saying to myself “I’m good at meeting deadlines. This would be the perfect job for me”. (Who says that by the way?) But it was true. I was offered the job, and I’ve been in the industry ever since.

We all know what it’s like to have two, three, four (or more) proposals going on at the same time. While I think we can all agree that it’s stressful, isn’t there a thrill about meeting deadlines? The race to the finish line with the motivation of bringing in new work for your firm? The feeling of accomplishment when it lands in the client’s hands? Crossing it off your to-do list (with a sharpie no doubt)? Of course, while I am in the middle of multiple proposals, I often wonder why clients conspire against the marketers of the world. As if they have a secret club where they all decide to make their proposals due the Monday after a holiday weekend. Hence the love-hate relationship.

My firm is pretty good about not chasing everything that comes in the door. But sometimes there are multiple RFPs out there that are perfect for your firm and you just have to figure out how to get them all done on time. All you need is some organization – make a checklist, assign responsibilities, and stick to it. And yes, sometimes it’s hard, especially if you are the only marketer in your firm. Sometimes you will find me in the office at 5 am or spending my Friday night at home on my laptop. It’s all part of the gig. And I’m not about to miss a deadline.

In this industry, missing a deadline is the worst feeling in the world. I’ve only missed one deadline in almost 20 years of this kind of work, and I can say it was the most horrible day of my career. To avoid that, I always have a backup plan for the ‘just in case’ situations. Creative thinking can save you a whole lot of headache. If it’s local…that’s easy. Deliver it yourself and account for traffic or construction delays. It gets a little trickier if you are shipping something. I’ve heard people say that they missed a deadline because of UPS or FedEx. That’s not really an excuse though and unfortunately, yelling at UPS on the phone only takes time away from solving the problem. Instead, think on your feet and don’t freak out. Once I had to put someone on an airplane to meet a deadline. Another time, I had to call an out-of-town printer to print, bind and deliver my proposal on time. Sure, it may be expensive, but it’s totally worth it to not miss those deadlines. While these extreme situations are few and far between, it’s helpful to have some sort of plan in the back of your mind just in case.

So, while I am frequently frustrated with multiple deadlines, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I don’t have a deadline, I feel a little lost. I have a list a mile long of things to catch up on, and while it’s nice to have a break from a proposal fest, it’s just not the same.

Carie Dunn, CPSM is Director of Marketing at Trivers Associates. She is a Past President of SMPS St. Louis and is a Certified Professional Service Marketer.

1 Response

  1. Jill Davis

    Love this Carie! You’re right…we’ve all been there and it’s great to get ideas on how to make it just a little bit easier. Thanks for posting this!

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