What is the importance of following instructions?

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What is the importance of following instructions? Hm. The part of me that wants to experiment and try new things in his marketing career wants to say: It’s not that important. But, then there are also some, let’s call them, tried and true ways of how something is done, and instructions should simply be followed so it can get done and done correctly. 

But let’s dive into the topic of what is the importance of following instructions a bit more, including:

When are instructions important?

Instructions are important when they make things easier, more efficient, and when we know they work. At times, new marketers might say: “Oh, let me figure it out.” And that attitude is great for certain situations, but it’s not great if the current process always and already works well.

For example, and this isn’t a marketing example: We visited Disneyland, and as you might imagine, the lines are long – including at security. Well, part of the reason they were is because people entering the parks weren’t ready. They didn’t have stuff taken out of their pockets, bags weren’t unzipped, etc. And while those tasks are seconds for each person when the lines are this long, seconds add up for everyone.

So one of the security guards hollered:

“Have everything out of your pockets, unzip your bags, and be ready to go through the metal detector.”

Simple instructions and kind of common sense, but people weren’t thinking about them, and following them, made the whole process easier for everyone. 

In a corporate setting, this matters too when we are trying to be efficient and especially when different team members’ work is dependent on each other. Breaking instructions and workflow can actually break performance. It might even be necessary to have a certified project manager on the team to make this easier. 

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How do we know the instructions are the right ones?

I had no reason to challenge the security guard. And they appeared correct on the surface. Once people started following the instructions, the proof was pretty apparent too! The lines were now moving.

So there’s a bit of “let’s see how well this works” in the belief in the instructions. Every time I’ve undertaken a change management project, I always looked at what was currently being done and whether or not it seemed to work and was in line with the goals—same concept. 

Read next: Where should we answer customer questions? [Content Strategy]

When it’s better not to have complete instructions

Sometimes, we want to, need to, or should experiment with a new marketing strategy. Are web stories worth trying? Or how about this new content format? In those cases, complete instructions might not be useful or even hinder the experiment, but even in those cases, basic content workflows are helpful:

  • What’s the goal of this?
  • Do we have content we can repurpose for this?
  • How do we go about creating and testing this campaign?

There are no instructions because that exact scenario hasn’t actually been done before, but these scenarios in the daily life of a marketer aren’t the majority. Many times, it’s better to follow the instructions – i.e., these are the steps to launch that Google Ad. The creativity can be used in the ad design, wording, and maybe even targeting, but not in the steps that must be taken.

Read next: Should you be biding your time in content ops?

Final thoughts: What is the importance of following instructions?

So there’s a time and place to follow established instructions – especially when those instructions have been well tested and work. Plus, following instructions in those scenarios makes things easier and frees up time to be innovative at those other times.

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