To Improve Your
Marketing, BE TOPS

Oh, great. Another business acronym.

I cringed when my wife helped me coin it. To my surprise though, it works. And after years of using it, we found it can apply to nearly all the things as we do as marketers.

Whatever your marketing issues may be—team unity, strategy development, content creation—the Be TOPS approach can help you successfully address them.

How to use Be TOPS

Originally developed to improve our creative team culture and work output, Be TOPS is a mindset, philosophy, or simple mantra that’s useful for what you deal with daily as a marketer.

Let’s break it down.

B  is for basics

Anytime a problem occurs with a program, project, or team, issues can often be traced back to the basics being ignored or forgotten.

Simply following the fundamentals clears the path for success—across every marketing discipline. It applies to everything we do. For example:

  • Designing a campaign flow? Seamlessly integrate all customer touchpoints for an optimal experience
  • Setting up reporting? Make the outputs meaningful to reviewers
  • Writing long form copy? Use subheads to assist the reader
  • Designing a solution brief? Ensure images enhance the message
  • Deploying a conversion page? Confirm data capture

Unfortunately, it’s easy to skip steps or actions because we believe we’ve done it enough times that it’ll all come together in the end. It’s not until later that we realize we made rookie mistakes that are costing us time, money, and results.

Great teams do the basics well. Great programs have all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. Why? Because when talent is equal, or when competitive differences are slim, the team that does the basics the best will win more often.

Takeaway: Everything you do in your role and as a team, do it well. Always.

T  is for team

When teams don’t align to the mission and collaborate openly, they’re compromising outcomes. This applies across disciplines, departments, partners, vendors, and any other groups your marketing efforts rely on.

If teams seem dysfunctional or confused, it’s likely objectives aren’t clear and expectations aren’t known. People need to understand their role and how what they do fits in the mission. When they do, projects run smoother and ideas are offered up that lead to process improvements or better outcomes.

To foster effective teamwork, make no assumptions about what’s known among team members. Start meetings by clearly stating the objectives and end meetings by reiterating action items. Better yet, prep team members prior to meetings so they come ready to roll. Do the same when adding internal and external teams to your programs.

Make sure everyone knows what’s expected. Once expectations are established, you then need to hold team members accountable. You’ll notice that when everyone is on the same page, they’ll hold each other accountable as a united team.

It all sounds so fundamental because it is. (See Basics above.) Yet, we all make assumptions, from the team’s understanding of the project objective to what’s being asked of them. Skipping essential communications within a team is like letting go of the steering wheel at 65 mph and seeing what happens next.

Takeaway: To foster trust and unity, your team needs clear objectives and expectations—for their role and the project at hand.

O  is for out of the box

From a content creation perspective, people sometimes assume out of the box means a wildly different voice or visual look than what’s been established for a brand. When you choose that path, you’re sacrificing the equity in the brand and confusing customers.

We prefer to apply “out of the box” thinking to how we solve a marketing challenge.

It starts with digging deeper into the challenge to uncover what really is the cause or need in a situation. When you do, you’ll see new opportunities to target and reach customers. It could be a better message, a new audience, or an additional communications vehicle to promote a solution. We’ve even found it can lead to a different final creative product than what we originally planned.

This type of thinking works for big challenges and small ones. It applies to everything from developing a strategy, to defining the target audience, to how you spend budget.

If the solution you first think of seems obvious or expected—such as two of these and three of those and this is who we’re targeting—you might be missing out on an opportunity to save money, or shorten the buying process, or reach a decision maker that has more sway. Avoid getting caught up in the “checklist marketing” approach for expedience or simplicity. It’s not as fruitful as a program deserves.

Takeaway: Creativity is more than copy and design. It’s how you explore the challenge to seek fresh, compelling, or more efficient ways to state and deliver your message.

P  is for persuasion

On the creative team, we talk about the importance of selling our work to our account team counterparts. Doing so ensures our ideas stand up to all sorts of challenges. It also arms our account team with the arguments they need to sell the creative work to clients. More importantly, it leads to a better solution.

In short, we ask questions like:
“Will the audience care?”
“Can you defend this thinking?”
“Will it move the needle as much as we want?”
“Whose argument is better and why?”

Thinking more critically of our work from the start helps us formulate and refine ideas. And that’s key: from the start. It may seem like this type of approach could lead to friction among team members. But well-managed friction results in sharper thinking. You just have to be willing to give and receive feedback and then do something with it.

We also guessed that this focus would unify our teams around a project. And it did. When everyone understands why we’re recommending an approach, and has an opportunity to openly challenge it, people are more willing to embrace and promote it.


  • Constantly challenging everyone’s thinking throughout the process will lead to better solutions that are easier to sell.
  • As a team member or project stakeholder, you need to provide your focused input early in the process where it has the most impact. Applying a more critical eye near the end of a project is a recipe for delays and frustration.

S  is for stick-to-itness

This is a new addition. We never had intended for S to have a purpose aside from making our phrase grammatically correct. What we realized is that everything in front of the S won’t work to anyone’s benefit unless we commit to the full phrase and follow through on it. Same can be said of any campaign or marketing program. When you lose focus or cheat the steps, you won’t achieve the results you desire.

Now for the magic part

What makes Be TOPS work is that all the elements build off each other. For example:

Always do the basics well as individuals and teams, because it’s the easiest way to avoid mistakes. That focus builds team member trust and unity. That unity leads to more freely sharing of ideas and collaboratively strengthening them. Vetted ideas are easier to sell because they’ve been through the wringer and stand up to challenges. Which means they are more likely to succeed.

Give it a go and see if Be TOPS can lead your team to better strategy development, campaign design, or creative work.

And if you come up with a good use for E, let us know.

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