Modern marketers are doing things that their forebears in the pre-digital era couldn’t dream of. The immense and varied workloads, the constant balance between strategy and execution, and the endless hide-and-go-seek for useful data with which they can justify their efforts has many marketing and creative teams crying "uncle."
Why shouldn’t they? Between painful tales of lost work requests, mishandled approvals, and broken workflows, 60 percent of marketing and creative workers are completely overwhelmed or are barely meeting their deadlines.
If you need tips on how to juggle several projects at once, check out our post How to Manage Multiple Projects.
The good news is that a solid process can help marketers eliminate common problems, but sometimes it just seems easier to fix as we go, hoping that the tiny tweaks to the way we work will somehow turn into mammoth modifications.
If you really want to produce great results and positive change, a focused, comprehensive, and well-supported assessment of your workflow is the only way to go.
If this sounds like something you need, but you just don’t know how to begin, we’re here to help. This post will introduce you to a simple, six-step process for managing marketing or creative work.
Step One: DEFINE
You can’t execute what you can’t define, so begin by tightening your intake process.
Centralized Request Management is a must, though it’s up to you how that will be accomplished -- most commonly with a full-featured request tool, or a specified email address (email@example.com).
Whatever method you choose, make sure that the requests always include critical information like:
- Project Scope
- Timeframes for Delivery
Sometimes (especially at the beginning) you may have to work with requestors during a Request Review to get this information.
Step Two: PLAN
With the details settled, have team leaders and critical stakeholders work together to ensure that new requests are prioritized before you begin planning the work that your people will be taking on.
Speaking of planning, marketers know that although the specifics of their projects may vary, the overall deliverable types (and the tasks for their production) generally stay the same.
Building project templates for the types of work you and your team often tackle (like white papers, print ads, video production, and more) will save you hours in the long run, resulting in a silky-smooth work process, easier budget discussions, and more predictable timetables.
Whether you can use a template for this project or not, don’t neglect settling important questions like project milestones, dates, and budget allocations before moving onto step three.
Step Three: ASSIGN
You’ve got problems and you’ve got resources. With a good plan in place, now’s the time to match them up and get commitments.
Start with assigning larger items (like team milestone tasks), assign job roles or needed skills, then finally assign individual team members who have those skills. Repeat with all the planned tasks you have until everything that can be assigned has been assigned.
People and projects run on commitments, so with your team members chosen, now would be a great time to commit everyone involved on:
- Estimated Hours
- Project Durations
Step Four: EXECUTE
This is it. The planning is done, the distractions have been tuned out, and the Instragram window has been minimized… It’s time to do great work.
As your team members dive into their tasks, creating a place where they can track their time can provide useful insights about how long things actually take so that you can tweak your project templates and timelines for the future.
When possible, communication should happen where the work does -- no information silos, no random email threads, and no undocumented meetings! A centralized, social media-style tool is preferred since it keeps updates, documents, and discussions in the same place.
Key to keeping the work flowing is a standardized approval process, so make sure that you take some time to map out the three W’s of work approvals: who needs to see, what they should have in hand, and when they should get it.
Step Five: DELIVER
Time to take the great work that was created and approved during step four and get it to the right people.
Cataloging, searching, and distributing assets can be a job in itself, so take the time to prepare a specific system for asset management.
Many marketers choose a Digital Asset Management (DAM) to handle this, and in addition to downloading/sharing assets, a good DAM comes with the added bonus of providing a place to reference your branding guidelines.
Lastly, getting projects delivered is great, but don’t forget the people who worked so hard to make it happen. Big talent deserves big recognition, so take the time to recognize and reward great work. It’s good for your team, it’s good for your people (and pssst… it’s good for your business, too).
Step Six: MEASURE
Let me put a number to something you probably already know: Many CEOs don’t think marketing teams have business credibility. How many? Seventy-three percent.
It’s time to go on the offensive to show your team’s value. Settle the value debate before it starts by using dependable data. With a clear and standardized process for how you handle work, it should be much easier to gather data points and generate reports that show how your projects contribute to business growth.
Those with a work management tool have it even easier since their system can automatically generate reports and executive dashboards using the the project data from the planning, execution, and delivery stages.
As the reports roll in, you’ll have a clear view of all the things that your team does well, as well as where you can set metrics to help you improve. Just remember to regularly evaluate progress and set goals for improvement.
Wherever you are in your journey to optimize your workflows, you could always use a roadmap.
Click here for the detailed infographic that lays out everything you need to know about revamping your workflow—including the steps, the structure, and who should be involved.
About the Author
As Solutions Marketing Manager for Workfront, Nick has helped build the marketing strategy and content for the Workfront services organization, and the Workfront expansion team. He loves to help marketing teams find the right methodology, tell the right story, and create content that adds real value for customers. When he’s not busy consuming work chaos, he can be found telling scary stories to his older son, or dancing in the kitchen with his younger one. He also loves writing, spending time with his wife, eating desserts of any kind, and listing things in groups of three.More Content by Nick Scholz