For many companies, the review and approval process is the biggest bottleneck in completing projects. Lengthy reviews often involve several teams from creative to legal and may even require approvals from external stakeholders.
To a certain extent, the benefits of having multiple people take the time to review a project outweigh the negatives. Reviews should be an opportunity to slow down and carefully inspect every detail of a project so you can catch errors, maintain brand consistency, and ensure legal compliance. But more often than not, lengthy review processes are frustrating and can damage the project and timeline. For this reason, it’s important to regularly audit your review process to see what can be improved.
Here are three tips for improving your approval process:
1. Identify and explore the breakdowns
The breakdowns in your approval workflow shouldn’t be difficult to find. Just think about the point (or points) at which work piles up on one side and people are left waiting on the other side. It might be an individual, a process, or a team. Keep in mind that being labeled as a “bottleneck” doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Many reviewers have other responsibilities and limited time, too. Explain to those individuals that your purpose is not to blame, but to support. If they understand that you are trying to help them, not chastise them, they will be much more willing to participate.
Workfront just released their annual State of Work report, and the findings confirm what many of us have long suspected. Technological advances—including digital proofing—are changing when and where and how we all work.
Some of these changes will have employees dancing in the cubicle aisles, for as long as those aisles may last.
Here’s what we found:
Remote Working is Rising
A surprising 52% of the 600+ respondents believe that most workers will be working remotely in a few years. Most. More than half.
You might not be able to see it, but you’ve felt it creeping up.
Your work—and your workplace—have somehow become less simple than they used to be. Maybe it’s the tighter competition in your market. Maybe it’s that your team is interfacing and integrating with more departments and teams than ever before—this is especially true if you work in marketing. Maybe it’s that you have to dot more i’s and cross more t’s, in terms of brand messaging and compliance, than you ever had to previously.
Yes, the work and the way you work has shifted slowly but surely beneath your feet.
For the last two years, Workfront, ProofHQ’s parent company, has reached out to enterprise workers across the U.S. to understand how they manage their work and the barriers keeping them from getting work done. Next week, the company will release the 2016-2017 edition of their report, but before the big unveiling we wanted to revisit three of the most eye-opening findings from last year’s edition—especially because they highlight the challenges in communication and collaboration that we often cover here at the ProofHQ blog:
Remember the old Apple advertisements that coined the catchphrase, “there’s an app for that”?
Need to check the snow conditions on the mountain? Count the calories in your lunch? Automatically renew library books? Identify that song you can’t get out of your head? Yes, there’s an app for that.
Whether consciously or not, many marketers have embraced this idea of creating a standalone solution for every new problem that’s identified—and they’re even applying that mindset to emerging technologies in the workplace.
As Robert Rose recently wrote on the Workfront blog:
“We now have brand teams, demand generation teams, sales enablement teams, field marketing teams, social marketing teams, social CRM teams, PR teams and even (my favorite) a separation in some organizations of ‘digital marketing’ and regular ol’ ‘marketing.’ The interesting thing is that this structure, in most cases, wasn’t designed. These siloes grew organically, like weeds in a garden, as new platforms and technology emerged into popularity. Basically, the business said, ‘Hey, mobile is now a thing. Let’s create a team for that.’”
Globalization and continuous technological innovation have resulted in a rapidly evolving business environment. Social media and mobile adaptability have revolutionized business, creating an ever-increasing need for change–and change management.
With the business environment experiencing so much upheaval, organizations must learn to manage and adapt to change, a feat that remains profoundly difficult. The structure, culture, and routines of many work teams reflect a persistent and difficult-to-remove “imprint” of the past, making them resistant to radical change, even if the current environment of the organization is constantly shifting.
We’ve all heard the saying: “But we’ve always done it this way!” This short sentence is the enemy of change, and so is fear, rush, and lack of consistency, to name the main few.
Enemy #1: Fear of the Unknown
There’s a wide range of reasons why people do not embrace change, but they often relate back to fear. Fear of the unknown is something we can all relate to in one way or another. It’s often difficult to leave the well-known comfort zone, especially if we’ve been in it for a long time:
“Will I lose my job?”
“Will my working hours be reduced?”
“Will we now need to learn new programs, processes and rules?”
These are some of the most common questions that employees ask themselves but are often afraid to voice. Managing change is not a one way street; employee involvement is a necessary and integral part of managing change. Feedback from employees as a change is being implemented is a key element of the change management process. The more information that is shared, the less threatening and scary the process is.
Enemy #2: Rushing Into Change
When implementing change, organizations often make one crucial mistake—they want to act fast, and they assume everyone will follow at the same speed. Managers responsible for change make theoretical assumptions as to how things will look like at the end of the road. They see the final goal and want to move toward it as soon as possible, forgetting that that there may be employee, departmental or system obstacles along the way.
Enemy #3: Lack of Consistency
The change management process involves a lot of elements which, if used correctly, should naturally and smoothly complement one another. That’s the theory, but what about reality? How often do we hear random pieces of information being shared around the office about an upcoming change? Or conflicting statements and rumors? Inconsistency while managing change will inevitably lead to failure.
According to Kotter International:
“More than 70% of all major transformation efforts fail. Why? Because organizations do not take a consistent, holistic approach to changing themselves, nor do they engage their workforces effectively.”
Your Change Management Checklist
So what’s the best approach then? To help you manage change the right way, we’ve created a handy change management checklist that will help you get started on the path to successful change management. It is not an easy process, but it can be painless and smooth when approached with care and preparation.
There are a lot of things in marketing that we try to automate as much as possible, as well we should. If it doesn’t have to be done manually, and there’s a software solution capable of doing it for you, why wouldn’t you assign your creative resources to more important initiatives?
But there’s one area in particular that will always require a human touch, even if a computer can do it more efficiently. Because in this sphere, connection trumps efficiency every time.
I’m talking about relationship marketing, which should be a core part of every company’s social media strategy.
One Passenger at a Time
In a recent blog post for Workfront, Ted Rubin shared a story of a woman who was travelling home from vacation on JetBlue airlines. From her seat on the plane, she tweeted about how she wished her vacation wasn’t over and how great it would be to be greeted by a parade when she landed.
Her wish came true.
How? Because JetBlue was listening—and its employees were empowered to not only act, but to act immediately.
Wait, you may be thinking, even if we pulled off something like that for one customer every single week of the year, that’s still only 52 individuals reached. Is this really the best use of our time and resources?
Yes, Rubin would argue, it is the best use of some of your time and some of your resources. This kind of direct, spontaneous relationship marketing can help you build and sustain your reputation. Rubin says:
“I like to say that a brand is what a business does; a reputation is what people remember and share. The keyword here is ‘share’. All of these people share. Even if they’re not on social media, they have friends, they have families, they have colleagues, they belong to the PTA. They are going to tell people. Everybody loves to share great experiences.”
Three Tips for Better Relationship Marketing
Rubin’s post goes on to share three ways to harness the power of your people in your relationship marketing efforts. And yes, each of these ideas fundamentally relies on the human touch:
Real listening requires real human ears. “Even with software, it’s gonna be hard to hear everything,” Rubin says, “because most software just picks up hashtags or pick up keywords. They don’t necessarily pick up the conversation.”
2. Empower Your Employees
“There can’t be five levels of approval,” Rubin says. “There can’t be budgetary constraints to such a degree that you can’t just have a few people meet someone at a plane, or send them a note, or leave a note in their hotel room welcoming them there. These are really simple things you can do if you listen.”
3. Build it into Your Processes
You don’t need a vast army to pull this off successfully. At a very large corporation, a tiny but empowered team can be sufficient. At a small company, even having one employee devoting a few hours a week to listening efforts will spark helpful insights and opportunities to connect.
The Human Touch
Decades ago, brands would have done anything to have our current level of direct access to customers and prospects. As marketers, are we squandering the small and simple chances that are right in front of us every day? Take the time to utterly delight some customers, one-on-one, at least some of the time—and you’ll build the kind of reputation that can only be built with human hands.
When new technology arises that obliterates the pain points of the past—like one that transforms your approval process, for example—it’s easy to take it for granted. To forget what life was like before. To fall into the trap of thinking that things have always been this way.
Can you recall what it was like to know you had seen a certain actor in another movie before, with no way of looking it up until you got home to look it up on Yahoo or AltaVista? Then the iPhone comes along, not to mention the IMDB app, and you have your answer long before the credits roll.
This is a trivial example, quite literally, but there are thousands more like it.
I recently sat down with a creative director, Travis Lucas, who leads a team of 6 designers and writers—plus multiple freelance designers, writers, and a video production team—at a Salt Lake City-based media company. I asked him to revisit some painful memories from his past (roughly 1994 to 2012) back before his team had a digital proofing solution in place.
The line between “marketing” and “content marketing” isn’t always crystal clear. After all, isn’t all marketing comprised of content?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the difference lies in how valuable the content is to the customer. Consider this definition from a recent CMI blog post:
“Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent.”
Content marketing can take the form of infographics, blog posts, web pages, podcasts, videos, white papers, apps, ebooks, books, and more. As long as it contains information your audience is likely to seek out and find useful, it counts.
So why should you put effort into serving up content that’s indirectly related to sales and revenue? Here are five solid reasons.
1. Content Marketing Can Have a Phenomenal ROI
Writing for Forbes, Josh Steimle said, “At my own company we’ve used content marketing to grow more than 1,000% over the past year. Potential clients find our content, find value in it, and by the time they contact us they’re already convinced they want to work with us.”
Considering that Steimle attributes 95% of that success to just a handful of articles he’s written, which took about 20 hours of work, that’s a phenomenal return on investment.
2. Content Marketing Supports Other Digital Marketing Channels
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest and your other social channels aren’t going to update themselves. Where can you turn for high-quality, original content to post on each of these platforms? Your content marketing pieces.
Having a regular stream of content that resonates with your audience not only gives you something useful to promote through your social channels (“Check out our latest free ebook, full of 25 targeted tips you can try today.”)—you can also mine that content for quotes, excerpts, and other tidbits that will keep your social communications strong and relevant.
3. Content Marketing Contributes to SEO
If you know which keywords you’re targeting and which keywords are bringing visitors to your website, you can create truly valuable content that will reward prospects with more than just a sales page.
Steimle says content marketing “provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines.”
For many companies, he recommends focusing the bulk of your SEO efforts on content marketing.
4. Attention Matters More than Impressions
“It baffles me that so much money is still spent on forms of advertising that are not beneficial to the consumer, nor where the current consumer attention is,” writes entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk. “For a consumer to get excited about something, to be compelled by something, it comes down to attention. Attention, not impressions. They need to really consume it. That is the game.”
If you’re doing your content marketing correctly, it will be about capturing attention in an authentic way. Answer the questions your consumer is asking, solve the problems they want to have solved, and truly educate the consumer, and you’ll earn their attention naturally.
This is also true for traditional advertising efforts. A television ad that makes people laugh, inspires them to watch it again and again and even share it with their friends—that’s the kind of advertising that rises to the level of “content.” It provides true value, unlike the standard interruptive advertising that people try to avoid and ignore.
5. Quality Content is Not Just the Future of Marketing—it’s the Present
The Content Marketing Institute argues that content marketing is not new. In their History of Content Marketing video, they trace the practice back to 1895, when John Deere launched a customer magazine called The Furrow. The Michelin Guides date back to the year 1900. And Jell-O started distributing a free recipe book in 1904.
The term “content marketing” doesn’t appear until the next century, in 2001, when the digital marketing revolution was in its infancy. And it has changed everything. By the year 2010, 88% of brands were using content marketing to engage with their audiences, using 25% of their total budgets to do so.
If you’re not focusing on content marketing in your organization, you’ve got some catching up to do.
With ever increasing pressure to come up with more and more engaging campaigns, marketers are constantly looking for new ways to differentiate themselves by producing higher quality content.
It’s become critical for in-house marketing and creative teams, as well as external agencies, to produce content that will break through digital marketing noise. And that’s not surprising. We are all potential customers to someone else on the web. For most of us, first impressions of any content online is what matters most, and that’s exactly what gets us to click that specific piece of content. But for this to happen, we have to visually engage with an ad. In other words, it needs to grab our attention.
Content marketing has become one of marketing’s most effective tools. But do you know the different approaches you should be taking for a B2B audience (business to business) compared to a B2C audience (business to consumer)? Read on for a helpful infographic that will answer that question for you.
With the explosion of marketing opportunities and available delivery methods marketers face today, the fight to be heard is more competitive than ever. Each piece of content you create must appeal to the right buyer personas, be delivered via the proper channels and be better than the hundreds of thousands of pages of marketing content we are competing against. The bar of success is being raised to new heights every single day.