Digital marketing is becoming more complex by the day. Most marketers and agencies alike get mediocre grades when it comes to creating an efficient and effective workflow to manage this complexity.
Everybody acknowledges process. It's an unsexy topic, but vital for success -- and few excel at it. Agencies often sell a unique process as a point of differentiation. Some processes are even branded or trademarked. Some are passed on from generation to generation like folklore. Marketing organizations are quicker to admit the need for improvement and are beginning to realize the importance of their own digital processes. In reality, most processes could stand an overhaul.
Effective processes should be:
Documented: Make it impossible for your processes to have any ambiguity by creating and distributing formal documented process steps and guidelines to your team. Only when you take the time to put your process on paper will you discover the inconsistencies and gaps that need to be addressed. The act of documenting also creates an accountable owner of each process.
Scalable: Processes should be revised to accommodate growing teams and increased interdepartmental
collaboration. Of course, a scalable process starts with a scalable marketing organization structure. Periodic reorganizations are sometimes inevitable, but nothing beats a little planning and
foresight into how your teams will grow. With the radical changes in the marketing world over the last few years, and more to come, most marketers and agencies would benefit from revising baseline
processes to maintain a level of consistency in workflow over time.
Continually optimized: Successful processes are the result of iterative development. Productivity and margins are affected by efficiency in workflow, so as the inevitable day-to-day realities require improvements in processes, these changes should be discussed, documented, implemented, and enforced. An effective process is a responsive and adaptable process.
Managed by smart people: Your processes are only as good as the depth of experience of the people behind them. Individuals tasked with developing and managing your teams' processes must understand the ins-and-outs and qualitative nuances of specific elements of digital marketing. If you don't have the capability internally, hire a consultant to help -- it will be well worth the investment. Rarely will you be involved in blazing new trails, so the brunt of your processes will be based on tried and true best practices. Experience prevails. Of course, processes must be developed within the context of a company's culture, which at times can require a delicate touch, often requiring the involvement and commitment of senior management. Increasingly, processes need to transcend the legacy silos within an organization to foster collaboration between divisions that are not otherwise accountable to one another.
Made efficient by technology: It's ironic that we still spend so much time pushing paper and spending time on mundane tasks that are components of the workflow required to execute digital marketing programs. The tools and technology available to improve the efficiency and productivity of workflow and collaboration are certainly improving, but we have a long way to go. Periodically audit your process and identify tasks that could be improved by automation or better collaboration. Perform a due diligence on the tools available, but never implement technology for technology's sake. You must be able to positively answer the simple question, "Will this tool truly make my team more productive?"
Enforced: What good is having a process if it's not followed? Enforcing the adherence to process is the key to managing the growing complexity of digital marketing today. Granted, marketing is not a commoditized assembly line. However, as your team grows and collaborative requirements increase, having systematic processes in place becomes more important than ever.
It is possible to nurture creativity and innovation while maximizing efficiency through standardized processes.
Henry Ford once said "If you think of standardization as the best that you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow, you get somewhere."
Do you have some tips on refining processes? Share them in the comments or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller.