Ever feel like there are more projects, tasks and things to do in a day than hours to do them? We’ve been right there with you.
And when curveballs get thrown and direction changes, it can feel like all that time spent on the original efforts were in vain. While some shifts in the plan are natural, putting well-defined processes and tools in place can not only increase efficiency in your marketing efforts, but also client (and team member) satisfaction. So how do you fit in processes changes and integrate new tools? Here are a baby steps to increase efficiency.
- Take a strategy-first approach.
While this seems intuitive, it’s worth mentioning… always start with a job brief or creative brief. Filling out a creative brief helps ensure you have the necessary details to get started, helps your client think through the request and makes sure everyone is aligned with the goals. A creative brief also serves as a guiding document for the project, making sure all efforts (and potential changes) are grounded in strategy and have the target audience’s needs at the center.
- Don’t forsake collaborating.
The hardest part of collaboration is coordinating schedules to get everyone in the same room (or on the same call), but it’s oh-so-worth it. Bringing many heads together yields a wide range of creative ideas and gives you new perspective on the problem you’ve been trying to solve. Be sure to set ground rules and have a clear objective for the ideation session to help you stay on track.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Keep the lines of communication open throughout the project with both your team and your clients. While different perspectives may cause changes to your work, if the new ideas are grounded in the creative brief, the changes are bound to result in a better deliverable for your clients. Be sure to update leadership and your clients frequently, even if there isn’t much to report. It shows them there is still forward progress and hopefully captures any potential changes in direction sooner rather than later (meaning fewer last minute changes).
- Define (and redefine) your process.
From responding to a new customer inquiry to communicating during a project, there are many things you do over and over again. Take some time to document repeatable tasks, then schedule a meeting to share and define the processes with your team. If you choose to implement any process changes company-wide, make sure everyone knows where to find these well-documented steps. Look for ways you can automate processes and schedule regular “spring and fall cleanings” to revisit and continually redefine your methods. After all, the more defined your processes, the smoother your company runs and the happier your customers (and team!) will be.
- Invest in the right tools.
It can be tough to invest in a back-end tool or system that the client never sees, but it’s worth asking if the cheapest options really address the issues, or are the tools making your processes more complicated than they need to be?
Investing in tools to improve processes isn’t just about the cost of the tool itself, but also about the time it takes to train employees and implement company-wide. The upfront time you put in making sure tools align with your company’s needs helps you prepare for necessary process changes even before a new tool is implemented.
Here are a few of our favorite tools to boost efficiency and how we selected each one:
- Wrike: We’ve come a long way from tracking our projects in an Excel file thanks to our handy project management tool, Wrike. Initially, we developed a wish list, reviewed several project management tool options, scheduled demos and used free trials before we landed on Wrike. We use Wrike to enter projects into one central location, giving everyone a full view of what’s in-house. We set up templates for tasks we do often, use forms to trigger new projects, have access to a resource planner to see who has capacity for additional work and are continually looking at ways we can optimize our use of Wrike.
- Office 365: When we added Office 365 to the mix, our primary goal was to make collaborating with each other and clients even easier. Office 365 gave us convenient and secure file storage (SharePoint), instant messaging and the ability to host online meetings (Skype/Microsoft Teams), email (Outlook) and a full suite of Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Notebook, etc.).
- Calendly: We used to spend more time trying to schedule meetings than in the meeting itself, so we looked for ways we could reduce the amount of emailing back and forth. We trialed a few appointment-scheduling apps and landed on Calendly. It even lets us link calendars, so we can share all our availability in one link. We’ve also set up a variety of meeting types for easy appointment scheduling through our website.
Now that we’ve shared some of our tips and tools for improving efficiency and getting back more of that precious time, we want to hear your best tips in the comments below.
We’re all about sharing what we’ve learned and helping others improve their processes too. Pick a time that works for you, and you can ask us anything about our efficiency improvements.
Kayde Kempen is an associate marketing manager at Writing by Design. She has 7+ years of marketing communications experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Kayde has written hundreds of blog posts and e-blasts, both for Writing by Design and its clients, is the lead content writer for Writing by Design’s website/SEO clients, and assists with press releases, concept writing, script writing and more. Prior to joining the Writing by Design team in 2016, she was an associate marketing manager at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she worked for five years and led nearly 90 website redesign projects, wrote for the University’s alumni magazine and news website, and wrote and managed a variety of print and digital marketing projects.