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Setting up clear company folder structures with your marketing team might seem like a trivial detail. However, if you’ve ever dealt with hassles in trying to find important assets you need for projects, then you know how disorganized files can lead to bigger problems later.
For example, think of how much time is getting wasted right now because team members can’t quickly track down things they need. Multiply that aggravation and loss of productivity times the number of times anyone on your team needs to do almost literally anything, and you can quickly see how disorganization compounds over time.
Plus, research shows organized marketers are 397% more likely to report success, and there’s no easier way to get organized than to start with your folder system. Whether you’re using a DAM or cloud storage service, this post will help you get it organized for good.
While it’s difficult to know the exact best way to structure folders within any single organization (without actually spying on your computer), there are some basic ideas and examples you can follow to get started with getting organized. And that’s what you’ll find in this post.
In order to expedite getting organized, download this collection of pre-made folders. They’re labelled and structured to fit the needs of most marketing teams (and of course, they’re easy enough to adjust in any way you need—they’re nothing too crazy, but they should make your life a little bit easier).
Before you can establishing what your folder system needs, it’s helpful to know what problems you’re trying to solve. Some of those include:
In order to achieve those goals, your folders should have:
What does a folder system look like when it’s fully diagrammed? Here’s a simple illustration to help you visualize what we’re talking about:
In this example, you’ll see a few things:
Separate from the specific labels you use with your folders, there’s a basic philosophy that can drive how you keep everything organized. It’s as easy as starting with your biggest bucket first, and then prioritizing downward from there.
Figuring out how this should look takes a little bit of time and some common sense logic, but not much more than that. Here’s a rudimentary template to follow:
Your hierarchy can be as deep as it needs to be, but having as few levels as necessary will help keep things more manageable.
Marketing teams commonly store files in multiple places. Different sub-teams will have their own storage processes, or different clients will want to work with different tools.
Whatever the case may be, this can make finding what you need difficult. That’s particularly true in large organizations and agencies where team members might need to get IT approval or permission to access different tools to get what they need.
In short, a simple problem can turn into a massive headache quickly.
No matter the size of your team or company though, making it clear where certain things can be found is a major quality-of-life consideration to take care of. And you’ve got some options here.
Your company probably already uses some type of cloud storage. You might even have some sort of DAM (digital asset management) solution too. If not, here are some options to consider:
How does your team typically work day-to-day? Start by asking a few questions:
Once you have answers for each of these (and you don’t need to spend a ton of time on them; consider these high-level items to think about), you’re ready to move on.
Once you have a basic understanding of what your team needs, you can start plotting out a structure for your folders. What this looks like specifically will depend on your particular situation, but what follows is a simple process to figure this out.
Your folders should cascade downward in a logical fashion that starts with the highest-level needs of your organization. Additional folders can filter more narrowly from there. That might include:
For the sake of this post, let’s call this your Parent Folder (the highest-level folder that every other folder lives in).
Within each top-level folder, add in necessary sub-folders. Depending on what you’ve set as your parent folder, it might make sense to narrow these down by some of the following:
Add as many sub-categories as it makes sense within each of your subfolders.
At the team member level, people should be able to control their own folders (and this post will cover organizing personal files later on). But, if you have files that a team members “owns,” but others might need to access, creating folders for each team member may be a good idea.
For example, designers might keep a folder for everything they create, but they might also keep them in a shared folder in case someone else needs to use or access those assets for a project.
In this case, your absolute most bottom-level folders could belong to individual team members. If your top-level folders represent your entire department, then at this point, you’ve worked your way the entire down the org chart to the most molecular level of the hierarchy.
Your marketing department likely has plenty of files and folders you need to share with one another.
If you’re working with a small team, then keeping everything organized might not be too difficult. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to get this right.
Here’s a basic layout that breaks down projects by type:
Here are some ideas for subfolders within each one:
Logos / Brand Images:
You get the idea. A handful of top-level folders, then subfolders broken down by more granular project category types.
Larger organizations with multiple marketing departments or sub-teams will have more complex folder structuring needs. Here’s what this might look like within a large marketing department that includes several sub-teams:
The folder structure within each team would get a bit more complex than the previous example as well. Here’s what might make sense within each team (some teams may have similar folders, but separated out to keep their stuff organized):
Brand Assets / Logos:
Within each sub-folder would be another tier broken down by individual campaigns and projects. For project management folders, adding in year and month folders for things like time sheets and resource tracking would likely make sense as well.
For the sake of example, here’s how this might break down visually for the Content Team:
Here, you can see a folder for each content type the team routinely creates. Next, they have a few options for how they might break down further folders:
Agencies have unique client collaboration needs to consider. The way you structure your folders can be similar to in-house teams, but with some additional layers to keep client projects cleanly separated.
At the highest level, an agency might consider folders divided between client and internal assets, plus other categories they might need:
Within your client and internal files, the rest of the hierarchy might look similar to an inhouse or enterprise team. The key distinction is ensuring client and internal files and assets are kept separate and cleanly organized. This is especially important when your client deliverables are literally equal to money in the bank.
For files and things you need for your own work purposes, it’s not a bad idea to have a clear structure for those as well.
In fact, even if you’re not able to influence your entire department to make broad organizational changes (and sometimes changing something as simple as a file folder hierarchy can feel like moving mountains), you can at least control how your own things are organized.
There are a few basic tips that, even if you do nothing else, can make a meaningful difference in keeping yourself organized.
Establishing a simple folder hierarchy for yourself isn’t too difficult, but staying disciplined enough to maintain it over time can be challenging. So, make it easy on yourself by keeping it simple. In your documents folder, set something up for each project and content type you usually work on:
Next, break these down into individual sub-folders based either on month and year, or specific campaigns, depending on what makes the most sense for you. Here are some suggestions:
If you’re at an agency, follow something like this, but divide everything up into individual client folders. This should be sufficient to keep you organized for the long term without being too complex.
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