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Everyone on your team knows exactly what to work on. They knock out high-quality work. The best part? They hit every deadline while they’re at it.
And the manager’s role?
Leading a simple, two-stage marketing task approval process.
Boom. Celebration time.
Marketing workflow processes that actually work are potent productivity boosters. But nestled within every project are tasks that need to be done on time and up to standard.
Layering complicated task workflows into your marketing project management process doesn’t help.
Enter today’s post.
You’re about to learn a simple, two-stage marketing task approval process that will make you and your team more productive than ever.
This process will help marketing managers:
And it will help marketing team members:
No matter what your role is, this marketing task approval process will cut the clutter and help you do your best, most efficient work to date.
…but if you’d rather skip the reading and jump straight into getting things done…
In marketing, there’s an endless swamp of details.
There are hidden snags just below the surface that can trip up even the best teams.
In turn, this makes running a marketing team at full-speed a challenge. And a frustrating one at that.
That’s why we built simple, yet sophisticated, task workflows to supercharge your output.
Here’s what your marketing life will look like when powered by task workflows:
Say “sayonara” to endless email threads, constant reminders, and needless interruptions.
Up ahead, you’ll get a step-by-step process to master your marketing task approvals. We created the following kit of resources:
Snag these docs and follow along as you read today’s post to put everything into action.
Alright, let’s rock.
We’ll start with some really good news.
This task approval process is wicked simple. It has just two stages with a few steps apiece.
Stage one, assign a task. Stage two, approve the completed task.
Here’s what each stage looks like.
Each time a task is assigned by a marketing manager or project leader, it will include three steps:
Each time a task is approved (or denied), it includes just two steps:
The crux of productivity is working with total clarity, focus, and avoiding rework.
People need to understand who’s doing what. How to do it to perfection. And then when their part is due by.
Beyond missed deadlines, the big risk to projects is when a task is finished with poor quality. When this happens, it means the entire task process starts over.
Everyone on the team needs to visualize this loop. This way, teams understand the true impact of rework.
So, let’s get things done right the first time by working this easy process.
Open your marketing checklist template and let’s get to work on stage one: assigning tasks.
At first blush, this seems like a pretty simple thing to do.
To assign a task, don’t you just decide who’s gonna’ do it… Tell them to get it done… And set a deadline?
But the tricky part isn’t simply picking someone and saying, “Go knock it out of the park!”
Instead, it’s prioritization.
McKeown explains that when you have an overload of priorities, you actually have none. This sends us into the never-ending loop of the busyness cycle.
We’re doing a lot. But we end up with little to show for it.
The MVP mindset helps you focus on the bare essentials.
(Bear necessities if you prefer.)
The question to be answered is: “What are the core tasks that must be accomplished in order to finish this project at an acceptable quality?”
Here’s a personal example.
I’m working on a large research project right now. At first, I had a pretty grand vision for how we’d present the data in labor-intensive ways (like microsites).
However, as the project plan took shape, it became apparent that the same objective could be accomplished with much less work.
So, some of my grand plans hit the chopping block. This meant scores of tasks fell off the to-do list immediately.
But do you know what happened?
The first major milestone of that project shipped the very same day. This drastically bumped up our timeline.
So before you assign a task, answer that MVP question and ensure it’s a mission-critical piece of the puzzle.
After you’ve concluded a task is essential, it’s time to assign it.
The number one rule of task completion is that there is someone to actually do the work 😁
To choose the right person, think about two things: expertise and workload.
(We’ll deal with workload considerations below.)
The obvious question to ask is, “Who on our team is best suited to knock this task out?”
However, the less obvious one is, “Who on our team needs to grow in this area?”
Here’s the deal, as marketers, if we’re not expanding our skillsets, we’re falling behind. Just consider the overwhelming number of tools and niche specialties martech brings.
As a team leader then, consider tasks as a way to help your team acquire new skills.
Our own Nathan Ellering, Head of Demand Generation here at CoSchedule, breaks down the skill acquisition process in the video below.
(He even breaks down how our team’s skill of publishing blog posts has evolved.)
First, you simply need to start. Starting is usually the hardest part, because there’s such a broad gap between the learner and skill mastery.
But when you have to learn something new as part of your job… It’s pretty tough to brush it off and not throw yourself into the fray.
Next, you need to do it. Over, and over, and over again. Why? Because you need to do it to learn it.
Give people on your team the space—and time—to learn skills. As Nathan points out in the video, research shows it takes roughly 100 hours to acquire a new skill.
Obviously, if a task needs to get done yesterday… Assign it to the most experienced person available.
But don’t discount task assignments as a method of developing, stretching, and growing your team.
After all, great leaders task their team with new, and progressively difficult, projects.
After a task is assigned, itneeds to be defined.
Your goal here is to give a definition of what “done” looks like.
In the template, this is where the “Notes” column comes into play.
First, this isn’t an essay on the reasoning behind the task or even how to do it. Instead, it’s a description of what the end product should look like.
Let’s take a common task we content folks do: keyword research.
You can jot a similar description in your template.
Or, if you use CoSchedule for task management, the easiest way to do this is to use the new expanded view for tasks.
Simply find the task like the one labeled “Find the keyword” in the image below. Then click on the chevron to expand it.
You will see a more detailed view which includes a task “Description” field. This is where you can define what done looks like.
For this task, done means: “Find keyword with difficulty of 50% or less with average monthly search volume of 100+.”
We know which tools will help us complete the task. More importantly, we know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.
There’s a clear line between this task being unfinished and being finished.
For instance, if I found a keyword that either had a difficulty of more than 50% or a search volume of less than 100, I would know without asking for feedback that the keyword in question is unacceptable.
Defining what task completion means reduces back-and-forth, rework, and ambiguity. In turn saving you time, effort, and energy.
Who woulda’ thought a simple task description could do so much?
Once you’ve written clear, concise, and detailed task descriptions you can move on to rocking the calendar with deadlines.
Deadlines are the second greatest productivity booster the world has ever seen.
Obviously the first is coffee.
Deadlines force us to fit our work into a defined space.
In essence, if we humans are given one week to finish a task, we’ll complete it in that timeframe. If however, we were given just one week to complete the same task, we’d find a leaner way to accomplish it in less time.
But, before you go setting comically-aggressive deadlines, look at two things: publish date and workload.
Your publish date is the driver of all project task deadlines. And workload is the reality check that keeps people from either living at the office and burning out or consistently missing due dates.
First, ask yourself when something needs to get finished based on publish date. And do so with the full understanding that task deadline and publish date are not the same things.
At CoSchedule, we think in terms of number-of-days-before-publish for setting deadlines.
To assign a task, we look take into account each task necessary to complete a project.
(We like to use task templates for this—but you certainly don’t have to.)
You can view all project tasks either on the right-hand side of your content in your CoSchedule calendar or in your marketing projects backlog.
The “publish date” is located at the top right.
However, as we know, there are scores of tasks that need to be finished before a piece of content is press ready.
To maintain the integrity of a project’s overall timeline, we look at the publish date, and then reverse engineer task due dates accordingly.
To add a new task into the mix then, consider when it needs to be 100% done by. This helps you avoid last-minute time crises. (And the slipshod work that often results.)
After determining when a task needs to get done in relation to the project publish (or ship) date, don’t forget to check on the assignee’s workload.
Yes, I know this is time management 101, but it’s easy to overlook if you don’t have an accurate picture of what’s on your people’s collective plates.
When there are more tasks than hours in the day, trouble is brewing.
That’s why I’ve included a version of what we use at CoSchedule, called the “Marketing Team Active List.”
You’ll find it in the second tab of your marketing checklist template.
This document is definitely a bonus—and not a strict part of the marketing task approval process.
However, with a simple spreadsheet like this one, it’s easy to get a bird’s eye view on the major projects team members are working on.
To start, enter the team member’s name on the left-hand cell. Each person should get their own color.
Next, beneath the “Project” column header, enter a project name or brief description. Do this for every project that person is working on. Then include the final “end-of-day (EOD) deadline” that their piece of that project is due by.
Lastly, include an area to add “Progress Notes.”
I recommend making this a collaborative spreadsheet in Google Sheets—or somewhere easily accessible for every team member.
Now that your task is assigned, it’s time to move to stage two.
At this point, the work has been submitted for approval. This is where two questions are asked:
You will see each step in your marketing task checklist, as well.
If you’ve been clear with stage one, this stage should be a breeze.
Sometimes feedback is cut-and-dried.
All it requires is a comment or a request to redo a small task. I’m talking about things like your graphic designer using the wrong HEX color code.
In CoSchedule, this is easy as pie.
Simply select the “Comments Bubble” on the navigation bar of your piece of content.
Then write your note in the empty text field and click “Add Comment.”
You can also add an attachment to your comments by selecting the “Paper Clip” icon just below the text field. This comes in handy when you need to exchange files and keep track of them as a project team.
However, what about when feedback isn’t that simple?
More complex feedback can be a thornier issue.
So let’s address how to handle larger issues that need a face-to-face conversation rather than a simple note to swap out one color for another.
To start, we’ll disband a myth. Leading with “solution-oriented feedback” isn’t the most constructive way to solve issues.
You know the kind. A solution-oriented feedback approach insists that you should bring a solution for every problem you outline.
There’s a better way.
Instead, lead with invitational feedback. Then, ask the right questions and listen.
Interestingly, there’s data that shows 73% of people who received critical feedback already knew about the issue.
Rather than feedback as a way to tell someone about a problem, think of it as a chance to have this person describe the problem in their own words.
After all, nearly three-out-of-four people will already know about it!
Invitational feedback means you describe your observation of an issue, then ask for the person’s analysis and explanation.
Then ask the question, “How do you think we can fix this and avoid it in the future?”
There will certainly be opportunities to help people on your team improve their work. And your input will be helpful.
However, what if the reason a task wasn’t performed up to snuff was because they didn’t have access to the right resources?
This is a great opportunity to uncover roadblocks and improve processes.
Congratulations—you’ve now arrived at the moment of truth.
It’s time to approve or deny the task.
But before you get too excited and press that “Approve” button, be the ogre on the bridge.
The ogre on the bridge doesn’t let anything cross the finish line that’s not up to standard. Regardless of how hard or long someone has worked—the approver must be the arbiter of quality.
So the very last question in our marketing task approval process is: “Would you put your name on this?”
If yes, approve. If not, revise.
It’s really that simple.
If you’re working in CoSchedule, the easiest way is to use the approval feature.
Click on the arrow on the right side of a task. Then below the assignee, select the team member’s name who will sit behind the approval desk!
Once this individual is selected, they’ll be notified when the task has been marked as “Complete.”
^This is what happens when someone clicks the checkbox next to a task.
For a task that requires approval, it will move into an intermediate state once it’s marked completed.
The task will display with a horizontal line in the checkbox rather than a checkmark.
The assignee will also see which tasks are “Pending Approval” on their CoSchedule dashboard.
Then, all that’s left is for the approver to select the “Green Arrow” or the “Red X.”
The task owner will be notified of either the thumbs up or thumbs down automatically.
Nice work… That’s a wrap.
With this easy marketing task approval process you’re all set to fly through tasks that are done right and on-time.
Don’t forget to grab your free marketing tasks checklist (and the bonus project management templates)!
Now go define what done looks like so you can approve the heck outta’ every task your team checks off.
And if you want to get completely organized with your project and task workflows, take advantage of a free two-week trial of the world’s #1 marketing calendar!
Happy marketing, folks ✌️
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