The best marketing teams succeed with a strong workflow management process. As a preset order of operations for getting stuff done, they’re essential for getting work right the first time, every time. Workflow management is also indispensable for building efficiencies into processes, so you can spend more time doing meaningful work and less time feeling frustrated due to procedural roadblocks. In short, they allow you to plan your work and work your plan. If you don’t have solid workflows in place, you’ve probably experienced the following problems:
- Disjointed workflows; no one knows who does what or in what order.
- Communication breakdowns, and not like the Led Zeppelin song, either.
- Missed deadlines; lack of process leads to inefficiency. In turn, nothing getting done on time.
The best 8-step workflow management process for marketers.Click To Tweet
Download Your Marketing Workflow Management Template BundleFixing broken marketing processes isn’t always easy. Having the right tools helps though, so this post includes the following free resources:
- Marketing Project Management Template: Plan the efficient processes that you’ll execute.
- Marketing Project Checklist Template: Ensure every project and campaign gets completed with no missed steps.
- Marketing Calendar Template: Map out deadlines and make projects visible across your entire department.
What’s a Workflow, Anyway?Before we dive in, let’s start with a fact: a lot of places make workflows sound unnecessarily complicated. Benjamin Brandall summed it up well on the Process Street blog: Workflows are the way people get work done and can be illustrated as a series of steps that need to be completed sequentially in a diagram or checklist. In short, they’re reliable templates you can cut and paste whenever you’re starting a new project. It gives you the tasks you need to complete, and who needs to do them by which date. The result? Never starting a project thinking, “I don’t know where to begin.” Workflows are often seen through charts or diagrams. They can also be as simple as checklists outlining the steps towards completing a task. Here’s an example of a typical content marketing workflow, courtesy of Content Marketing Institute: Here’s what a workflow might look like as a checklist inside CoSchedule: Do This With CoSchedule: You can build workflow checklists (called Task Templates) in CoSchedule — the only marketing suite that helps you organize all of your marketing in one place. See how they work.
Why Bother Planning Marketing Workflows?There’s no sense investing time in something that won’t produce a benefit, so what’s the real benefit to planning out workflows and sticking to them? Here are seven.
1. Increased Efficiency Means Getting More DoneIf you’re like most marketers, you have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. Mile-long to-do lists come with the territory, but sometimes that work is more achievable than it seems. While it’s easy to blame being overworked for lack of productivity, sometimes the real culprit is an inefficient workflow. Not every workflow needs hundreds of steps. In fact, padding-out yours with too many steps can actually have the opposite effect.
Not every workflow needs hundreds of steps.Click To Tweet
2. They Make Responsibilities Clear to All Team MembersHow often have you heard someone say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to get that done”? How often have you said that out loud yourself? It’s time to put a permanent stop to “not-my-jobism”. When workflows are clearly mapped out, there’s no ambiguity around who is responsible for which tasks and deadlines. You execute or you don’t. The result? Projects get done right the first time with more consistency.
3. Reducing the Need for Hand-Holding and OversightThis one is tied into point number two above. When people don’t quite know what to do, they’ll lean on management for guidance. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless they lean a little too hard — to the extent of having no initiative of their own. Workflows make it clear what team members are responsible for, so they don’t have to wonder whether they’re working on the right things. It’s all there for them to follow.
4. Building Consistency in ExecutionConsistency is key to marketing success. It’s a fundamental building block for constructing and executing processes that drive 10X results. If you don’t have a consistent set of steps to follow for every type of project, tasks are liable to fall through the cracks. Sometimes, the negative effects are small, like a minor editing step gets missed. Other times, the consequences can be dramatically more significant, like a webinar not getting recorded (good luck publishing that recap video… without the video). Often, things happen and can’t be prevented. That’s life; however, marketers should always be doing as much as possible to prevent major mishaps. A workflow management process does exactly that.
5. Enables Visibility Across Projects and TeamsThere’s a lot of value in teams being able to see what other teams or coworkers are doing. It helps achieve the following results:
- Managers can see what their staff is working on.
- Everyone can see the completion status of each project.
- Transparency improves communication.
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are you experiencing any roadblocks?
6. They Make It Easier to See Where Projects Go WrongWe know that things go wrong. It happens to the best of us. When they do go wrong, it’s important to have retrospective and identify where the breakdown happened, so it doesn’t happen again. When workflows are well-documented, it’s easier to diagnose exactly where issues arise. You can see where staff veered off the process, or stumbling blocks that show your process needs to be tweaked.
When workflows are well-documented, it’s easier to diagnose exactly where issues arise.Click To Tweet
7. Managers Can Get Out of the WeedsManagers often get too involved in their team member’s work because they don’t trust they’ll get everything done. This is often the result of team members not knowing exactly what they should be doing. It’s a vicious and endless loop. However, documenting workflows removes ambiguity, so teams feel an empowerment to just get their work done. That frees up the manager's time and headspace to focus on more important things. Everyone wins.
What Are Popular Workflow Management Tools for Marketers?There are tons of different software options available, although most of them are not specifically for marketers. Here are some common choices:
How to Create New Workflows in 8 Easy StepsReady to create workflows that help your team become more productive, meet deadlines on-time, and be consistent? Here are eight steps you can use to create new marketing workflows:
Step 1. Determine How Your Team Will CommunicateStrong team communication requires the right tools. Before getting too far along, assess whether you currently have the best technology to build collaborative workflows. Once you have a tool selected, you might also have other means of communication, too — like emails, phone calls, chat app, or conversations at the office watercooler. How do you enforce team members using the right communication tools for the right things? For internal communication and casual conversation, Slack is great, but so is old-fashioned walking across the office to talk to someone face-to-face. You can get an answer instantly and clear up when things don’t make sense to you. When it comes to project-based communication, it’s best to keep everything organized in one place. There’s nothing worse than forgetting a conversation you had last week or losing notes down an email inbox rabbit hole. CoSchedule solves this by building Discussion Threads into projects. This way, you can keep all team correspondence together, passing notes, trading files, and more — all in one place. Create a project on your calendar: Then, click the Contributors icon on the right. Add team members who will be working on this project: Next, use discussion threads to converse and collaborate:
Step 2: Define Everyone’s ResponsibilitiesNext, determine each team member’s responsibilities for each type of project you execute regularly. For a content marketing team, this could include:
- Creating blog posts
- Producing videos
- Hosting webinars
- Delivering email newsletters
- Writing website copy
- Writers – to craft copy and content
- Editors – to approve and polish content
- Designers – to create visual elements
- Marketing Specialists – to host webinars
- Analysts – to measure performance and extract insights from data
- Project Managers – to keep everyone on track
- Content research
- Writing content and copy
- Analyzing copy performance
- Creating blog graphics
- Designing website graphics
- Producing slide decks
- Generating ideas
- Directing strategy
- Analyzing results
- Project Manager
- Assigning tasks
- Managing client communication
- Enforcing deadlines
- Keyword research
- On-page optimization
- Backlink outreach
Step 3: Map Out Task ChecklistsThis is where you’ll answer the question posed above in more granular detail. For each project, list the following information:
- The tasks required to complete the project.
- Who is responsible for getting it done?
- How long should each step take?
- Generate Ideas: Strategist – Due 21 Days Before Publish
- Map Ideas to Content Calendar: Strategist – Due 20 Days Before Publish
- Keyword Research: SEO Specialist – Due 18 Days Before Publish
- Write Outline: Writer – Due 17 Days Before Publish
- Finish Draft: Writer – Due 14 Days Before Publish
- Edit Draft: Manager/Editor – Due 12 Days Before Publish
- Create Graphics: Designer – 10 Days Before Publish
- Schedule Social Promotion: Writer/Social Strategist – 8 Days Before Publish
- Schedule Post to Publish: Editor – 7 Days Before Publish
Step 4: Determine How Long Tasks Should TakeThis is a good question, but one without an easy answer. Don’t worry if you have no idea how long it takes your team to complete a certain task.
Don’t worry if you have no idea how long it takes your team to complete a certain task. Just track their time.Click To Tweet
Step 5: Delegate the Tasks: Notify + Remind + CollaborateAt this point, your team knows the tasks they are responsible for completing and the definition of “done” for those tasks. Your next step is to clearly:
- Notify the assignee when you delegate a task, so they know what to execute.
- Communicate the due date for that task — transitioning your plan of number days before publication into clearly defined calendar dates.
- Remind the assignee before a task is due to make certain the task gets completed on time.
Step 6: Plan Your Marketing CalendarUse a marketing calendar to keep projects and campaigns organized. Calendars allow you to:
- Set and manage deadlines
- View which projects are coming up
- See what other team members are working on
- Prioritize work based on how soon which projects need to be completed
- Collaborate with your team in one place
Mapping Projects and Campaigns to CoScheduleEvery marketing task, project, and campaign your team works on can be organized on a marketing calendar, like CoSchedule. As you add more pieces to the calendar, it’ll start to look something like this. Color Labels make it easy to color-code projects: If you’d prefer to see your upcoming work in a list, rather than a traditional calendar view, click List View. You’ll now see all the items on your calendar in a list:
Step 7: Manage the Workflow With Kanban Project DashboardBy this stage, you have solidified your processes and created task templates to duplicate each time a new project kicks-off. You still need to be on-top of the template and make sure things get done on time. The simplest way to do this is with a kanban project dashboard. In its simplest form, it’s a board with columns that show each stage of the project, including:
- Awaiting Review
- To Be Promoted
Step 8: Measure Team PerformanceYou’ve spent time creating these workflows, and your team are using them as the foundations for most projects. One question still stands: How do you know your workflows are effective?
How do you know your workflows are effective?Click To Tweet