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The best marketing teams succeed with strong workflow management processes. Defined 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:
Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. That’s just a short list of potential issues you could face, too.
Fixing broken marketing processes isn’t always easy. Having the right tools helps though, so this post includes the following free resources:
Together, this trio of templates will help you get started planning and managing processes that work. Download them below before continuing.
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 series of steps that need to be completed sequentially in a diagram or checklist.
This video from PNM Soft offers a further explanation:
Workflows are often visualized using charts or diagrams. They can also be as simple as checklists outlining the steps required to complete 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:
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.
If 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.
By planning out workflows strategically, you can get more done in less time.
How often have you heard someone say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to get that done”?
Or, 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.
This 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.
Consistency is key to marketing success.
It’s a fundamental building block for constructing and executing processes that drive 10X results.
But, 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).
Sometimes things happen and can’t be prevented. That’s life. But, marketers should always be doing as much as possible to prevent major mishaps.
There’s a lot of value in teams being able to see what other teams or coworkers are doing. It helps achieve the following results:
When workflows are mapped out and projects are placed onto a shared calendar, everyone stays in the loop and holds one another accountable.
Agile marketing is a great way to increase visibility into your team’s workload. One of key ways to do this is via the daily stand-up.
This meeting takes place during the first 15 mins of every work day. To start you gather every member of your team and ask them three questions.
Daily stand-up meetings help managers stay up-to-date about everything their team is working on, and help facilitate better collaboration and communication amongst team members.
CoSchedule has a feature called the Team Management Dashboard that is basically a daily stand-up visualized before your very eyes.
You can see exactly what everyone on your team is working on for the day, and reshuffle tasks as needed.
So, sometimes things go wrong.
When they do, it’s important to have a 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.
Managers 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.
Documenting workflows removes ambiguity so teams are empowered to just get their work done. That frees up manager’s time and headspace to focus on more important things. Everyone wins.
There are tons of different software options available, although most of them are not made specifically for marketers. Here are some common choices:
Strong 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 email or a chat app.
So, how do you enforce team members using the right communication tools for the right things?
But, 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:
If you’re selecting a new tool, making sure everyone knows how to use it well is crucial.
Most software providers offer training and in-app onboarding assistance. If they don’t, use something else.
Even with vendor-provided training and onboarding, it’s also often worthwhile to host your own training sessions.
To do this:
Taking the time to instruct the team on how to use the new tool, while also communicating why the tool is even necessary, can go a long way toward ensuring everyone is successful.
Next, determine each team member’s responsibilities for each type of project you execute regularly.
So, who does what, exactly?
Sometimes, this answer will be obvious. In other cases, it may be less clear. Stick with one task per person to avoid duplication of effort.
These are some (very) basic examples.
This is where you’ll answer the question posed above in more granular detail. For each project, list the following information:
For example, here’s what this might look like for a blog post:
If this workflow is followed consistently, every blog post will be ready to publish a week in advance at a minimum. This allows room to work ahead, rather than scrambling to meet deadlines at the last minute.
In CoSchedule, checklists can be built and reused indefinitely using Task Templates.
Create a project on your CoSchedule calendar. Then, add each step to your checklist (Task Template):
Next, determine who performs each step:
Assign deadlines to each task:
Here’s what the completed template looks like:
Now, each time an item is checked off, the completion percentage will increase:
This is a good question, but one without an easy answer.
The best way to determine how long things take is to track time. Every time a team member works on a task, have them use Toggl to track their time. It’s a simple time-tracking app that makes it easy to quantify how long you’re spending doing a given thing:
Then, track your average completion time for that type of task (the total number of times the task was completed, divided by the sum of time spent on those tasks overall).
Consider using a spreadsheet to track your time, adding the following fields pictured below:
Use a marketing calendar to keep projects and campaigns organized.
Calendars allow you to:
Marketing calendars are often built using spreadsheets (like the free Excel template included in this post).
A better option, however, is to use purpose-built software. Apps like CoSchedule help teams beat makeshift marketing (using non-marketing tools for marketing tasks) with a solution built for your specific needs.
Every 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:
Now, if you’d like to make it easier to separate items visually, 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:
Next, develop a plan for how the project will be executed. This includes:
Here’s how a blog post could be created using CoSchedule. First, make sure WordPress, your social networks, and email service provider are connected:
As you work through the post, share notes with your team using Discussion Threads. You can also manage version control if you choose to write content using Microsoft Word (or another word processor), attaching and exchanging files:
Now, it’s possible you’ll need to create additional promotional content for social media and email. Add a Social Campaign and create social media promotion:
You can now add and schedule social media posts:
Next, if you’ll be promoting this blog post with email, add an email campaign on the same day:
That’s your entire content creation workflow, managed and automated with CoSchedule. You can build and manage workflows for all other content and projects you execute as well.
How do you know your workflows are effective? By measuring your team’s output and comparing productivity levels to where they were before.
CoSchedule’s Team Performance Reports make it simple to quantify productivity. It tracks how often tasks on Task Templates are checked off on time, and delivers comprehensive reports on who’s getting their work done on time consistently, and who’s falling behind:
This post has covered a lot of ground on how to succeed with proper workflow management. It’s also cited CoSchedule as the ideal tool to manage your entire marketing department’s workflows all in one place (though the free templates included will help you get started as well).
What if you’re ready to dive in and see how CoSchedule can help you save at least 10 hours per team member a week?
Start your free 14-day trial of schedule a demo call with an expert. You’ll be able to get your team up and running, and see exactly how you can overcome makeshift marketing, get organized, and improve the way your marketing department functions.
Plan content and automate publishing to save tons of time now.
Start your 14-day trial to get organized with CoSchedule today.