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.
They’re 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 which order.
- Communication breakdowns. And not like the Led Zeppelin song, either.
- Missed deadlines. Lack of process leads to inefficiency. In turn, that leads to nothing getting done on time.
Sounds like disaster waiting to happen. That’s just a short list of potential issues you could face, too.
Download Your Marketing Workflow Management Template Bundle
Fixing 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 (Word): Plan the efficient processes that you’ll execute.
- Marketing Project Checklist Template (Excel): Ensure every project and campaign gets completed with no missed steps.
- Marketing Calendar Template (Excel): Map out deadlines and make projects visible across your entire department.
Together, this trio of templates will help you get started planning and managing processes that work. Download them below before continuing.
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Table of Contents:
- What is a Workflow?
- Why You Should Plan Marketing Workflows
- What Are Popular Workflow Management Tools For Marketers?
- Step 1: Determine How Your Team Will Communicate
- Step 2: Onboard Your Team Onto a New Tool
- Step 3: Define Everyone's Responsibilities
- Step 4: Map Out Task Checklists
- Step 5: Plan Your Marketing Calendar
- Step 6: Plan Your Workflow Execution
- Step 7: Measure Team Performance
What’s a Workflow, Anyway?
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 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:
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 Done
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.
2. They Make Responsibilities Clear to All Team Members
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.
3. Reducing the Need for Hand-Holding and Oversight
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.
4. Building Consistency in Execution
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.
5. Enables Visibility Across Projects and Teams
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:
- Managers can see what their staff is working on.
- Everyone can see the completion status of each project.
- Transparency improves communication.
When workflows are mapped out and projects are placed onto a shared calendar, everyone stays in the loop and holds one another accountable.
6. They Make It Easier to See Where Projects Go Wrong
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.
7. Managers Can Get Out of the Weeds
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.
What Are Popular Workflow Management Tools for Marketers?
There are tons of different software options available, although most of them are not made specifically for marketers. Here are some common choices:
Step 1. Determine How Your Team Will Communicate
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:
Step 2: Onboard the Team Onto Your Tool
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:
- Find a time on your company’s calendar that works for everyone who will use the tool.
- Include a short description on the meeting invite explaining what this tool will help the team achieve.
- Build a short slide presentation outlining how to use the tool.
- Make yourself available for questions.
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.
Step 3: Define Everyone’s Responsibilities
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.
Step 4: Map Out Task Checklists
This 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 each step should take.
For example, here’s what this might look like for a blog post:
- 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
If this workflow is followed consistently, every blog post will be ready to publish a week in advance at 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:
How Long Should Tasks Take?
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:
Step 5: Plan Your Marketing Calendar
Use 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.
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.
Mapping Projects and Campaigns to CoSchedule
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:
Step 6: Plan Your Execution and Collaboration
Next, develop a plan for how the project will be executed. This includes:
- Determining the team members who will be on the project.
- Defining which tools the team will use.
- Executing the project.
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.
Step 7: Measure Team Performance
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:
Master Workflow Management With CoSchedule
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.
That’s a Wrap
Now you know the essentials of managing workflows like a champ. Did you learn anything you didn’t know before, or identify any glaring gaps in your current process? Was there anything we missed and should have added? Drop a comment below and get this conversation started.