Refining your Marketing Process
As I write this I am are preparing for our end of year partner meeting. We have these meetings twice per year to make sure we are aligned, ensure we spout any grievances and to see how we can refine our processes so we can meet our brand purpose: genuine growth for customers and ourselves.
It occurred to me that process is the last in my series of Marketing Operations posts, and I think the one that most of us (business owners and staff) have the hardest time with. We dedicate a large portion of our partner meetings to making sure our processes are reviewed and followed because we feel that it will make our business more efficient. It also helps us plan resources and identify team roles and responsibilities, so that all employees are clear on what is expected from them each day.
To prepare for this post, I thought about my first experience with process. Back in college I took a class on Business Process Improvement and while it seems like a pretty boring class, the teacher used examples from the manufacturing industry that clearly demonstrated the benefits of establishing a strong process and refining it over time. Surprisingly, I found it very interesting.
I also thought about my marketing consulting days and how so many large and small marketing departments have a hard time with dealing with process management. In fact, my agency was brought in time after time to map out and develop many marketing processes, including campaign process and general ‘ways of working’ between different teams.
Through those experiences, it occurred to me that maybe the lack of process was due to the fact (or myth) that marketing people are considered right-side of the brain people: the creative, artistic thinking, free-spirited types. Well, not me. I was the marketing person that liked process. I firmly believe that having a sound process can really help marketing organizations, a main reason why I was attracted to marketing operations. At its core, marketing operations brings us left-brainers together with our right-brained colleagues and the mix yields much better results.
As I came to this conclusion, my partner Steve gave me a newspaper article (yes, the print kind) and told me to read it as it was a new way of looking at process. The article was centered on the fact that the best creative thinkers have a process. They are constantly being asked to ‘think outside the box’. And even though corporate America coined that phrase decades ago—it is still being asked regularly.
Yet in direct contrast to this thinking, the article’s author speculated that the most effective creatives think inside the box. What that means is that they have put a process together to develop creative ideas. This may make some of the creatives on our staff chuckle, but the truth is that timelines need to be met and by having a process around writing an article or coming up with a new ad campaign, really works for a lot of accomplished creatives.
The point I’m trying to make is that process is a critical element of marketing operations. As we begin to integrate marketing operations into our organizations, we must begin to track our projects and campaigns more closely. We need to set clear budgets, agree on success metrics and apply technology to become more accountable. But none of this is possible unless we wrap a process around it. Let’s take a look at how this applies in the real world.
Map Our Your Current Process
Earlier this year, I took over our account management team. We were starting to grow and I noticed that we had no formal processes in place. I sat with our existing account managers and we began to map out the few existing processes we did have. We sat at a whiteboard and started from a client’s first interaction with our company and ended with the last interaction. We added in ‘aspirational’ steps, ones that didn’t exist yet, but were needed. This first draft formed the basis of our new account management process.
Define the Steps
I refer to the map we created in the previous step as the ‘money’ slide in our presentation deck. From this template, we jumped in and began to define the steps in more detail. We added owners to each step: client services, account management, executive, client, etc. Then we defined the purpose of each step in 1-2 sentences. This step was crucial, because processes that lack ownership and purpose are doomed to break down.
Make it Actionable
Once we agreed on the purpose of each step we added a checklist of actions. By making each process tactical, our account managers could consistently follow along and achieve the desired results. The important part of this step is to create actions that are logical, simple to follow and consistent across the entire process.
Apply Tools and Templates
Next, we added the tools required to complete each step. These include the technology, templates or other team members that would help our account managers take care of business and move to the next step. This section included a list of existing and new resources, including welcome emails, milestones map, evaluation forms, webinar software and more. Putting the right tools in place ensures your process is streamlined and simple to execute.
Finally, we did what all 21st century companies do…we shared it. We set up meetings with our client services and executive teams to review our work. Everyone in the organization had their fingerprints on this process. We refined it twice within six months, and I expect we will continue to review it and improve. By including the entire team, we were able to get buy-in from all parties involved in the process and create a sense of shared ownership.
I won’t lie: it is far simpler to develop a process than to execute it. And making sure it is being followed by teams over time is a challenge most managers will face. That is why it is so important that once processes are made that you are regularly reviewing them to ensure they are working. Over time you must continue to refine the steps, technology and templates to make processes more effective as your company continues to grow.
As we look ahead we are going to begin our next process which centers on sales enablement – something I look forward to!