Marketing professionals are all saying the same thing. They want to create effective content. Although they are creating content, a majority don’t know if it’s effective. There are tools for everything in the process, but they don’t all work together. Managing the workflow and showing KPIs for efforts is a continuing frustration. Why all the hoopla? What is causing this consternation? As usual there is some good news and there is some bad news.

The Good News First

“Brands are beginning to adopt SEO on a larger scale and starting to figure out ways to integrate SEO rankings into their overall marketing processes, which is good because it means people who have been promoting SEO as champions for so long are finally starting to get listened to,” stated Ray Grieslehuber, CEO and Founder, GinzaMetrics, “The focus on content marketing is probably having a big influence on the trend, as well.”
The marketing ecosystem is now filled with not just content, but social media outreach, email campaigns, and native advertising. The convergence of all the organic customer acquisition channels have the CMOs and VPs of marketing thinking that now is the time to figure out how all this stuff works together.
“As soon as you do that, you realize there’s this huge mismatch between the way people do things,” Ray said. Enter the need to start building processes and workflows that actually make sense for the entire organization.

Bad News to Follow

While some smaller organizations may be agile enough to shift their organizational structures as needs arise, larger organizations often are not able to change as quickly. Segmented departments are managed by old workflows that have been in place for years and years. The process has worked in the past and is now an accepted part of the organizational culture. SEO departments, Email marketing departments, advertising departments, and marketing departments are each responsible for their own set of deliverables and their recommendations are put in a workflow without input from the other departments.
“So, instead of building a workflow that actually works for all the existing current pieces, people are still trying to jam today’s marketing channels and today’s reporting options into these really old kludgy workflows,” commented Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO and Marketing Strategist, GinzaMetrics.

Frankenstein Workflows

“The result is this kind of Frankenstein workflow where people just attach this one here and attach that one there,” according to Erin. “What is required for most marketing efforts is a closed loop system where people in each function within the organization can see the big picture. Not knowing how the pieces work together creates a monster for marketers. “It means that you don’t understand the impact that what you’re doing has on the greater whole, which means you can’t make better decisions, which means you can’t try to piece stuff together,” Erin said.
Agencies and large brands can begin the process by providing some level of cross-training between departments so that each function understands how the rest of the marketing and sales mix works. In this environment, information can be shared and silos can begin to break down as team members cross-reference or make recommendations to help make things better.
To get you started, here are a few examples of how inter-department communication can benefit the entire effort:

  1. Email marketing is AB testing subject lines → Content marketing creates content around the most popular subjects
  2. Paid Advertising has a popular ad → Email marketing uses the topic in a subject line → marketing creates content
  3. SEO discovers keywords → advertising uses keywords for display ads → Email marketing creates subject lines

Each of these paths can run the opposite way and across channels, allowing everyone to benefit from the same discoveries and data. Unfortunately, that workflow does not exist for most people. Where the workflow begins and who will begin to break down the silos will be different for every organization. Marketing departments would definitely benefit from this kind of a shift and should consider raising the flag and calling in the troops.

What Do You Mean by Workflow?

Every effective workflow begins with a mission, a goal. Once you have decided on your goal for a campaign, or a calendar month, or even a quarter, then you can start to figure out a strategy. Some marketers are afraid to write down a strategy for fear that a pre-set roadmap will keep them from remaining agile and responding to changes in the market. An effective workflow is both a road map and a living document or strategy that allows for adjustments along the way. Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Set your goals – for a campaign, a month, a quarter.  Avoid setting year-long goals so you can allow for market changes
  2. Determine a strategy  – identify your audience. Choose from existing users, prospects, or a new audience based on some research
  3.  Determine channels – display advertising, native advertising, content, social, email, SEO
  4. Team member roles  – who will be responsible for specific deliverables
  5. Reporting and Collaborating – now is the time to set up those opportunities to share data and collaborate on what parts of the campaign are successful and what parts need to be adjusted

“It has to start with knowing your goals and  setting KPIs. At the end of the day,  a process should be put in place to help you achieve your goals in the most productive and efficient way while maintaining good business guidelines,” stated Erin.

The Process is Not The Goal

While a good, efficient process that breaks down silos and shares information is a good tool to use, developing the process is not the goal. The goal is to raise KPIs, increase conversions, increases sales, and to generally show ROI on the efforts of all the departments all across the organization. Even on an assembly line, the point is to make a good product, not to have a great assembly line.
Think about what it is you’re trying to assemble. Create a workflow that represents the best and easiest way to make all of those parts work together. Make the process repeatable and easily understood by all those involved. Be sure the workflow can be checked and reported on. Here’s the kicker, make sure you can understand how the system is effecting itself.
If you don’t know how one part is effecting another, and if you don’t know what is broken, then you won’t know what needs to be fixed, or what needs to be optimized and improved. When one thing is not going right, you do not want to go in and fix everything. Be able to break up the parts of the whole to see the one thing that is broken, and fix that.
“You only want to change the one thing that’s broken,” asserts Erin, “If your tail light is out on your car, you’re not going to replace the drive train and do an alignment and do all this other stuff that you don’t need to do. You only need to fix the tail light.”

The Cost of a Bad Workflow

Now that CMOs and VPs of Marketing are focusing on the workflow, tools are coming into focus as well. While having the right tools can optimize your workflow, it can also be expensive and time consuming as you have to migrate data, create integrations with other tools, and train the people in the organization how to use it correctly. Finding the right balance of adding in new tools and making the old tools work for you is something that organizations who are trying to create effective workflows are struggling with.
According to Ray, before deciding on new tools, brands need to decide two things. First, what are you hoping to gain from the new tool and second, who is going to be involved in the transition. “I usually recommend doing a pilot on a smaller scale and then expanding out from there, for a couple of reasons,” stated Ray, “One, no matter how good the tool or technology is, it’s always a huge challenge to try to do everything up front. The other reason is to make sure the tool is successful and to have the time to make it work for your purposes.”
Creating a pilot team has the added benefit of providing internal champions who will help roll out the process to the rest of the team and be available to provide training. The failure of organizations to integrate new tools and create effective workflows often comes from being too aggressive in terms of timelines and expanding things out. People who don’t have the background to understand what is required to integrate new tools and processes across organizational silos tend to underestimate the cost and time required.
Very large organizations, in particular, should consider rolling out new tools on a smaller scale first. Pilot teams and internal champions can begin to address objections and questions and explain why the new tools is working and what the organization can hope to gain by using it.

Back to Basics: Set Your Goals

Setting up a pilot for a new product and a new workflow begins with setting goals. Knowing what you expect to achieve by adding new tools and changing the process will help you to sell the process across the organization. Some examples of goals for a pilot might be:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved efficiencies
  • Yield from workflow change

Having a very clearly laid out set of goals that can be measured at the end of the pilot will make a lot of people feel better about the choices and tool changes,” stated Erin. Not only is workflow one of the biggest challenges for marketers, it’s one of the things they hate most. Outlining the goals beforehand to explain how people in the organization will benefit, and how the organization as a whole will benefit, keeps the workflow alive and relevant.