Marketing leaders like you must do more and more with ever-decreasing resources. You’re tasked with achieving faster time to market, ensuring pitch-perfect brand consistency, and staying abreast of quickly shifting consumer norms and expectations — all while launching compelling campaigns to drive results. And with technology that provides real-time data analytics and pinpoints the effectiveness of every element of your efforts, marketing is no longer the black box it once was. These days, you’re also under increased pressure to boost your ROI and prove your team’s value.
That’s why optimizing your marketing operations is so critical. In fact, it’s your new mandate.
Chances are, you won’t be in the weeds managing the details of how to improve your day-to-day processes. Rather, your role is to signal that this area is a priority and provide the guidance, resources, and support your team will need to make your operation more efficient and effective.
Specifically, you’ll need to devote time and attention to the four pillars of effective brand and marketing operations: people, processes, training, and technology.
Here’s how to do just that.
Invest in operationally minded people to analyze your marketing processes
Most marketing teams are under-resourced. That means your people already feel stretched as they try to keep up with their existing workloads— and they may not have time to evaluate and improve your brand and marketing processes.
But the truth is, your teams will never have more margin until you make sure your systems and processes are optimized for success. Because if your processes aren’t streamlined the way they should be — or if your employees don’t have the right tools to do their jobs — it is nearly guaranteed that employees are spending more time on their tasks than they should.
You can avoid this Catch-22 by proactively providing the resources that will empower your teams and free them to do their best work. To begin, identify an analytically minded team member to lead the charge of delving into your processes and systems, or consider hiring a marketing operations manager to bring a fresh perspective and operational mindset to your team. These positions are relatively new to the industry but have become increasingly more common over the last decade. This role ensures there is someone responsible for providing holistic, active management and continual optimization of marketing processes on an ongoing basis.
If neither of these options is possible, hire an outside consultant to break down your processes, discover where there is room for improvement, and create a workable roadmap for you to follow.
Analyze your existing marketing infrastructure and processes to identify areas of improvement
Once you have determined who will lead the charge to evaluate your marketing operations, they will need to audit the current state of your marketing processes. Your goal should be to identify the areas where employees may be working hard, but not smart — and make small, incremental improvements that will add up over time.
Ask questions like:
- What does your team do every day? Do they spend too much time searching for files? Are they creating projects from scratch instead of using templates and other time-saving strategies?
- Is everyone clear on their roles and where they are accountable? Are there any confusion or grey areas that need to be clarified?
- How long does it take to create a campaign (or even a single piece of collateral) from start to finish? How hard is it to obtain approval, and are there any bottlenecks that could be removed?
- Is your decentralized model causing teams to duplicate efforts, wasting time and resources?
- Who are your agency partners? When was the last time you evaluated the value and ROI each of them bring to the table?
- Do you have adequate support from other departments within your organization, such as IT or procurement?
- Are employees spending surprising amounts of time doing tasks manually? Are there areas such as reporting, analytics, and workflow management that could be automated?
Take a look at your findings and prioritize. Choose a few areas in which improvement will have the biggest impact and devote time and resources to address those elements.
Empower employees by actively training them for change
Change is hard — even when it’s beneficial. Once you have identified the key areas within your infrastructure and processes that you want to improve, lean into effective change management principles in order to increase buy-in and cooperation from the people who will bring your new operational mindset to life.
Your teams need to understand the why behind significant culture shifts. It’s crucial to communicate the reasons for the change before you train employees on their new roles, how workflows will be modified, and what the new expectations are. Share the results of your process audit. Address the specific pain points you uncovered, be transparent about the cost and resource impact of current inefficiencies and illustrate the benefit of the adjustments you’re making.
Equip your marketing team with the right technology and tools
Technology in of itself won’t allow you to optimize your brand and marketing operations. Your team needs to see the direct benefits and impact of any new technology on their day-to-day responsibilities and the ultimate outcomes of your initiatives, in order to fully adopt and embrace a new way of doing things. Demonstrate how currently manual tasks can be automated, how redundant work can be eliminated, how approvals can be streamlined, and ultimately how you can get your initiatives to market sooner.
Say your process audit identified that your teams have long worked in siloes when creating elements of a marketing campaign. Each department takes their piece of the puzzle, works on it individually, and then comes back together when their part is done. Does this lead to a cohesive end-result? Is it as consistent as it can be? Probably not.
To address this issue, invest in a robust content creation workflow platform that brings all departments together and fosters authentic collaboration. A program like this can not only eliminate the risk of inconsistent outcomes, but can provide at-a-glance insight into each project’s status, help with resource management, and eliminate bottlenecks, points of failure, and duplicative or manual effort quickly. Furthermore, the proofing process becomes more streamlined since everyone assigned to the project can access an asset and weigh in directly on it from anywhere at any time; and the end result is a more cohesive, on-strategy campaign.
Your needs may be different than the example provided, but the principle is the same. Use technology effectively to address inefficiencies or manual tasks that impact time to market and enhance the value and impact of your initiatives.
Embrace your new mandate to create a stronger, more nimble brand
You’re an exceptional marketing leader because of how you’re wired. Innovation, creativity, and strategy drive you to operate in the white space. That’s where you naturally identify the market’s unmet needs so that your brand can seize new opportunities to meet those needs and drive your brand’s value higher.
But it’s time to embrace a new paradigm, one in which how the work gets done is nearly as important as your overarching strategy and vision. The positive result is that your newly operationalized brand can become the spark that fosters innovation and leads your brand into an even brighter future.
When you devote the time, resources, and attention to optimize your brand and marketing operations, you’ll find operations can significantly enhance and elevate your strategy.