If you’re a fast growing business, you’re always working to improve the speed of your marketing processes. The sooner the work is completed, deployed, and measured, the sooner you’ll see the benefits (sales, hopefully).
But it’s not just about efficiency and getting the most out of your payroll. Delaying your marketing can have real business consequences.
What would happen if you failed to launch the hot new service that was sweeping your industry? Your competitors would gobble up all the business.
What would happen if you neglected to capitalize on that big news story? You would miss your opportunity before it wasn’t relevant anymore.
What would happen if you waited a year to position yourself as an industry authority? You would be one year “younger” than the other experts (with a smaller audience).
This means the best marketers know how to streamline their operations and get work done quickly.
The truth, however, is that marketing takes time. There are tasks to plan, assets to create, sequences to build, edits to make, and plenty of things to test. Oh, and then it takes ages to slog through the approval processes.
I’ve found that the marketing arms of most businesses spend their time inefficiently. They’re paying smart, hardworking people, but the results are taking forever. If they tightened things up, they could save, on average, two hours every day.
Let’s talk about some strategies to get your team that savings.
1. Automate Your Recurring Tasks
In 2015, HubSpot found that the average marketer spends 16 hours each week on routine, recurring tasks. Sending emails and collecting, organizing and analyzing data were the biggest time sinks.
No one should log into Facebook every day to post. No one should copy and paste email templates to your subscribers. No one should juggle contacts in a spreadsheet.
Software should handle these types of marketing tasks (and countless others). According to eMarketer, 61% of marketers say automation increases their efficiency and productivity. The first step to saving time is to leverage the right software tools.
Not only does automation reduce your labor cost, it improves the wellbeing of your team. It lets them to focus on creative, problem-solving projects, rather than tedious tasks.
In a report from Redeye and TFM&A Insights, 36% of marketers say automation reduced their repetitive work, which gives them more time to focus on new and exciting tasks.
What types of tasks can you automate?
- Responding to inquiries and questions
- Sending follow up emails and responses
- Publishing to social media networks
- Monitoring and reporting on analytics
- Testing and optimizing your website
- Nurturing and qualifying leads
2. Build, Document & Share Your Processes
No, processes aren’t sexy.
I’d rather be marketing my company and speaking with clients than documenting things I already know how to do, but the payoff is worth the effort.
Each time I write a process, I know I’m creating more time for myself later. I’ll gain time when I quickly onboard new employees, run payroll in just a few minutes, or push a prospect through a short, effective sales cycle.
As the leader of my company, this is one way I work on my business, rather than in it.
Your processes will be specific to your business, so I can’t tell you everything. But I can get you started.
Step 1: Create a Process Organizational Structure
Create a folder in a shared location called Company Name Processes. Create a document called Master Process List where you’ll link to your individual processes once you create them.
In this folder, create two types of documents: Workflows and Resources.
Workflows are step-by-step procedures to complete tasks. Resources are documents with information needed to complete the Workflows. Here are some examples:
- Where to Find Reporting Data (Resource)
- Create and Analyze Weekly Reports (Workflow)
- Process Bi-Weekly Payroll (Workflow)
- Schedule Social Media Posts (Workflow)
- Blog Post Topics (Resource)
- Create and Publish Blog Post (Workflow)
Your Workflows can come in different formats, like checklists, step-by-step procedures, and videos. The same goes for your Resources. You might have spreadsheets, swipe files, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
If you aren’t sure which Workflow and Resource documents to create, look at your to-do list. Codify any tasks you (or your team) perform more than once into Workflows. Store any information needed to complete the Workflows as Resources.
Step 2: Write Your Workflows
Don’t attempt to recall the steps for each task. You’ll get most of it wrong.
Instead, document each Workflow the next time you complete the task. So when it’s time to create those weekly reports, write each step as you do it. This will ensure that every piece of the procedure is present in the Workflow.
As you write, put yourself in the mindset of an outsider. Will a new team member understand your steps? Use clear, concise language that assumes nothing. The goal is to create a document anyone can use, so explain the steps thoroughly.
Include screenshots, gifs and videos wherever necessary to make your instructions clear. If team members ask questions about using your Workflows, your instructions need work. Once you’ve written a Workflow, link to it in your Master Process List.
One last thing we’ve learned is that your processes are never final. You’ll always be updating them and finding ways to make them more efficient. Encourage your team to continually refine them.
3. Sharpen Your Project Management Skills
Big marketing teams are fortunate to have project managers who pull the strings. But most marketing teams are small departments where everyone manages their own work.
We take two steps to keep ourselves on task (and on time):
First, we have regular meetings. I meet with each member of my team on Mondays through Thursdays. Every Friday we have a full team meeting.
Second, we use project management tools to keep our team on course. We have some unique challenges because we’re a remote agency, so we value an abundance of communication.
We use these tools every day. You might find them useful.
- Slack – For team communication (open channels and private messages). It’s cleaner and more efficient than email.
- Trello – For project management. Trello provides a visual perspective of our tasks so we can see where we need to focus.
- Gather Content – For creating content with multiple steps. This tool moves us through content production seamlessly.
4. Target Inefficiencies with Shortcuts
We all have little inefficiencies in our day. We spend too much time searching and sorting information, updating one another, and completing the same tasks repeatedly.
Last year, I noticed I was typing the same messages often. Not just the same themes – the exact same copy. Every day, I wrote the name of my company a dozen times. Each time I would think to myself “Oh, not this again.”
Sure, I could use templates. I did, at first. I have files for “New client onboarding,” “Sales pitching,” and “Messaging new writers.” Copying and pasting is quicker that rewriting, but finding and opening the template files still took time.
Now I create spare minutes in each day using TextExpander, a tool that turns a custom shortcut into as much text as you like.
Whenever I type “fdm,” my text expander pastes “Fluxe Digital Marketing.” Whenever I type “onbrd,” my text expanders pastes 300 words of copy for me to email new clients. (The commas are important so I don’t accidentally trigger the expansion.)
Each instance only saves me a few seconds, but I gain five extra minutes each day. That comes out to nearly 22 hours per year. I can work 2.5 more days than my competitors each year.
Improving inefficiencies is the easy part. Recognizing them is harder. This is why I track myself and my team’s time using Toggl.
Toggl is more than just a timesheet. It’s a way to aggregate the time a particular project takes, even when the tasks aren’t batched together.
One time, I noticed that my Content Marketing Manager was spending an inordinate amount of time setting up lead magnets, forms, and integrations. She was working as hard as ever, but the tasks were labor intensive.
I bought an agency version of Thrive, deployed it to each client’s site, and now that manager spends a fraction of the time setting up lead generation. The time savings paid for the tool, but I wouldn’t have seen the inefficiency if I wasn’t looking for it.
Once you know where your team is spending their resources (time and energy), you’ll know which tools can replace certain tasks. You might opt for an SEO tool like Ahrefs, a monitoring tool like Mention, or a CRM like HubSpot.
5. Play to Your Team’s Strengths
In football, the fastest runner receives the pass. When you need to haul lumber, you take a truck, not a sedan. Your resources have strengths you should leverage.
Your team has strengths, too. Some can manage projects. Some have technical skills. Some communicate well.
Data from Gallup shows that when leaders learn their team’s strengths, employees become 7.8% more productive. That’s nearly 8% just from awareness.
When a leader uses that knowledge to assign work based on strengths, the productivity boost increases to 12.5%. That’s like gaining an hour every day per employee.
The caveat here is that the leader needs a keen understanding of each task to match its requirements to the strengths of the team. Sometimes you can delegate an entire task to one person, but other times you must divide a task into mini-tasks.
Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern recommends creating a comprehensive list of all the work that needs to be done. Then match those tasks to the appropriate worker. It helps to do this publicly, so everyone becomes clear about their roles.
But how do you identify those strengths? Mostly through elbow-to-elbow labor. When you work alongside someone, you learn their abilities. You can take a shortcut, however, using some evaluation tools.
DISC Profile and 16 Personalities are great evaluations to give you and your team some essential awareness. By understanding how your team works and what makes them tick, you can identify what will make them successful.
The Kolbe A Index is more than a personality test. It measures how the mind works. It’s a great way to uncover a person’s natural instincts, enabling them to be more productive.
6. Outsource Your Weaknesses
I try not to spend a minute of my time performing tasks that don’t suit my skills. I instruct my team to do the same. We put tasks in the hands of people who are best suited, not just whoever is available.
When there’s a gap between your team’s skills and a project or task, don’t be afraid to hire professionals who have the right skills. You’ll pay for the labor either way, so it’s smarter to pay the right person who will do the job well the first time.
You probably do this with other tasks, like your payroll, accounting, or graphic design. Outsourced services can provide the right level of expertise and cost. Marketing is no different.
7. Plan at Least a Month Ahead
In marketing, planning is everything. Projects have too many pieces to coordinate on a day-by-day basis. Creating and managing campaigns takes more time than amateur marketers expect.
First, start with a calendar. Plot your tasks in a logical order with plenty of time to complete each. You might write a blog article on Monday, edit on Tuesday, and leave Wednesday through Friday for approval and publishing.
Get at least a month ahead of schedule. Create marketing assets today for next month’s campaign/use. This gives you time to produce quality work, put the pieces in play (email automations, paid ads, social posts, outreach, etc.).
Before each campaign launches, always give it a look-over once you’ve had enough distance from it to gain some perspective.
8. Tap Into Your Team for Ideas
It’s easy to create processes from the top down. This is where you (the leader) build each process, train your team, and have them execute. You only change the process when you notice an opportunity to optimize.
But you also need a bottom-up approach to get the most benefit from your team’s unique, front-line perspective. Empower your team to suggest ideas, modify workflows, and make changes.
After all, your team is your best resource. You should give them every opportunity to optimize their own jobs (pending your approval, of course).
We take two steps to help our team members work optimally:
- Hire great people who want to improve.
- Give them the autonomy to create their own process and workflow.
For instance, our Content Marketing Manager has authority over our production pipeline. She moves the pieces, manages the people and outputs, and organizes her own space. We have a general process to adhere us to our values, but she handles the details.
The result is a pipeline that works with little oversight. The manager has built her own process that makes her comfortable and suits her skills.
If you notice inefficiencies to address, ask your team to find ways to save time. Clarify that you’re willing to change what they do, how they do it, and the tools they use. These questions will get you started:
- “What are some tasks you do regularly (daily, weekly and monthly)?”
- “Which tasks do you consider unpleasant or boring?”
- “What could be better if you had the time to make a change?”
Share idea generation across your entire company, too. Don’t limit the conversations to the people who will perform the tasks. A person in an unrelated field may have a great suggestion. Don’t be one of those companies where cross-team communication only happens at Christmas parties.
Take it From Here
I know what you’re thinking: “Making all of these changes will take a lot of time!”
In the short run, that’s true. You might spend 10 or 15 hours putting all of my advice in place, but it won’t be long before the savings eclipses your original investment. Then you’ll enjoy a streamlined marketing team that plans, builds and executes faster than your competitors.
Joel Widmer is the Founder & CEO of Fluxe Digital Marketing, a content marketing shop that helps smart businesses create, produce and promote their content through a unique one-on-one interview process. When he’s not working, Joel can be found trying new restaurants with his wife and son.