Five key steps to solve the quantity-quality conundrum

Five key steps to solve the quantity-quality conundrum

Hands up if you’ve solved digital marketing’s quantity and quality conundrum: producing first-class work time-after-time?

Ask this question at a marketing conference and you might see a few hands raised tentatively. The rest of the room will be split between those looking at the floor in mild embarrassment and those looking desperately towards the stage hoping for enlightenment.

By one estimate, seven out of 10 marketers expect to produce more content year-on-year. But close to half (47%) believe that the demand for volume is at the expense of quality – with results diminishing year-on-year.

The answer to the quantity-quality conundrum is easy to say but slippery to achieve. You need to align your creativity with robust workflows.

There’s a temptation… maybe even an ignoble tradition in marketing… to approach workflows like a game of whack-a-mole. Suddenly you realise there’s a need for a naming convention for a content project. Bash! Quick fix.

Then up pops the next problem…

Other business would approach the quantity-quality conundrum and the challenge of scaling up by creating upfront a series of solid workflows and protocols for each of the five basic stages of a production cycle.

  1. Briefing and requests

    You need a single point-of-entry for work requests – whether an email address or web form. You need a standard set of fields that every requester must answer. Ah, but every job is different, I hear you cry. Start with the points of similarity: every task should have a timeframe, budget, intended outcome, preferred format, an intended audience, and intended channels. You’ll also need to understand parameters around brand style – and project parameters around legal and management (or client) concerns and sensitivities. And you’ll need to know how end results will be measured.

    Once you’ve established a work request process, you need to nominate someone to own that process. That’s someone who can sense-check a brief and either send it back for more information or approve it as good-to-go to the next stage in the production cycle.

  2. Prioritisation

    You can’t please all the people all the time – so who do you try to please first? You need to have a clear method to prioritise tasks based on business objectives. If you understand key strategic aims of the wider business, you are well-placed to prioritise tactical requests for work when they come in. Better still, you will also be able to explain the rationale why one project needs to come ahead of another.

    But to prioritise workflows, you also need to have a clear idea of how much time and resource it takes to execute different tasks. Create templates that break-down your core tasks into their component stages and estimate the time and resource required to complete each stage.

  3. Content delivery

    Before you write the first word, push the first pixel, or sketch the first design, you need to answer some questions. Who needs to sign this off, at what stage and by what time? Ensure those stakeholders have allocated diary time to complete their review and sign-off. And make sure they know the precise type of feedback you’re expecting them to give … otherwise you end up with legal teams pondering colourways…

    The next question: what can you automate? Do you want to chase every sub-task – or do you want to let an automated notification system remind colleagues what needs to be done when. If the system auto-flags potential over-runs, you know the time to intervene.

  4. Content organisation and storage

    How do you name your projects and where do you store assets so everyone can find them? Clear naming conventions – even simple numbered iterations of assets – can help avoid the “final-final.doc” syndrome where no-one is quite certain which version is the finished piece.

    And if you store all your content assets in a single digital folder or cloud drive, try using obvious keywords in the naming field to make the content easy to search for and find: maybe client name, project owner, project title or format. Ask yourself, if I was looking for this, what would I search for? Keep it simple; keep it obvious.

  5. Handover

    So, you’ve finished the production project on time, on budget, and with minimal stress. But that’s just the end of one cycle of work and the start of the next.

    Be clear from the outset who you will hand the project to, what their aims and objectives are, and what their final time-frame is.

    And ask them to share audience feedback once the content you’ve created has been released into the wild. Are there lessons to learn from engagement metrics or commercial outcomes (lead generation figures, for example) that could help shape more effective work in the future?

The key step is to begin defining and documenting how you want your team to work. Keep it simple; keep it clear. Make sure that what you document is easy to comprehend and communicate to others.

If you’re one of the 22% of marketers with no established workflow, you’re doomed to a work life of perpetual struggle. You’ll fight the same fights over-and-over again. Time for the tasks that add the most value – creativity – will be squeezed.

This conundrum is solvable. You just need to make a start.

Jada Balster, Marketing Director, Workfront.