Marketers, let me know if this sounds familiar:
Too much to do, too little time. When tasks land on your desk, you dive in headfirst. You frequently take an ad-hoc approach to managing your projects.
If this describes you on your enterprise marketing team, then dialing in the way you intake your marketing projects might be what you need to stop losing valuable time, effort, and revenue.
The word “process” holds some unfavorable connotations. Process means red tape. Process is bad for morale, especially on marketing teams, which rely heavily on their creative. Right?
All of that is certainly true of bad process, but good process paves the way for marketing creativity by allowing marketing teams to worry less about how the work will get done and focus instead on doing the work.
Many enterprise marketing teams are lost in process, whether that means there is too much process or not enough. The not-so-secret sauce is to find balance. You need to make sure your marketing is being run properly, in a timely fashion, while still allowing marketers to work flexibly to get campaigns out.
“Intake” has been a tried-and-true method in use across industries for years, but it’s often overlooked as a method for getting marketing content into market. Law firms, hospitals, even schools have an intake process. Think about it: If you intend to do a task a thousand times, why not complete that task in the most productive way possible?
Does that make the idea of an intake process more appealing?
Here are some steps you can take to start developing an intake process for your marketing.
Stop, analyze, and evaluate
You can’t just go with your first instinct and roll with the punches on this one. You’ll need to thoroughly evaluate your team’s project lifecycle first thing.
Sit down with each team member involved in getting your marketing going, from concept to execution. This will include your marketing managers, perhaps your product team, any channel or fields team involved, and the people who are executing on social, paid, and marketing automation platforms. Include anyone who is a stakeholder in reporting, too.
From those conversations, find out the information teams need up front to execute the marketing work that lands on their desk. This becomes your first pass at a checklist, or intake form.
Then, you need to know or set SLAs (service-level agreements) for each step of the process. SLAs help make each step discrete from the others and establishes quality and turnaround times. In other words, they make the task clear so that the person handling the step knows what to do by when, and SLAs reduce the ambiguity that leads to discussions about how to do the work instead of actually doing it.
The goal of establishing SLAs is to have enough knowledge about a process that you can make informed decisions about intake strategy. The more detail you understand, the more accurate and productive the process will be. For example, an SLA can tell you how many tasks can be completed in a day so you know how many people you need on your team based on expected or historical volume.
Ask the right questions
From the information you gathered, you can develop a list of precise and succinct questions for your marketing strategy and execution teams. Ask questions that clarify what to do next on a project. For example, the moment a service inquiry is submitted, it should already provide enough context about the request that the person receiving it can act on it. These are things like how the request aligns to the services you offer and which teams need to be involved to accomplish the project.
This is the second phase of the checklist you’ve already developed. Knowing what information is required from the onset will prevent back-and-forth with internal customers or stakeholders. It also gives you a chance to determine whether the inquiry is consistent with your business objectives before you invest time and effort into a project that doesn’t align with your goals or capabilities to begin with.
It might take some time and a couple of conversations to compose the perfect set of questions, but the payoff in efficiency will be well worth it. These questions will become your intake form fields when you get to the point of automating the process.
Automate to simplify your business operations
Email can certainly be an effective means of communication, but receiving, sending, and archiving important project details through email doesn’t scale and creates confusion. You’re probably buried in emails for an hour or two every day already. So, work on getting the process out of email.
We live in an age where a platform or app exists for everything imaginable. Use this to your advantage.
That short list of standard questions you need to ask internal customers or stakeholders? You can avoid email—automate it. Invest in a tool that can be customized to host questions, receive requestor responses, and automatically route them to the right individuals.
Our clients often use IT ticketing systems customized for marketing. This kind of system will save you time scavenging through your inbox and spamming members of your team while automatically documenting all the requests you receive.
Stay away from unofficial platforms that require manual input, though. You automate to simplify your business operations, not add data entry tasks.
Make 80/20 the rule
You won’t be able to create a process for everything, nor should you try. It would just bog down the marketers who need flexibility to do something unusual, innovate, or just get a campaign into market in a pinch. You’ll have exceptions; count them in.
This is the 80/20 rule: You can plan for about 80% of what you’re doing to be a repeated process, and plan for the remaining 20% to need custom solutions. When a custom solution begins to repeat, move it into the 80% and make it a standard process.
For the 20% you can’t plan for, make a general plan of action. For example: When an urgent request is received that doesn’t follow typical SLAs, create a general rule that you’ll hold a 10-minute stand-up call to discuss and decide how to execute the request.
Remember, the general plan covers exceptions that rarely occur. As soon as it begins to repeat, create a new workstream to fold into your automated intake process.
An intake process creates efficiency that trickles into other segments of your business. Think about the incremental hours you’d save across a fiscal year. This is time you can take back so your business can focus on the tactics of strategic initiatives that will serve your business future.
Interested to know more about intake? Get in touch.