If you work in manufacturing or industry, you know operations management is a fundamental part of running a successful company. But you might not be aware that in the last 10 to 15 years, the concept has become important in marketing too. Just like in manufacturing, it’s all about keeping an eye on production and workflow from start to finish, making sure teams and tasks are coordinated to achieve optimal efficiency. Along the way, procedures might be tweaked based on KPIs, budgeting, and accounting data to stay responsive to clients and adapt to the needs of a specific campaign. And of course, one of the biggest goals is gaining visibility into projects to accurately measure (and hopefully improve) return on investment or ROI.
Process is the Key
We (and our clients) want to get new campaigns underway as quickly as possible, but we aren’t willing to sacrifice quality work for rapid deployment. In the same way, once a campaign has started and we’re engaging with prospects, it’s critical to keep them advancing through the sales cycle and not stalling out along the way.
In our experience, the solution is to have a solid process or framework for each phase of a project. For example, we always gather the same types of information each time we work on a new campaign such as typical pain points, ideal buyers/personas, budget considerations, key product selling points, how the client defines a lead, etc. Keeping these questions on a checklist we use with each and every new client makes sure nothing is skipped or forgotten and we get the info we need.
Later in the campaign we can reference our proven procedures and benchmarks to measure how it’s going on things like outbound calling touches, market research responses, and web and email content clicks/responses. We’ve seen over and over that having processes and systems in place gets everyone up to speed and on the same page.
Getting into the details of day to day tasks, we use workflows to keep things streamlined and avoid duplicated effort. Automated workflows especially save time and reduce human error, which really boosts operational efficiency. For example, instead of writing a new email each time a prospect requests information, an email template is developed. It can be sent on the fly, and it even includes a notification to the client, all with a couple of mouse clicks. That same workflow can be set up to trigger an update to metrics and database records, automatically shuttling the prospect to the next sales stage, be it a follow up call or a meeting with a sales rep.
Not all workflows are computerized though, and we have several in place between departments and among staff members. Taking time to formalize the succession of tasks clarifies handoffs from one team to another, shows clearly where one person’s responsibility ends and another’s begins, and allows us to stay focused on our core tasks.
Even though we put a high value on sticking to documented processes and procedures, we can always make adjustments when metrics or feedback show room for improvement. In fact, checking in with the process periodically is the best way to ensure it’s working as planned and everyone is aligned. Detailed reporting and custom dashboards let us pay close attention to budget and campaign metrics so we can quickly see when it’s time for course correction. For example, we’ve been able to develop custom workflows and procedures to suit client needs and conduct market research to achieve better results.
Tech Tools Keep the Process Going
Like most businesses, we use a variety of digital tools each day from email and instant messaging to project management to customer relationship management (CRM) software. These are just a few of the tools and applications that keep our operations running smoothly:
Microsoft flow lets users set up automatic triggers for actions between apps. This tool helps with productivity by automatically doing the subtasks associated with an action so you don’t have to spend extra time opening email, saving documents to multiple locations, or remembering who gets which notification. For example, if you usually send an email to your team when you modify a shared document in Sharepoint, Flow can automatically send that email notification for you each time you trigger the workflow, saving you the extra step of creating a new email. Or, you can use Flow to automatically create a task when you flag an email message in Outlook. MS Flow lets you build connections between Microsoft apps as well as social media like Twitter and Instagram, as well as the Salesforce CRM.
For budgeting and accounting, we use a cloud-based tool called CORE. It lets us see exactly how much time and money is spent on different activities and accounts, and helps with allocating resources going forward. Instead of switching between programs, all of our time and money data are centralized and can be pulled into custom dashboards to compare variables as needed. For example, we can break a campaign or project into components and see where extra time and expense are building up, create invoices based on real-time data, and project a budget in hours, dollars, or both.
Having our key documents stored in a central location in the cloud makes it easy for everyone to access the information they need and be assured they are working with the latest version. We use Sharepoint for text documents, spreadsheets, audio and video files, and powerpoint slides. One example is our standard list of questions and information that we gather from every client during our earliest meetings. It’s one of the most critical documents for assessing the client’s needs and keeping it in a shared location means any member of our sales or production teams can find and complete it easily. We also store lists of procedures and instructions for specialized and multi-step tasks so others can step into a task in a pinch, and so we can continue to refine our internal processes.
We use the Hubspot CRM to publish web-based content, send individual and batched emails, and to track how prospects interact with content online. With this tool it’s easy to store templated documents and create a few versions, tailored to specific customer needs and interests. Automated workflows send the selected template to designated contacts, then show if an email was returned or opened and if links were clicked. We can also measure how many times a web page was viewed, an ebook was downloaded, or a form was completed. Dashboards show which blog posts are most popular and can show us which prospects to follow up with.
In operations, process is everything. We’ve found that the key to making and keeping that process as efficient and effective as possible means developing workflows, making adjustments and refinements as needed, and using a variety of technology tools. Curious to learn how your sales and marketing process can become more efficient? Not sure where redundancies are lurking? Wondering if you’re taking full advantage of the tech tools you have? It might be time to revisit your marketing operations – Acadia can help.