Nine out of 10 marketers say approval delays are the top reason they miss deadlines. And while this might seem like a passing problem, it doesn’t take long to become embedded in the culture of an organisation. Another deadline missed because no one’s managing your marketing approvals? Nevermind — there’s always tomorrow.
If you look forward to getting something approved in your organisation like you look forward to visiting the dentist, you’re not alone. Inconsistent and drawn-out approval timelines are rampant in marketing. And far from being a transient issue, they don’t just fix themselves.
It gets worse when there’s no centralised approach to managing approvals, leaving different teams and team members to default to using their own favourite tools and messaging systems.
If you’re in an industry in which regulatory requirements require marketing audits, there’s little hope of even following the trail of who approved particular changes, let alone improving the process.
So here are a few tips that will help marketers to streamline the approval process so your team can get out of first gear and really start motoring.
Step 1. Create a tiered approvals matrix
An approvals matrix is really just a fancy term for documenting the roles or people that need to approve each type of marketing activity you conduct.
A key step to streamlining marketing work processes is to recognise that not everything is the Magna Carta – just as the CMO shouldn’t need to approve every social post, the CEO shouldn’t need to approve every campaign.
Take an organised approach to who needs to approve which tier of activity, and save your team countless hours in lost time.
- Create an approvals matrix and store it in a centralised location so that who approves what is clear to all.
- Keep it updated. Marketing team members tend to turn over fairly quickly.
- Don’t forget those who need to be informed (but don’t need to approve) particular work. Several approval models exist — among them RACI, RAPID, RASCI, PARIS and others — to help you ensure you have all bases covered without building unnecessary oversight into your process.
Step 2. Map approvals to a workflow
Since different people will often be called into the approval process at different stages, it’s important that everyone knows what’s going on.
This means you are absolutely clear on what you’re asking people to review, and that everyone knows where they fit into the approval process.
- Map out your workflow, visually. Define each approval stage, and who the approvers are for those stages. Make sure that this is attached to the job being approved, in case anyone wants to reference it.
- Give approvers instructions on what you want feedback on. You don’t want them to pick apart the look and feel when you’ve asked them to comment on copy.
- Tell approvers when you need it by. They need to understand that you’re working to a deadline, and that they might slow you down.
- Tell them how to give you feedback. Have it all in one place.
- Of course, everyone needs to adhere to your approval process to make it work.
Step 3: Minimise revisions
Take a step back. How many people are there involved in your approval process at each stage? And how many revisions does your process allow for?
Limiting the number of approvers is necessary if you don’t want your approval process to trail along at a snail’s pace.
More people means more feedback, the possibility of contradictory feedback, and more rework and potential confusion for writers and designers. This in turn can mean chaos when it comes to version tracking.
And try to keep the number of revision rounds to two: one round to make changes and another to sign off. It might feel like a pipe dream, but applying this kind of discipline will keep your approvers focused on the job at hand and can literally shorten your campaign creation process by weeks.
- Try to keep the number of approvers to no more than three per stage. If your team size allows, just one is preferable.
- If you can keep the number of review rounds to two, you’re doing fantastically well! If not, limit it to 3 rounds. This forces approvers to think harder for each round (especially the last one).
- Have a clear labelling system to track versions.
- Also, if you’re running an internal studio, make sure that each revision is approved by someone in the studio team before it goes back to the person requesting the asset. This can save a lot of time going back and forth.
Step 4. Track everything in one place
Thanks to content marketing, your digital assets can pile up pretty quickly. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, on average, marketers use 13 different formats in their content marketing efforts!
Certain formats — especially those that are interactive — can make approvals challenging. For example, documenting video edits and amendments.
- Templatise approvals for difficult formats to make sure no detail is overlooked.
- Make sure all visual assets – no matter what type of content it is – are reviewed in the same place.
- After assets have been approved, store everything in one place, in an organised and searchable way so that people can find and use it.
Step 5. Automate it
Time spent chasing approvals is a pet hate of most marketers. All you need is a simple sign-off. How many emails (and time spent wording them diplomatically) does it take?
- A content marketing and operations platform with built-in workflow and approvals management can automate the process for you. Once your approvers, workflows and the assets requiring approval are in the system, automatic reminders will prompt your approvers of the action they need to take, freeing you up to focus on your real work!
- Once assets are finalised, they get stored in the asset management system, meaning anyone can find the most up-to-date version of the asset they need, and use it with confidence.
- And approvals are never lost in someone’s email inbox, in accessible to auditors. They’re always on hand and on the record!
The bottom line is marketing teams need to have a system of record for the act of making marketing.
That calls for a content and marketing operations platform such as Simple, part of the new wave of modern, cloud-based marketing resource management systems that are helping to revolutionise the working life of marketers.
Simple’s content and marketing operations platform helps enterprise marketing teams to plan, orchestrate, review and optimise their marketing activity to create exceptional customer experiences across all channels. Book a Demo to see how it works.