Have you ever been working on a project and it just seemed to flow? You got lost in the work and hours went by. Before you knew it, you had all the work done!
On other occasions, getting something accomplished may have felt like pulling teeth. The minutes slowly and painfully tick by and nothing seems to be going the way it should.
When you plan out a content marketing campaign, you want things to go smoothly. You gather your team, explain what you want to happen, what the company needs to happen, and everything may start wonderfully. But, at some point in the process, everything just seems to fall apart.
Deadlines aren't met. The work just doesn't come out the way it should have. The campaign falls behind and grows weak.
What happened? Why did one campaign go so smoothly and the next fall apart from the get-go?
If this describes something that happens in your campaigns, you might have a workflow problem. So how can you improve your workflow so that your next content marketing campaign goes more smoothly?
Let's talk about that.
Everyone Has a Workflow
Whether your team is 50 people or just two, you have a workflow that you follow. You may not call it a workflow, but you have one, nonetheless.
What is a workflow? Simply put, your workflow is how you do things as a team or individual. The order of the steps you take to accomplish your goal. The communication and process.
Everyone has a certain way of doing things. The problem is, what kind of workflow do you have for your tasks? Is it consistent? Are there inefficiencies that should be corrected?
You won't know any of this unless you write your workflow down, which is the first step in paving the way for smoother campaigns.
Why Have a Written Workflow?
How do you do things as a content marketing team? What steps do you follow, from start to finish, to plan for, create, distribute, and measure the performance of your campaigns?
If you don't have that process written down, how will you ever know what you need to improve?
When someone doesn't have a documented workflow, they often think their main problem is one thing when another much larger problem is staring them in the nose and they have no idea!
That is the benefit of writing down your workflow. You can analyze the process you follow and see where things can be improved. Without writing things down first, any work to optimize will just be guesswork.
You need to have a written workflow for another, major reason. You need to make sure you're always doing things the same way, campaign after campaign.
Sometimes, when content marketing teams don't write down their process, it turns out that their process is always in flux.
They may change what they do or when they do things based on their mood, on the season, or on other factors that have nothing to do with actually improving the flow of the campaign's creation and execution.
And, when there are several people on a team working on the same campaign, this flux can lead to miscommunication. Projects can slip through the cracks, and steps can be missed.
Capture Your Current Process
When a team, large or small, first sets out to make a written workflow, they may decide to just sit down and theorize on what steps need to be taken.
It must be easier to just start over than to try to fix what's already broken, after all, right?
While it may seem less messy to just start from scratch, trying to define a new workflow may be a bad idea for two reasons.
First, if you have no experience designing or working on workflows, you may miss some vital component and lose out on valuable time and energy in the future, finding out your idealized workflow wasn't completely.
As bad as you may feel your current process is, we're assuming your team is getting projects done, right? So, no matter how inefficient your process is now, it is complete and is a model you should study.
Second, starting on a new workflow from scratch will just mean a huge investment in time. After all, even if you're used to doing things in an inefficient way, you at least are already used to that process.
Learning a new set of steps from scratch will just mean your next few campaigns will be extremely tough to get finished on time.
Instead, we recommend you capturing your current workflow and improve on what you’ve already made.
Simply write down every action you take on your next campaign. Make sure to write every step, no matter how minute, to capture your process for the campaign.
If everyone on your team does the same, you'll end up with an accurate representation of how you do your work. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly, all compiled on a single list or document.
Remove Needless or Redundant Steps
When you first look at your captured workflow, you may immediately see steps that were taken that didn't need to be.
You may, for example, have approval steps at every turn. Is it necessary to pause for approval or check-in so many times in the process, or would one or two check-ins be enough?
It may be that you're having too many meetings where valuable time is wasted. Perhaps having a few more organized meetings with more detailed note taking would work best.
Identifying these redundant steps can instantly improve your workflow, giving you an edge and freeing up your team to take on more (and bigger) campaigns in the future.
Rearrange to Optimize Flow
Another thing to consider is the order of steps. Sometimes, certain steps are put out of order because no one has taken the time, or had the 10,000-foot-view, to identify better ways of doing things.
Certain activities sometimes get added in too late in the process, like briefing the graphic artist on what images should be in a series of blog posts. That means the graphics people will have less time, or the rest of the team will be left waiting for them, even though the images would have been ready earlier if someone had briefed them earlier in the process.
You may see where you can batch certain activities. You may see where you can divide other activities. Proofreaders may not need to wait for an entire blog series to be written to start their editing on the first post. Breaking it up may save time for the entire team.
Many times, the worst part of a broken workflow is poor communication. People aren't told about things early enough or team members aren't aware of all the details of a project until it is too late, and that means work has to be redone or rushed.
We said above how some teams may need to have fewer meetings. Other teams may need more meetings or include more people in on meetings, so everyone knows exactly what is going on and what the status of different aspects of a project is.
Some teams choose to have meetings while standing in a hallway instead of seated around a conference table. That way they can have more meetings and check-ins, keeping everyone in the loop and accountable, but the standing guarantees the meeting will be kept short so everyone can go back to work.
Each team member will have different communication styles. Including when an email should be sent in the workflow can keep everyone accountable for communicating what they need to say promptly.
Set Milestones and Deadlines
When you have an optimized, written workflow, you can better see where deadlines can be set.
You'll see that your team will be able to get more work done faster with an optimized process. On top of that, you'll be able to set milestones for the project.
When a large project has a single deadline, and if that deadline is not met, it is hard to see afterward where the process broke down and needs to be improved. But if milestones are included, you'll be able to see at a glance where the project started to get behind, helping you more quickly isolate the problem and fix it before starting the next campaign.
Constantly Review and Improve the Workflow
When things go wrong, it is easy to look for a scapegoat. That way, everyone else is off the hook. But with many teams of professionals, it is rarely one person's fault that a project fell apart. In fact, it may not be anyone's fault. It may be the workflow.
After every project, whether things went smoothly or things fell apart, it's an excellent idea to review the process for the campaign and brainstorm ways to improve things for next time.
A team that constantly improves its workflow will be able to get more done and produce better quality content. You'll meet more company goals and see the growth of your brand over time as a result.
Keep your workflow on display, so everyone can see it and occasionally offer suggestions for how to improve it. You never know when the next suggestion will lead to a breakthrough in your processes!