Feels like we’ve been in lockdown for years. It’s incredible how quickly this global challenge has rocked our life and work existences. In a lot of businesses, teams have been cut and one of the most vulnerable of those teams in the corporate world is Marketing. So for marketing teams that have been reduced in numbers, how do you tackle the same mountain of work? How do you keep the throughput going? What does the short to medium future look like?

Before you start panicking about what lies ahead, there are proven ways to help you focus on the serious marketing priorities and deal with the throughput at the same time. It means half the team you are now can be twice the team it was.

Step 1 – Stop and reassess to become more productive.

We’re creatures of habit. We might say we don’t like following patterns, but around 90% of what we do in any one day ‘follows routines so complete that behavior can be predicted with just a few mathematical equations.’

Some of the habits we form are important as they provide us with anchor points through our lives, while others can be roadblocks that prevent us from improvement. Being at home and working through this self-isolation period has been a challenge, but it’s also made us reconsider our lives – both personal and working –and recognize those roadblocks.

When we emerge from this uncertain period and resume a semblance of normality, how will we reshape things? Yes, it’s tough to break bad habits, but maybe it’s worth thinking about having a day a week working at home (let’s face it – time out of the office has enabled you to focus on projects with a certain clarity that would be much more difficult in a bustling workplace). This may seem counterintuitive given that you’ve now got a smaller team, but if you’re being more productive for that one day at home, it can make all the difference.

Thanks largely to our forced period of self-isolation, we are now seeing some interesting strategies emerging around how to work from home effectively. According to workplace psychologist Eve Ash, routine is paramount to working from home effectively “You need a dedicated workspace, a regularity about hours and you need to set up regular communications with colleagues.” Ash also points to the importance of establishing boundaries and routines around work and personal time – the dangers of working through lunch and into the night are real.

Back in the office, even simple things like the agency briefing process could be re-examined. Traditionally, marketers approach their briefing process in the same kind of ways for each new job they need their ad/media agency to tackle. Usually pro-forma briefing forms are the culprit, providing a habitual rigidity and preventing key insights around a product or service to emerge. Ad agencies – particularly Creatives charged with the responsibility of developing the ideas - view such insights as little ‘nuggets of gold’ that give them a foothold on a unique creative position. Remember that if your brief fails to inspire or direct a creative team then it has failed. With time on your side, it’s a great opportunity to analyze your briefing processes and look for ways to break the cycle of uniformity so that your key insights come to the fore.  

And while we’re on the subject of habitual behavior, maybe it’s time to re-examine your meeting protocols. How effective are your weekly marketing meetings with the team (that includes the regular WIPs)? The limited opportunities to meet face-to-face right now have demonstrated that you’re still getting through the workload (some would suggest you’re getting through more) despite meeting numbers having dropped through the floor. It’s a sad indictment on the modern working existence that in the last half century meeting culture has gone mad, escalating to the point where teams are wading through nearly 23 hours of meetings every week.

Now we’re not suggesting all meetings are a waste of time. Far from it. But maybe this is also the time to reign it in and set some parameters up around your meeting protocols. Consider becoming more efficient by:

• Distributing your meeting invitations with a short bullet point list of key objectives for that meeting. This gets everyone on track quickly without the need for preamble.

• Gauging how long this meeting needs to be. If you think you can cover off everything in 20 minutes, don’t schedule it for half an hour. Do the twenty minutes and make the starting time at an unusual time – say 10 past the hour giving people time to leave a previous meeting, grab a coffee or ‘have a bio break’ and be ready to jump into yours.

• Standing up! If possible, meet around a taller desk where you can stand. It’s a great way of mixing up the dynamic and encourages different thinking.

• Formalising an outcome orientation with a list of who is responsible for a task identified and by when.

Meetings aren’t the only place you’ll find wasted time. It’s a fact that nearly one whole day in every week is wasted by your marketing team hunting around for digital assets. If you’ve got a big sales network, you intuitively know about all this wasted time anyway. You’ve often sat there wondering what on earth you and your team are doing running around looking for assets. Where did the day go?  This seemingly constant stream of emails and phone calls from the network to your marketing team asking for photos, logos, video components, audio files and all the usage rights around those elements seems to be getting worse – particularly with the exponential growth of asset thirsty media (just in Social alone).

A sophisticated Digital Asset Management (DAM) system solves asset chaos instantly. It centralists the storage of assets online securely and has inbuilt workflow/access protocols that give users the ability to search and download assets for their own use. Basically, it eliminates the grunt work your marketing team faces each week and it puts rigor around the legally sensitive details that are associated with Rights Management. How long can we use that picture with that girl? Can I use that Voice Over in another State? Is the guy in that overseas video cleared for use here in Australia? All this information is stored as Metadata with the asset making usage restrictions crystal clear for all users. And if required, the DAM you use will be the protector of the assets, ensuring users are given clearance before they’re able to download.

Learn more about Digital Asset Management systems here.

Step 2 - Delegate marketing throughput to the network.

‘I’m not good at delegating.’ People say it all the time, but it isn’t true. We all delegate. We outsource parts of our lives we don’t even think about. Dinner delivery. Dry Cleaning. Online supermarket shopping. House maintenance. Child minding. Travel bookings. Even SPAM filters deal with emails we don’t want to sift through. Even so, there are ways to delegate simple life tasks with even greater efficiencies.

The same could be said for your working week in the marketing team. Instead of becoming increasingly frustrated by the obvious bottlenecks in the marketing function – the endless approval processes around network ad creation and acting as the Brand Police for your organization – look for logical ways to free up your time. Like delegating ad creation to the network rather than you and your team having to juggle the process.

Ari Meisel puts it neatly,  ‘Identify the underlying issues of your efficiency problem – see if there’s a way to optimize the existing process or automate it via mechanization (software)’

What? Allow our network to make their own ads? Before you spit your coffee across the desk, this is the one thing that will flip your marketing world on its head and allow your significantly smaller marketing team to get through the workload.

With a Dynamic Content Creation platform (sometimes referred to as ‘Brand Automation’ software, or an Automated Advertising Production system) you can empower network users with the ability to create on brand content in minutes. So with a significantly reduced marketing team, you’re effectively clawing back considerable hours in the day.

These systems take the creative from your ad agency, and extrapolate the layouts into all the shapes, sizes and formats required for the myriad of media platforms required in today’s modern marketing environment. Customizable templates that match these media outcomes are uploaded into the system, allowing approved network users to access the content and modify elements (images, headlines, text, product details etc) to suit their individual needs, outputting media ready files in minutes for virtually zero cost and in almost no time at all.

In one fell swoop, you have delegated the creation of network content out to the users in the network (which will suit them because they’re in control of content creation within branding guidelines), thereby minimizing the impact on your marketing team’s working week. So you might have half a marketing team left, but a significant percentage of the ‘grunt work’ has gone, enabling the team to focus on more important marketing objectives.

The moral to the story? Do your review now. Look at your processes. Then track down the Brand Management software that suits your business and makes you more efficient to tackle the market when it gets back into full stride.