Creative Workflows: How to Keep Creative Teams on Track

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“Operations keep the lights on, strategy gives the light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train that moves the engine forward.” -Joy Gumz.

Before you get into creative workflows, one question: Are you running your creative marketing department, or is your creating marketing department running you?

If you feel like you’re always running around your marketing department, running out of breath, and running in circles, spoiler alert, your marketing department is probably running you.

The signs of a creative workflow that needs help are:

  • Always playing hide and seek with your motivation
  • All your creative projects happen at the 11th hour
  • Zero connection between team members
  • Burnt out creative teams with the enthusiasm of a coal miner

It doesn’t always have to be this way. With a few creative workflow tips, it won’t be long before you’re back in the driver’s seat.

What Is A Creative Workflow

A creative workflow, also known as creative operations, is a tool that enables organizations to outline the process of starting, developing, and approving deliverables in creative projects.

As you may have noticed, creative work is not getting easier (it’s quite the opposite). 

Teams are becoming remote. Customer expectations are rising with a stiffening competition looming in the background. 

A creative workflow will solve the following challenges in creative agencies:

  • The need for faster turnaround times
  • Burnouts for your creative team
  • Approaching due dates and deadlines
  • Rising costs and dwindling productivity.

Moving From Active To Reactive Marketing: The Ultimate Creative Workflow

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. There is no single one-size-fits-all solution for a creative workflow. However, the following steps are tried and true in coming up with seamless workflows for creative teams

Coming Up With The Various Creative Tasks

Determining the scope of the creative project should be your first order of business. Come to think of it, it’s hard to work on a project that you hardly know anything about. 

Ensure that you and your team can map out:

  • What deliverables the client wants
  • Any special requests from the creative client
  • The creative steps that will be part of the project
  • Any bottlenecks that may hinder the creative project

Assigning Roles To Your Creative Teams

Your creative marketing is only as organized as your creative team. From the look of things, everybody may seem good at everything. However, this is not always the case.

Inadequate role definition may work for simple, straightforward projects. However, the moment things go a little out of plan (unexpected deadlines, impromptu review requests, unexpected increase in work), everything crumbles to pieces.

Some of the roles you can define include:

  • Graphics designer
  • Content Creator
  • Copywriter
  • Creative Designer

Coming Up With Metrics To Track Progress

A journey of a million miles begins with one step, but the moment you lose count, forget about ever seeing the millionth mile. KPI’s will help your business projects with:

  • Motivation
  • Informed Decision making
  • Seeking support from management

Without metrics, what remains of your creative strategy is you driving on the interstate without a speedometer. You could be going at 60mph or 90mph, but nobody knows.

Of all these steps, tracking progress and success is probably the most important.

 Some of the key creative metrics to track progress include:

  • Work in progress report (WIP)
  • Creative agency profit and loss
  • Lead time per project

Outlining the Project Management Tools To Achieve Marketing Goals

Creative tasks: Check. Ready teams: Check. A bunch of metrics: Check. 

Maybe it’s project management software and tools that stand between you and creative workflow stardom.

Think about it. What good is a plumber without any tools? 

You probably have better chances of unclogging the drain yourself.

A tool like Welcome that offers task management services goes a long way. Some of the task management items that you should outsource to software and tools are:

  • Time tracking
  • Progress management
  • Billing for freelancers
  • Real-time creative project assessment

Steps In Your Creative Workflow

“We will either find a way, or make one.”  -Hans Hannibal.

In the same way that delicious meal at your favorite Italian restaurant has a recipe, effective creative operations have a plan. 

Your marketing plan will bring you closer to your goal, and some of the most crucial steps in creative production planning include:

1. Project Definition

At this step, you have to come up with the idea of precisely what a client wants. That’s the first task of the mission.

Project definition goes a long way. Find anybody who has had to repeat a project because they never read the fine print, and they all have a story to tell:

  • You can have your client define the work for you
  • Ask for any additional clarification you may require
  • Ascertain that you can finish the task within the client’s deadline
  • Ask for an extra time frame if you can’t meet the current deadline

2. Role Definition and Team Building

It takes a whole orchestra to play a symphony. You can’t go it all alone. 

In creative workflows, teamwork is divine.

First, assign the professional goals to the professionals. Then, come up with each marketer’s strengths and weaknesses and assign non-professional tasks to your best people.

After role definition and coming up with your Avengers, ensure that everybody is on the same page. Consider:

  • Taking input from everybody
  • Ensuring that everybody is comfortable with the plan

3. Scheduling And Timelines 

Without scheduling and deadlines, you’ll find your team procrastinating, and most of your work happening on the 11th hour.

This is why you need timelines, due dates, and deadlines in your project management to streamline everything. 

At this point, your team should also set goals, milestones, and the time frame to achieve them.

Always:

  • Leverage iterative deadlines instead of a final deadline
  • Be capacity sensitive so as not to overwork or underwork your team.
  • Break down the tasks into small subtasks
  • Ensure to have a team member behind each deadline

4. Ideation

This is where you and your team members sit down around a table (or stand) and start brainstorming ideas.

According to a Welcome Sirkin internal study, marketers’ #1 bottleneck is the content and asset creation process — requesting work, ideating, creating, editing, reviewing.

Content creation and ideation are easier said than done, but with the right team and mindset, it won’t be long before content ideas start flowing.​​

5. Analysis and Approval Process

What’s left is for your marketing team to kickstart your approval and review process.

This foolproofing is necessary and is a step that your team members should not skip, whatever the case.

Once you have rechecked everything against the client requirements and ascertain that it meets quality standards, your team can now sign off with the final approval.

Using Creative Workflow Management To Empower Your Marketing Team 

As a project manager, your workflow management is not only good for your bottom line but also your marketing team.

With the correct practices, workflow management can unleash the very best in your team. Some of them include:

Eat The Frog

One of the essential productivity quotes states that “If you eat a frog first thing each morning, you get to go ahead knowing that your day couldn’t get any worse.”

To eliminate procrastination and uncertainty, always ensure that your creative team handles and finishes the heaviest task first.

See The End From The Beginning

Seeing the light at the end of every tunnel is essential for your creative team’s motivation and, subsequently, your project’s success by extension.

Each step of the process should have a defined end goal such that your stakeholders never feel like they’re riding in the dark somewhere in the middle.

Respect Your Review Process

It can’t be overstated further how crucial the review process is in the workflow management process. Even minor procedures like social media posts have to go through a second eye.

Remember, your creative team is human, and each project will always leave something behind if it never goes through a review.

To prevent the hassle of redoing tasks over and over, ensure that you:

  • Create a feedback loop from your clients and possibly their audience
  • Have different teams or individuals going through others work to eliminate biases
  • Create positivity around the review process in your creative agency 

How To Go The Extra Mile On Your Creative Project Management

There is less traffic on the extra mile, and that’s where you want your content marketing strategy to be.

Some of the steps you can take to be one step ahead of your marketing competitors include:

Embracing Agile Methodologies

Your teams can do so much more— and the lack of agile methodologies may be what stands between your teams and their productive potential.

Agile methodologies will lead to increased productivity, better teamwork, and more streamlined business processes. For the ideal agile marketing workflow, you can consider:

  • Holding brief stand up meetings instead of extended sit-down meetings
  • Breaking down your project into small iterative goals
  • Embracing continuous evaluation instead of finalized assessment

Effective Communication

In creative processes, communication is vital. Similarly, any communication barrier will be of great detriment to your marketing goals. 

You can consider:

  • Using communication software like Slack for remote teams
  • Encouraging team communication 

Using Templates For Your Creative Team

Templates are some of the most effective productivity tools in creative workflow management. And the best part is that with software like Welcome, they come free.

According to an internal study, marketer’s #2 challenge is finding a single, unified calendar for all their activities.(Welcome, Sirkin)

Some of the templates that may come in handy include:

  • Creative brief template
  • Calendar template
  • Editorial template

Envisioning Your Creative Workflow Process

A picture is worth a million words, and true to this, stats show that people following directions with illustrations are 323% better than people following directions alone.

That said, make your creative workflow as diagrammable as possible. You can use these tools to bring your workflow plan to life:

  • Emojis
  • Color coding
  • Flowcharts
  • Diagrams

Having a wall of text is sleep-inducing and will only hurt your team member’s motivation and focus.

Automate Redundancies In Your Creative Project

Last but not least, leverage automation to ensure efficiency and productivity. Your team can’t handle every single manual task. That’s what engineers create marketing automation software for.

Where We Come In

 If it’s automation, efficiency, metrics, and progress you’re looking for, look no farther than Welcome.

Welcome is your one-stop shop for all things marketing management. Ready to give it a try? Get started with a free Welcome account today

 

Done reading and ready to try Welcome?

Welcome’s marketing orchestration software is free for up to 5 users, so grab 4 of your closest marketing buds and see what we’re all about.