Agencies are living in a world where marketers have access to terabytes of data about customers. That data is being used to narrowly define customers and deliver the right message at the right time. The recipe of customer segments, combined with more channels and more devices, has led to an explosion in the number of assets produced for a single campaign.
The rise of customer segmentation and the increase in the production of campaign assets has made Operations (or Agency Ops) a vital factor in determining an agency's success. One area where agencies are finding operational inefficiencies is in their creative review process (how an agency routes, reviews and secures approval on campaign assets). Feedback, especially from a client, is a fundamental part of the creative process. Approvals must be secured before any asset can be printed, published or emailed.
Without an efficient creative review process agencies cannot produce and ship assets at a rate that customer data makes possible and, as a result, that customers now demand.
The way in which an agency routes, reviews and approves their campaign assets will ultimately impact their bottom line.
An efficient process will result in:
Set realistic timelines and define expectations. When team members and clients are not synced up on timelines and expectations, time and energy is wasted over unnecessary drafts. Projects get pushed back and deadlines are often missed. Ensure that all members of the project are aware of, and agree to, the timelines and expectations set out. It will be much easier to give constructive feedback when a clear set of expectations has been established.
Identify key stakeholders in a group. When a team is unaware of key decision-makers and factors that influence a project's completion, teams become much less efficient by missing their stakeholders' wants and needs. Ask yourself: Who is your main source for requirements? Who has the final approval? Who will you be communicating with day-to-day? You should be able to identify the key members in order to be efficient.
Provide instructions for what you need feedback on. Sending over a project that is vaguely labeled: "Please Review," leads to unstructured feedback from your client that often misses the key points that actually need to be reviewed. Instead, identify your key points ahead of time and provide direct and specific instructions for what you need feedback on, for example: "Please provide feedback on the background color of the image."
Use one central location to route, review and approve work. Having multiple files in multiple locations makes it difficult for reviewers to keep track of where and what they should be reviewing. Centralize the review process. Use a tool that can handle all asset types and sizes and can be accessed both in, and away from, the office.
Use markups to communicate feedback. Providing non-visual feedback on creative work not only becomes a hassle for your team to collate and understand the feedback, but it also creates a lot of unnecessary work for the client to provide feedback. A mark-up says a thousand words. Use mark-up and annotation tools that allow reviewers to draw on top of assets and communicate their feedback in a quick and easy way.
Set up tasks and reminder notifications to keep everyone on track. When teams are juggling various duties, project priorities and tasks can often be forgotten after a meeting. Team members are required to remind each other of deadlines or miss them altogether. Use a creative project management tool to keep your team on track and ensure your clients have visibility to the status of the project. The reminder notifications will allow you to focus on the creative aspect of your work instead of managing tasks.
Keep an audit trail of project details to avoid disputes with internal and/or external stakeholders. Have you ever had a client who came back and said, "I didn't ask for that change," or, "I didn't approve that version"? As blood boiling as this situation can be for teams, how often do you have all of the necessary information on hand in order to avoid frustrating and relationship damaging "he said, she said" discussions? Most teams do not. Instead, they end up leaving a client meeting annoyed and have to spend time searching through piles of emails and papers. Use a tool that tracks all reviews, comments, change requests, approvals and can run a project summary report upon request within seconds.