The three components of a useful marketing workflow

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Over my career, I’ve seen my fair share of marketing workflows – some great, and some downright horrible. As our ability to automate processes has grown, it’s critical that marketing workflows evolve as well. An efficient, automated workflow is essential in today’s business environment.

In my experience, there are three core components of a solid marketing workflow:

Each requires distinct skills and approaches, but all three must work cohesively for the workflow to drive results. As I reflect on marketing workflows I’ve built and refined over the years, I want to share my perspectives on these three foundational pieces.

Crafting an Effective Marketing Strategy

The strategy piece is all about understanding our target customers and our unique value proposition. It informs the tactics we ultimately implement through the workflow. I’ve seen too many strategic plans collect dust on a shelf because no one actually executed them. Just as problematic are teams who jump right into campaigns without strategic clarity on the customer or what makes their offering distinct.

An effective marketing strategy requires research – understanding the customer’s needs and perspective, as well as the competitive landscape. It’s not enough to simply state what we’re going to do. We need to understand the why behind it. Who needs our product or service and why are we uniquely positioned to deliver value? These are questions the strategy must address.

Developing an insightful strategy is certainly an art, but it also determines practical elements like resourcing, staffing, timelines and metrics. I’ve jumped into both existing strategies to refine them and built them from scratch. Each scenario poses distinct challenges. Established cultures can be stubbornly resistant to change. Meanwhile, some situations truly warrant a blank slate approach.

A strong marketing strategy ultimately explains who we’re trying to reach and why our solution uniquely meets their needs. It’s informed by research and guides the tactical implementation. We can have the flashiest creative or most elegant technology, but without strategic clarity, we’re shooting blind.

Implementing a Streamlined Creative Process

Once the strategy is buttoned up, we move into creation and implementation. This is where we build tangible campaigns, content, and experiences. There’s certainly still room for creativity here, but an efficient workflow is essential. I once worked at a company where the editing process involved printing hard copies of documents, marking them up by hand, and reentering everything back into the computer! The creative process should leverage technology to enable collaboration, especially in today’s remote work environment.

A key step here is mapping out each task in the creative workflow. Outline each discrete step so that it’s clear who is responsible for what and when. This process mapping ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. I like to “productize” creative marketing workflows so that much of the process is repeatable while still leaving room for customization and creativity.

It’s important to assess what works and what’s inefficient in any existing process. Are there steps that add no value? Opportunities to hand things off between teams faster? Every creative team will have its own approach, but the principles remain constant – map it out step-by-step and leverage technology to eliminate redundancies or delays.

For my podcast, the workflow is straightforward:

  • Research
  • Outline
  • Interview guest
  • Podcast distro
  • Write show notes
  • Promote on social media.

Read next: How many podcast episodes should you launch with?

But it’s taken refinement over hundreds of episodes to arrive at an efficient workflow. Whatever your creative process – content, campaigns, product launches – map it out and continually optimize it. This transparency and alignment between teams is at the heart of a scalable marketing workflow.

Leveraging Marketing Technology

The final component is marketing technology and automation. This is what tracks customers through the buyer’s journey, distributes content, captures leads, and allows us to measure results. Someone needs to own the technical aspects like search optimization, lead scoring frameworks, landing page design, and integrations between various software platforms. It’s a totally separate skill set from strategists and creatives.

I’m amazed when I reflect on antiquated marketing processes from early in my career involving printed papers and handwritten notes. Everything today should leverage cloud-based software platforms to allow transparency between teams. The workflows should facilitate automation through triggers and actions.

For example, when a prospect fills out a form on our website, they automatically enter a nurture track within an email platform. Or when a customer makes their first purchase, they get tagged in a database and routed to an account manager.

Today’s array of marketing software allows immense sophistication without the historic technology headaches. The cloud has simplified integration between systems to enable elegant, automated workflows. That said, someone still needs to architect and monitor this technical ecosystem. It won’t manage itself.

Everything from web analytics to CRM systems plays a role in tying together marketing workflows. Specific software will vary depending on the organization and ecosystem already in place. But the technical team can’t be an afterthought. They ensure the strategies and creative concepts can technically scale through automation. Don’t underestimate the importance of marketing technology and admin specialists to pull this off.

The Perils of a Siloed Workflow

I hope these three foundational pieces of a sound marketing workflow are clear. Too often, I see organizations disproportionately emphasize one over the others – dangerous imbalances that sabotage results. A beautifully strategic plan that no one executes fails to deliver impact. Clever campaigns built on guessing rather than strategy lead to wasted effort. Elegant technical architecture without something compelling to the market has limited utility.

The magic lies in carefully balancing creative, strategic, and technical skill sets – ensuring collaboration between very different roles. This integrative approach allows organizations to achieve that legendary status of firing on all cylinders. Strategy, creative and technology all intricately combine through a cohesive workflow to delight customers and drive revenue. This trifecta might seem overwhelmingly complex, but it’s attainable with careful orchestration and leadership.

If I leave you with one key lesson, it’s this: approach marketing workflows holistically. Resist overindexing on any single component, despite the fact that one may be more comfortable based on your skills and background. Build teams with complementary strengths and structure processes to facilitate transparency between them. Align goals and incentives across the departments as well. When creative, strategic, and technical teams collectively understand the customer and market landscape, remarkable things happen. Sometimes, you might have to bring a workflow consultant who can offer tips and advice to move forward more strategically.

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