Welcome back to workflow! In this post we’ll tackle the overwhelming task of getting work finished within the promised time frame, within the digital budget, and with full transparency for all stakeholders.

Let’s start with full transparency by defining our stakeholders. Who needs the work to get done? Some might say it’s primarily the client because they pay for the advertising. Clients want their campaigns delivered on time, and they want them to work (e.g. drive sales, calls, appointments, leads etc.). In reality, however, they don’t care how the work is assigned, or about the conversations, hurdles, or challenges around getting work completed.

The account executives and salespeople in your organization care. Their reputations, livelihoods, and relationships with the client are on the line. What they promised a client has to be delivered. Their credibility depends on it.

The Challenge for Your Sales Team

Salespeople in media organizations are not as comfortable with digital sales as they are with their traditional ad products. For many of them, just positioning digital product options to their clients is stressful. Many salespeople have been around long enough to remember the days of “over-promise and under-deliver”. So they feel like they don’t have control over the outcome or a reason to trust it.

Especially in media companies and agencies when early digital efforts were very challenging, salespeople remember the days of the digital black hole, where ads were sold, never to be heard from again. A successful salesperson wants control over the workflow, or at least detailed visibility into it, every step of the way.

As frustrating as it is for management (preferring salespeople focus on the next sale, and not the last sale’s path to execution), salespeople who want this level of control and detailed visibility are usually our best sellers. So how do we give our sales force this sense of control (with some helpful visibility) without taking up all their time?

Historically, salespeople in traditional media companies have a part in the creative aspects of the advertising they sold. This is typically impossible with digital advertising as there’s simply too much to do, and too much complexity.

Increase the Visibility

But what if we give them visibility into the process?

Visibility into the process can create the right balance in lieu of active participation. In essence, the visibility alleviates salespeople’s need for control, and their anxiety around the delivery and creative aspects of digital products. Increased visibility removes the perception of the black hole.

If you can’t create transparency without adding work for your best salespeople, there’s no carrot or stick big enough to drive the digital revenue your organization demands. To drive your digital bottom line, ensure your salespeople can follow along as your organization delivers your products on time, with complete visibility, at the high standard your AEs promised their clients. There may be no better way to ensure buy-in, and no way to succeed without it.

Remember the Ad Ops Team

The other, almost overlooked, group in this equation is your ad operations team. These folks are responsible for delivering on what was sold. Make it easy for them! Give clear direction, stable budgets, and the assets they need to create campaigns your salespeople and organization can be proud of, and the results your advertisers deserve.

Ad operations teams tend to be underutilized. And not because their value isn’t recognized. But because we make their lives so difficult with workflow that they don’t have time for high-value activities such as optimization, participation on training calls with AEs and coordinators, and helping to analyze reporting, and suggesting improvements.

This group has all the insight and know-how to make it easier for your frontline teams to grow and renew their digital campaigns. Instead, however, this team often spends inordinate amounts of time sorting through emails, Trello or Basecamp boards, Slack messages, Excel spreadsheets and other homegrown or cobbled-together systems we give them to connect the puzzle pieces.

At this point, you’re thinking, “This is great Christina, but how are you an expert in this, and why should we listen to you? The answer is simple.

I Did This to My Organization. Not Once But Twice.

It’s not that I’m a slow learner, or unaware of the issue. It’s just that hard. And that complex. Honestly, the easy part is the recognition. We can all see what our processes, or lack thereof, do to our organizations. And we can imagine a better way. But the challenge is getting to that better way.

For my business partner and me, it came down to that age-old technology question: “Buy vs. Build”. We wanted to buy. We tried the ‘cobble together pieces from multiple providers’ approach, but it just didn’t work. Mistakes were made and time was wasted. Coordinators and managers were hired to manually manage processes and keep proverbial trains running on time. But they never could do so reliably. This led to diminished relationships and productivity.

So, ultimately, we built! We hired developers and spent the last four years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, developing a comprehensive workflow platform, gradually rolling it out, modifying it, and teaching it to create the unique results this business requires.

Our advice, having done that: “Don’t re-create the wheel”. If this blog post sounds familiar to you, reach out! We love to help solve your struggles, and we’re passionate about workflow. And we now have a solid solution.

What We Found

But I digress. I’m a salesperson at heart. Let’s get back to the discussion: delivering on time, with transparency and quality. Here’s what we found:

  • The creative assets and direction must be collected and approved completely before work starts.
  • These assets and directions have to be in one place and accessible by all key stakeholders for each campaign. By campaign, not client and not account. Each campaign, even on the same platform, is different. They vary from the creative to run, the budget, the dates and the goals. There are too many variables to do it another way.
  • Your ad operations teams work in steps. Every product you deliver has multiple steps, deadlines and dependencies. Help your team!
  • Define your steps and your deadlines. Make it simple! Ad ops and your salespeople can see and follow the step-by-step process. Have visible toggles so everyone knows when tasks are completed. Utilize a running clock so everyone knows when a deadline is approaching.
  • Make it easy for stakeholders to communicate. And designate a place to chat so it’s easy for everyone to see what they’re communicating about.

Getting the work finished is perhaps the most tedious of the workflow issues, but it’s the easiest to solve. Hit me up with questions. And stay tuned for the next workflow blog.

Finally, the good stuff! Our next post will cover outputs. What can you pull out of the system to make your life, and organization’s life, easier?