Friday, 11 December 2009

The biggest challenge for marketing operations in 2010?

What do you see as the biggest challenge for your day to day marketing operations?

Although there probably are many equally big challenges, there's one in particular that I would like address in this blog entry. One that I believe being the biggest of them all - the need to change from project to process oriented work.

Many Marketing Departments today are very, if not entirely, project oriented. Projects, being a campaign, an event, a print production etc.

The project oriented organization
In a project oriented organization, work is planned, performed and driven by the current project. It can look something like this:

Okay, we need to create a new product presentation folder.
– We've created a concept layout. It will be a four page folder
– We need a new copy text, a product image for the cover, three images showing the product in use. We also need a list of the product's benefits.

Then the work of creating all these content items begin. All items will be created according to the project requirements meaning the text will be written to fit the reserved space and that the images will be cropped and optimised according to their respective space.

Once the project is done it will be archived in case any of the files are needed again.

Why is this bad?
Well, just look at all the things happening in the world around us right now. You can’t avoid noticing how the Internet and Enterprise 2.0 are affecting the way we communicate - even the way we develop our products and ultimately the way we do business.

Bottomline, you have to be ready to respond to great many more requests. Both from within your own company as well as from customers. For instance, customers expect to find information about your products by searching on Google. They also expect to be able share and discuss the information they find via Twitter, Facebook and other tools. They can’t share your printed presentation folder via Twitter. And the files in the archived project aren’t optimised for anything else than the project they were created for.

Your sales force, and even your customers, will probably also expect to find information about products sooner than you expect. Even prior to their release date. We are in fact living in a beta community today. Again, the information they expect is indeed quite different from your printed folder - or even the information in it. They expect to be able to find videos, slide shares, lots of photos, prewritten text segments etc. The project oriented approach usually means the images and information aren't available until after the product is released.

The process based organization
A way to address these requests is to start re-aligning your operation to process oriented work. Instead of just focusing on campaigns and/or productions, you need to start thinking of the processes needed to create content items, i.e. images, texts, videos etc.

The difference between project and process is that projects have a start and a finish. Projects can be completed. Processes can’t. They are ongoing. In other words you need to have an ongoing process that produces content items that, when needed, can be communicated or assembled in different ways with ease.

As an example, you should be able to respond to a question from a customer by simply retrieving and sending a link to the video on YouTube explaining how your product work. You should be able to do this without first having to create the movie, then upload it to YouTube and finally generate the link. All that should be prepared. Likewise you should be able to quickly assemble a customized leaflet in response to a request from a sales representative without first having to create new content items (for instance, because the ones archived with earlier productions were cropped to wrong way)

What do you need to do?
To achieve this you have to think processes and you will have to align those processes with your product development process (or corresponding depending on what you do).

Content items should be created along with, or as a part of the product development process. That way they will already exist when it’s time to communicate them via Twitter or when it’s time to create the presentation folder - you probably need to produce that in printed form for many years still to come.

You also need to find ways to manage these content items so everyone that need them can find and use them. Digital Asset Management Systems are great at handling images and videos. Content Management Systems can be used for texts. Of course you don't necessarily need complex systems. You can also use more accessible tools like Youtube, Flickr and wiki’s. For instance, here're some examples of how you can manage content items using Backpack.

As you can see, switching from a project to a process oriented work is something that stretches outside the boundaries of the marketing department and something that requires both new/or changed processes and new technology.

If you haven’t begun this work yet you are up for a big challenge.
The positive thing about it all, is that you will learn a lot along the way. In fact I promise you that you will discover lots of new possibilities along the way. How do I know this? I know it because I’ve seen it myself when I’ve helped customers doing exactly this.

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