When design workflows don’t mean business (or, “Maybe it’s not the work, it’s the workflow!”)

Ten years ago, designers and creative service providers were the best-kept secret of great sales and marketing communications efforts. With budget, base content and a few weeks time they could weave straw into gold. So much so that businesses large and small moved marketing collateral into Quark and InDesign, raising the bar for how all company sales materials needed to look and feel.

Then as high-speed color printers came in-house, laptops and projectors became smaller and lighter, and the internet evolved to be a global selling marketplace, more work came with the responsibility to make it happen. In response, creatives have incrementally added to the breadth and depth of what they do by using the same dedicated graphics workflows and issuing PDFs. Easy and happy to help and grow both the business and the department.

Today, however, for some mission-critical sales and marketing collateral, that tried and true workflow may be more hinderance than help…

My favorite story of woe comes from an in-house department at a top technology company. Until last year, with all collateral in InDesign, a call from field marketing or a technologist to update a solution brief involved 4-5 rounds of refinement and 2-3 weeks! Why so long? Let’s follow the workflow.

It’s the creative services professional who has to put on their typesetting cap to make text changes in InDesign, then PDF and send to requestor for review. Then with feedback, make refinement changes, PDF and return. Then make Executive review changes, PDF and return. Then after Legal review, make changes and PDF. THEN after a check by analyst relations, final changes and PDF. All the while trying to wrap in messaging, stylistic and brand compliance and consistency concerns. AND ALL THIS BEFORE any design or graphics work. So, at a time when the department is 25% the size it was five years ago and deadlines are tighter than ever, no wonder marketing is the bottleneck.

If your clients or sales team or business rainmakers need collateral faster, maybe it’s not the work that’s the challenge, but the workflow.

As departments, budgets and timeframes all continue to shrink, now is the time to look at the mix of materials and see what can be moved to a more efficient and effective workflow focused on business:

  • From a dedicated graphics workflow isolated in InDesign and delivered as PDF…
  • …To an integrated office workflow collaborative in Word or PowerPoint and delivered via PDF and/or in native files if needed.

To support sales agility and enable collaboration, Office ROI helps designers, agencies or in-house marketing departments do just that.

Now back to that technology company, where product sheets, white papers, technology briefs and other text-driven content collateral are in Word, with any infographics and charts built in PowerPoint, saved out and placed into Word.

When a change is needed, the requestor is issued the Word base file as well as the supporting PowerPoint file that holds charts and info graphics. Since everyone at the company uses Office (which by the way is great for comments and reviews), back-and-forth by field marketing, technologists, executive, legal and analyst compliance are completed without marketing or creative services doing the typing. (Or taking the bottleneck blame, for that matter!)

After delivering the base assets within 4 hours of the request, marketing returns back into the workflow AFTER text and even graphic exhibits content has been refined, verified, vetted and approved. Now the needed higher-level messaging, design refinement and brand compliance is part of a streamlined process that takes place in just 3-5 business days, which includes executive approval, PDF for release and base assets filed for future use.

End result: Out of the text-change game, designers are no longer typists and in-house marketing managers are no longer traffic managers — rather, they are where they want to be, creatively adding value via brand and graphics savvy and messaging acumen.

Today, moving at the speed of business means delivering great, amazingly designed, content directly in the tools business users know how to use… so maybe for marketing creative services, it means delivering in Word or PowerPoint instead of InDesign.

Postscript: And when field marketing asks for presentation materials on that topic a month later, with exhibits already in PowerPoint, a file can be sent again within minutes of the request… and if field marketing has changes, they can make it themselves!