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After All, We’re Only Human - Lessons in Marketing Resource Management

The words “the paper trail” might evoke modern white collar crime thrillers where investigators are following the money and the receipts, looking through ledgers to uncover how the criminals cooked the books and identify who’s to blame for the crime.

Well, paper is a crime. That’s right; you heard it here first; lock ‘em up and throw away the key!  In today’s marketing departments, paper is a criminal offense.   If you’re relying on paper to track and manage the day-to-day operations of your marketing department then consider yourself on notice.

We’ve made great strides in automating the actual delivery of our campaigns, but too many companies have yet to embrace marketing resource management (MRM) technology and leverage it in their strategic and tactical activities. The fact is people still use Excel to manage complex marketing projects.  But contrary to popular belief, opening another tab in a workbook doesn’t bring greater efficiency to a department that’s working on a deadline, on a budget, and creating material that needs to be critiqued, edited and approved before going into production.

What every good marketing foot soldier, and General for that matter needs, is transparency and accountability in their department. The problem with a spreadsheet is that it’s subject to “versionitis”: or the phenomenon of every person having a different version of the official document (it’s bad enough to have too many cooks in the kitchen, but when each is using a different recipe, it leads to a figurative bad taste). There’s no accountability in saving a document to a local or network drive if your colleagues are working off another version. There’s no transparency if deadlines are not met and no one knows that balls are falling and cracks are swallowing the whole of a program or campaign.

Before centralising and automating its marketing program, the marketers at Laerdal, a leading global provider of Healthcare Solutions would rely on “the pink sheet” or the document that contained the approvals for a given project.   According to Senior Marketing Coordinator, Yvette Muccini, “it was literally a pink piece of paper with signatures on it, and without it we couldn’t move a project into production.”  As the interface between the printers, marketers and designers, Yvette spent the better part of her week hunting down the pink sheet and the people who needed to sign it, instead of strategically coordinating the marketing program.

Laerdal’s problem isn’t unique.  Marketing departments are schedule-driven entities that plan campaigns, create or outsource collateral and require approvals to go to market. In an ideal environment, a hosted master calendar tracks all project work, is linked to a budget and can be accessed by a global work force.

Sounds like pie-in-the-sky, doesn’t it? It isn’t; I assure you.  Such tools do exist and at various levels of sophistication.  From simple time tracking mechanisms to complex budgeting, document editing and markup capabilities, the MRM system can literally become the “brain” of a savvy organisation. Technology has made it possible for even the most distributed workforce to act and collaborate as if they’re in the same conference and have all dropped their smartphones in a bucket on the way in.

MRM is more than oversight and accountability; it speeds to market the tactical while creating the room and necessary bandwidth for decision makers to focus on strategy, not on fighting fires.

Similarly, MRM solutions can empower outside agencies to deliver material in a more efficient manner. A well designed solution will allow for varying levels of access, connecting marketers to their creative, PR and other key areas.  

Solutions come in all shapes and sizes but there are some fundamental features to consider when you’re done with the paper trail and ready to get serious about your own productivity:

  • A hosted solution – what good is a technological solution if you have to be in the office to use it? A good MRM solution will allow access around the clock and around the globe.
  • A solution that meets existing processes – although we all have bad habits that need to be broken, a good MRM solution will be configurable enough to encompass your good in-house processes and fix the bad ones.
  • Calendaring is key – think about all the time you spent creating timelines, gantt charts and project plans.  At the heart of MRM is the ability to project-manage complicated multi-vendor campaigns and marketing initiatives − so it better have a good calendar from which you can easily report without straining your eyes.
  • Let’s not forget the budget – marketing departments do not have limitless funds, well some do, but let’s assume you have a ceiling. Make sure your MRM solution can directly link your projects to your budget and alert you of cost overruns and give you a means to approve monetary spend where and when necessary.
  • Collaboration tools are a must – if you’re serious about getting away from spreadsheets and versioning control, then you need your MRM solution to do it for you. Look for something with a robust media library that allows for multiple users to edit the same document, a system for tracking changes and real-time collaboration tools to bring everyone to the editing table at the same time.
  • Resistance is futile – but your co-workers will resist because after all, we’re all creatures of habit. Your MRM solution will be the toast of the town, in two to three months, after you’ve trained everyone, ironed out the bugs and demonstrated how you all have more time for beer on Friday’s because you’re no longer chasing each other’s tails. But at first, anticipate pain as your organisation amends its wicked ways and embraces a new tomorrow.