Report: Overcoming creative marketing professionals’ biggest challenges

Not getting information in a timely manner, long approval processes and a staggering demand for work are a few hurdles those on your design team face. Here’s how you can help.

From outstanding infographics to engaging videos, creative elements can make your marketing campaigns pop.

As more and more marketers work with creative professionals and teams within their organizations—including designers, editors and other creative leads—it’s important to understand how best to make your teams work together to achieve your goals.

The 2018 In-house Creative Management Report, produced by InSource and inMotionNow, shows the value of creative efforts to marketing and communications campaigns—but it also revealed that professionals on creative teams face many struggles.

Those surveyed listed the high demand volume for creative work and the speed at which they’re expected to complete work as the two biggest hurdles they frequently face.

Establishing yourself as a strategic contributor to your organization’s goals and increasing the variety of marketing channels that require creative efforts followed as the next biggest challenges, but survey respondents also noted that client communications and expectations, technologies that change workflow and collaboration, and retaining or supporting marketing creative team members were also hurdles to overcome.

How can communicators of all stripes help the marketing creatives they work alongside?

Start by helping these co-workers obtain the information they need to get to work on a campaign. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said obtaining this information was either “difficult” or “very difficult.”

The creative brief

Creative briefing and project intake also stands as a challenge for 42 percent of those surveyed, followed by review and approval processes (32 percent). The more your organization can standardize creative briefs and help establish a consistent expectation and workflow, the better (and faster) creative marketers can produce the results you want for your campaigns.

If you’re looking to for better produced creative elements to your campaigns that can help you achieve better ROI, get those team members involved from the beginning.

“Creative briefs should be treated as strategic dialogue, rather than a simple request,” says Lacey Ford, Vice president of marketing and sales for LexisNexis.

Ford outlines the typical process for creative teams:

For example, a marketing manager may have an idea in their mind’s eye for a nurture program. As part of the campaign, they’ll need a banner ad and so they submit a creative request. It’s not uncommon for marketing to do this each and every time the campaign reaches the next milestone – submitting subsequent requests in iterations for tactical bits of creative work.

This is a very transactional view of creative and the highly skilled team of people behind it. It leads to inefficiencies across marketing and a lower overall quality of work.

Here’s what Ford suggests doing instead:

A better approach would be for marketing to sit down with the creative team and explain the vision from the outset. This includes covering what they want a campaign to achieve, how it should make the target audience feel, and the desired action marketing would like recipients to take. To that end, creative briefs should be treated as strategic dialogue, rather than a simple request.

Don’t take too long to approve creative proofs, either—doing so can clog the workflow and make it harder on creative marketers to achieve the campaign vision you desire.

Half of the survey’s respondents said that the average approval time for creative proofs is more than three days, with 36 percent saying it takes roughly a week and 29 percent reporting that it takes a week or more to finalize their projects.

Debbie Kennedy, chief executive officer for Write for You, says that creating a process and trimming excess can help you limit creative failures and make sure marketers’ requests are properly filled:

If you have more than five milestones in your process workflow, you are over-processing. Cut the fat out of your workflow and mandate that everyone follows the process. Limit rounds of changes to three. If it takes more than three tries to get approval, the creative brief was not on target. After the second round of re-design, the creative team has more than likely lost interest in this project and creativity goes out the window.

If you’ve overcome workflow and approval process challenges with your creative marketing staff, you might be tempted to think all is well.

How to define success

However, establishing metrics and expectations is an important part of evaluating whether or not efforts are a success. To do so, start by understanding that your organization and your employees think of success in different ways.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said that client satisfaction is an important benchmark of their creative efforts, and 71 percent noted that audience feedback is crucial to knowing if a campaign was successful.

Besides feedback, 62 percent said they measure a creative campaign’s impact on the organization’s bottom line, while just over half (51 percent) said they look for recognition from peers or industry awards to measure their success.

When you compare individual values to an organization’s most important success measurements, however, the story changes.

More than half of organizations (55 percent) said that a creative campaign’s business impact was the most important measure of success, followed by audience feedback (51 percent). Less than half (48 percent) of organizations look to client satisfaction to mark a creative win, and only 27 percent view recognition from peers or industry awards an important benchmark.

“The best way to demonstrate how design drives value for a brand is to point out how creative work touches virtually every aspect of your organization,” says Robin Colangelo, global director of creative services at White & Case. “From branding to design—and from your visual identity to messaging—design is a unifying factor to support marketing and business development efforts.”

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