A little more than 30 years ago, the average accountant used paper spreadsheets and a pencil (with a really good eraser) to keep their books. Then, in 1983, Lotus 1-2-3 was released and Microsoft quickly followed up with Excel in 1985. Almost overnight, what was once a very tedious and manual process became simple and easy to manage. Businesses became more efficient, books became more accurate, and accountants elevated their roles from keepers of credits and debits to business analysts.
When Lotus and Microsoft developed their spreadsheet software, they had no plans for them to be used as a platform for managing content marketing.
They still don’t.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of today’s content marketers are using inefficient tools, like spreadsheets, email and Word documents, making their jobs much more difficult than necessary. Ultimately, using the wrong tools for the job is creating some very real risks for content marketers. Using my expertise as the president of a content marketing agency, I’m going to dig into three of them.
Risk No.1: Inefficiency
When we started to produce content at scale for our clients, we quickly learned if we wanted to be able to create profitable, high-quality content, we needed better tools.
We discovered we were not alone. Of the 100 agency clients we surveyed in December 2015, 86% used a combination of Word, Excel and email to manage their content marketing. Our research also showed us that most people work in teams today. A full 97% of our clients have three or more people collaborating on every piece of content. And this approach to content production is not isolated to a specific agency or industry: our diverse client base specializes in consumer marketing, financial communications, sports and entertainment marketing, and healthcare, to name a few.
When you have multiple people emailing Word documents around and trying to track it all on a spreadsheet, it quickly becomes unwieldy. Once we started using workflow software, we found that we saved 74 minutes of staff time per piece of content produced. For the average company, that inefficiency comes with a very real price tag. Companies pay an extra $120,000 per year to produce the same volume of content as firms that invested in workflow software, according to a recent Gleanster Research study.
Risk No. 2: Compliance
According to our internal survey, 71% of our clients are required to follow some level of legal and/or internal governance rules on a regular basis. That presents a few big challenges:
- Delays. The inclusion of a legal review requires that marketers plan well in advance of when they need the content. We’ve seen legal reviews turn over within a day, while some take a month or more.
- Bottleneck. Compliance coupled with inefficient creation and management tools can create a bottleneck in a hurry.
- Approvals. If you’re using email folders to store legal approvals, you may be creating unnecessary risk.
- Workflows. Without a system in place to ensure all users adhere to the desired compliance protocol, it’s almost guaranteed the workflow will not always be followed.
Compliance issues arise in many industries and can be a huge pain. But often it’s in the creation process where some things get clogged. Well-planned workflows can help to manage the process and create accountability to keep content moving toward final approval.
Risk No. 3: Recovery
Although many programs will intermittently autosave a document or spreadsheet in case of an unfortunate server or hard drive crash, they are far from perfect solutions.
Employee turnover is also an important aspect of data recovery that is seldom discussed until it’s too late. Most content marketers work on a variety of projects that are at various stages of creation at any given time. If each employee is using several different tools with spreadsheets, Word documents and emails scattered every which way, it can be nearly impossible to access client files when they’re needed.
Cloud-based applications like Google Drive or Dropbox are becoming the most effective way to protect companies from these scenarios. If you make the migration, you’ll be much better off.
The Right Tools For The Right Job
Identifying sources of disorganization can be simple, but overhauling your entire content operations can be a grueling process for even the nimblest of organizations. Start by identifying your own workflow process and noting any pain points. Does your team store client approvals within an email folder you may not always have access to? Do you use Word attachments to emails so often that you have issues with version control?
It’s no secret that wherever you find inefficiencies in your business, the right processes and tools will always lead to a better result. But improvement requires change and inertia is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. If investing in workflow software isn’t an option today, maintaining a master editorial calendar is even more critical. It provides a framework for your strategy as well as visibility to the status, deadlines, and location of content pieces. By taking this step toward transparency, you can significantly cut down redundancy, ensure accountability and align content efforts across teams.
Taking a close look at your content operations may require an investment of time and money, but it’s worth the effort. Your employees, clients and bottom line will all thank you.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Forbes CommunityVoice blog.