EVENT RECAP: “How We Work” Panel Discussion

Did you miss our January event?

Don’t worry! Through the power of excellent note-taking and only mild procrastination, we have put together a brief recap! Here are the highlights from our recent panel discussion with four local marketers as they discussed their daily workflow, their common challenges, and tips for overcoming them.

First, here were our four outstanding panelists:

Sheila Bizzell: Project Manager, Digital Fire Online Marketing Agency

Toni Keesee: Vice President of Digital Strategy, Element 74

Erica Mastropierro: Account Executive, Red Letter Communications

Tonya Wells: Assistant Marketing Director, Southeast Missouri State University

The panel was moderated by Michael Baxter, Creative Director at Digital Fire.

The first question was about project management software.

Each panelist was asked what software their company uses to manage projects as well as the pros and cons of that software. FUN FACT: Every panelist used a different software program!

Toni said Element 74 recently switched over to Trello, a web-based project management system. They also use Basecamp for client communications and Google Drive for sharing documents. Since the company was so new to the platform, there weren’t any pros or cons to report (yet).

Tonya said the University uses Workzone, a robust cloud-based project management software. The major advantage for her was the ability to set up and work within multiple teams”. This allows her to coordinate projects across a large organization like the University, which has multiple departments.

Erica said that Red Letter Communication uses Workamajig project management software for the creative industry. They also use Microsoft Office 365, Yammer and One Drive. Workamajig’s strength lies in its ability to do everything from manage budgets, set up project templates, assign roles, post drafts and review/comment all within the platform.

Sheila said Digital Fire uses TeamWork, a task management and team collaboration software. They also use Google Drive, Google Docs, and Slack for team communication. TeamWork earned points for allowing easy collaboration, the ability to track (and tag) time for reporting and having client-based tabs that included commonly referenced information (such as client preferences, account logins and creative briefs).

Next question: How do you keep a project on task and on budget?

Erica stressed the importance of keeping the client informed. They need to know immediately when their changes are out of scope or going beyond the project budget. You should be straight forward and honest about where the time is going and how much is needed. You also don’t want the client to feel like they are being nickel and dimed.

Tonya added that time management is key. It’s important to educate the client on how your team functions to help explain where the time and cost is going.

Toni agreed with the others that clear communication about product scope is important. You also want to build in time for research if the project is new.

Erica reiterated that you should always be clear with the client about everything that is needed from them and when it is needed. They need to know when they are responsible for things such as approvals and content.

Next question: Do you write creative briefs for your projects?

Erica said every project at Red Letter has a creative brief. Some larger projects require a more thorough creative brief, which is reviewed internally and then shared with the client. This is a check and balance to ensure we are about to embark down the correct path. And we can always refer back if the client shifts direction or makes requests beyond the brief. The brief is posted to our content management system so everyone has access and can refer to it if there is question.

Sheila said Digital Fire doesn’t create a creative brief for every task, but does have creative briefs for larger campaigns. Those briefs include the client goals and the components of the campaign. They also have a diagram called a funnel path that demonstrates the entire customer journey and the marketing pieces they will create for that path (ads, web pages, emails, ecommerce, remarketing, etc.).

Next question: What is your biggest efficiency drain?

Sheila said their biggest efficiency drains happen when a new type of project comes in or a client needs something they haven’t yet before. They end up spending more time in the research stage.

Erica added that the project management system itself can be a drain at times. Her team is actually trying to pull back from their reliance on Workamajig and become more self-reliant.

Tonya said her team typically runs pretty efficiently. Their biggest drains come from things beyond their control, like when a client changes the scope of a project.

Toni said their biggest efficiency challenge at the moment is adjusting to their internal restructuring and a new project management process.

Next question: How do you handle a project when your point person is out of the office or leaves?

Tonya said their project management software allows for efficient project communication. It keeps everyone in the loop on a project, so no matter who is off-site, everyone can see the status of a project.

Erica added that it was the same for her. They have codes they use to label the notes, like if a note came from a customer or if a vendor is emailed and there is a change. Everything is well documented.

Sheila said for every person they have in the office, they have a second person who can also handle that type of workload. It creates a redundancy for when someone is away.

Next question: What types of website building platforms do you use?

Toni: EasyPost (homegrown website building platform) and more recently, WordPress

Sheila: WordPress, Shopify, Woocommerce, WebinarJam, lots of others… It depends on the plugin needs of the client and their payment processor.

Mike added that Digital Fire uses InstaPage and ClickFunnels for building straightforward landing pages designed around a single type of conversion.

Next question: How do you keep your client happy?

Erica said it truly takes time to learn what your client’s likes and dislikes are. It can take a few months before you get a handle on it. This gives you an idea of the client’s ability to understand what they like vs. what their customers will like. You may need to educate them on their target audience’s interests.

Sheila said she found clients respond well to her being straightforward and transparent. They appreciate honesty.

Toni added it’s important to get in-person face time early on. Over the phone, it can be difficult to truly know how a client is feeling about a project. So even if she can’t meet in person, she likes to set up a GoToMeeting where she can see their face. Element 74 also uses a program called Loom to screenshare and create videos of the screen for demos and training.

Erica added it helps to provide clients a schedule of when things will be ready for review and when she needs content or feedback. It keeps them from getting impatient.

Tonya said you need to show that you are really investing time in the relationship. Show that you respect their time. It’s also good to put your marketing spin on it. Let them know why you made your decisions. It’s all about the pitch.

Next question: How much is provided by the client and how much do you generate?

Erica said Red Letter is typically responsible for almost all content. They send the client a questionnaire to get answers to some questions early on, but really it’s about getting to know what the client hopes to accomplish and what their goals are.

Toni said it really depends on the client’s knowledge and the marketing team they have. If they have an excellent copywriter, it’s a huge help, but that’s typically not the case. She is finding more and more that her team has to write the copy, otherwise the project can be severely delayed waiting for content.

Tonya said she leans on the client the faculty are experts on their subject or activity. Her primary responsibility is to ensure the brand is consistent.

Last question: Dealing with requests from phone, email, and different management systems can be tedious, how do you make sure you have everything in one place?

Sheila said she makes sure to put everything into the project management software. It’s her job to make sure all of the information is in one place so it’s easily accessible by all team members. But everyone is able to enter this information, as tasks can bottleneck if they are all entered by one individual.

Erica said everyone is responsible for making sure information is in the content management system. They hold each other accountable for entering the information. It took some time to adjust, but now nobody has an issue with requesting a direct email be added to the project management software task instead.

Tonya said her company’s software is great because it sends out notifications via email. When we respond, via email, that response is uploaded to the project management software directly, removing an extra step.

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