Marketing departments are getting bigger, more complex, and more siloed. Not only do I hear about this from our clients every day, but I’ve seen the progression firsthand inside Contently.
In the past year or so, Contently’s marketing team has grown from two people to nearly 20 (not including our regular freelancer contributors), and as we’ve expanded, the biggest challenge has been trying to manage so many different moving parts. Most of the time, there are a dozen projects going on at once, from landing pages to product brochures to a print magazine. More often than not, those projects require multiple people—and multiple teams—working together.
Anyone who’s spent time working on cross-functional projects knows that they can get very complex very quickly. We certainly do, which is why we’ve designed software that helps marketers solve those problems. We’ve found that it’s absolutely essential for us to have a centralized hub that stores all those projects, allows our teams to collaborate, and gives our executives and managers a 10,000-foot view of everything going on.
Recently, we put that software to the test when a big project had to be completed on extremely short notice. It turned out to be the perfect example of how we use Contently to streamline all of our creative and marketing work.
Contently’s technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the second half of 2015—we’ve upgraded our platform with a number of new features such as enhanced workflow flexibility and Contributor Analytics—but for months, we hadn’t updated the Solutions section of our website to reflect those improvements. In fact, all we had was a single page, which mostly teased our visitors instead of telling them exactly what we do:
This made life tough on our sales team, and it made our product team sad since it wasn’t easy for our clients and prospects to see just how nuanced our technology had become. With a crucial Q4 underway, we needed an immediate fix. We decided it was time to build and release a new set of Solutions landing pages in two weeks.
However, designing and building cross-functional microsites, landing pages, and campaigns typically takes a lot of work, consensus, and collaboration, and because of that, it often takes a long time.
The new section would include 32 new pages, detailing our technology capabilities, industry-specific expertise, and enterprise services offerings. It needed to integrate new brand guidelines, detailed product specs, screenshots, and about a dozen other elements that I won’t mention here. And, of course, it needed to be both beautiful and informative.
Most importantly, we needed 20 people to collaborate seamlessly across our content, design, marketing, and dev teams. Those teams often use different tools for their respective projects: InDesign and Photoshop for design; Ruby and PHP for dev; Excel and PowerPoint for marketing. By using Contently as the hub for everything, individual teams could use their own tools while still centralizing all the work—and conversations about that work—in one place.
Building 32 new pages from scratch was a huge mountain to climb in two weeks. Joe Lazauskas, our editor-in-chief, thought we were possibly under the influence of strong hallucinogens to even suggest it. But to pull it off, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of having one resource that let us track progress in terms of operational efficiency and accountability.
With a gameplan in place, we named the whole thing Project Wartortle and got to work.1
I often hear from clients and prospects (not to mention our VP of product) that we don’t talk about our tech in enough detail, so here are the features we used with descriptions of exactly how we used them:
Calendar: Contently’s calendar made it easy for the project leader (in this case, me) to keep an eye on the status of every single page. We turned each page into its own “story”—which allowed me to see at a glance how everything was developing. The calendar also makes it simple to dig deeper into a certain story to see copy, assets, and communications. If something was behind schedule, I could go into the story, check out the different components, and find out exactly why.
Asset library: Within each story, the design and editorial teams needed to store assets that would guide the creation of the new pages. Each page had an individual brief as well as other components like screenshots, header images, mockups, and product spec documents. Having everything accessible in the same interface eliminated the need to toggle between email, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc., which did wonders for our efficiency. We also used the markdown functionality to create a whole list of sub-tasks within a given story that our creative teams could check off once they were completed.
Approval flows: When a project has this many stakeholders and contributors, a sign-off and audit trail is crucial. Every single page needed to be copy edited by our edit team, sense-checked for messaging and language by the product team, okayed for client quotes and logos by our accounts team, and, finally, QA’d by everyone. With our platform’s approval flow, each approver would get an email when a page was ready for review. And if changes needed to be made, approvers could send it back down the chain to the appropriate contributor.
Comments and revisions: Without a doubt, one of the more integral parts to any collaborative project is the ability to centralize feedback in one place. Since we’re an opinionated bunch, having a place where everyone could weigh in with thoughts on each page was key. The commenting system allows you to tag specific people with @mentions, which notifies them whenever they need to address a specific note. The notifications typically come as emails, but we’ve also built integrations that work with Slack and other business communication tools.
In addition to these key features, we also relied on a few other Contently functionalities for this particular projects—things like talent sourcing, production analytics, and CMS integrations—that made it easier for us to succeed. Of course, it’s true that technology only gets you so far. No matter the bells and whistles, people still needed to do the work, which meant a lot of dedication and late nights. But at the end of two weeks, we not only had a series of shiny new pages and a happy sales team, but also a greater appreciation of how technology can help streamline the process of creating content across an enterprise organization.
- I had to Google what a Wartortle was, and let’s just say I was disappointed that it has nothing to do with militant ectotherms.