The saying goes ‘time is money’ and in an agency setting specifically, that’s really true. In fact, the amount of time spent on any process or task is arguably the biggest contributing factor in whether your agency is profitable. With so much resting on the time your team takes to get tasks completed, reviewing if the overall workflow is as effective as it could be has got to be one of any agency owners priorities.
When we talk about ‘workflow’ throughout this article, we’re talking about all the processes in your agency that help get a clients work from the first step through to completion. Let’s now have a closer look at how you can improve your agencies workflow in a few simple ways.
The first step to improving anything is identifying where the problems are. When it comes to your agencies workflow, you need to have a clear understanding of where it is that issues are arising. Identifying time delays in your workflow aren’t the only thing to look out for, there are other challenges that can cause your workflow to be less efficient like processes that are making your team feel less motivated or confused and therefore slowing them down.
So, how can you go about identifying those bottlenecks in your workflow? The first (and cheapest) thing to do is to simply talk to your team. This sounds very straightforward, but it’s something that is commonly overlooked in the busy day-to-day of your agency. Ask each member of the team what they spend the most time on, and if they are struggling with any of the processes they are involved with. Communicating with your team will give you insight into what’s making them feel less motivated or confused. With most agencies we work with, we’ve found one of the largest areas making their workflow inefficient is that jobs are being assigned to people who don’t have the experience needed because the agency is struggling to meet demand.
As a really common example, in most cases, digital marketers aren’t also trained graphic designers. So when they are being tasked with all the crucial graphic design work needed to get clients the results they want – it simply isn’t happening efficiently enough. Those digital marketers are instead either spending hours on Youtube and in Illustrator trying to recreate a template they were inspired with from Pinterest, or they’re getting through the design work really speedily by using template design available through free online design programs that all your competitors are also using. In either one of those common scenarios, the output is low quality and you’re putting your agency at risk of churning clients regularly and limiting your referrals massively.
Another way to spot bottlenecks is by using a project management tool to see where tasks are up to and the most common steps in which the tasks are being held up in. I.e is it feedback from the client that is delaying deadlines, or are your team waiting on marketing collateral that is taking too long complete? Only when you know that important information can you take steps to improve upon it.
We know that in a busy agency setting it can be tempting to have the attitude of ‘all hands on deck’, meaning that anyone and everyone can get involved in order to get a task done as fast as possible for a client. This is a damaging attitude for two reasons mainly:
1) Your client came to you as an agency because you had the expertise they needed, so they expect the team working on their account to be professionals who can deliver on the results you promised you could. When you don’t assign tasks to those most qualified in your agency to do them, that quality begins to slip. Another reason employees will start picking up work they shouldn’t is that you haven’t got the capacity needed in-house, this is something really important you need to keep an eye on as it will lead to your agency staff becoming overworked and your clients noticing late deadlines and lower quality work across the board.
2) Your agencies staff produce the very best work when they’re working on what they are most qualified in. Not only that, but that’s also when they can feel the most passionate and content in their job role. Making sure that people in different departments or roles aren’t picking up tasks they shouldn’t to meet looming deadlines is also important so that you can continue to build an environment your staff love to work in and so you’ll find recruitment easier down the line.
That being said, having your staff feedback where they feel they need extra support so they can get back to the tasks they were hired to do originally is vital so you can streamline your agencies workflow. It will also help you out with the next step, namely, building your agencies hybrid structure.
The subscription workforce is a term growing in popularity as more and more agencies across the UK adopt a hybrid structure. The basic premise of the subscription workforce is to give your agency more capacity, without having to commit to a long-term employee and for a much more affordable cost. For example, some agencies use Design Cloud to build an entire design team that is flexible around their demands. When they need more design work completed for more clients, they simply add another designer to their plan. By adopting this way of working, you give your agency staff the helping hand they need to get more work completed in a shorter period of time. The reduced costs compared to hiring in-house also mean that you can significantly improve margins in your agency overnight. For example, the average cost of a UK graphic designer is currently £2305.66 a month, whereas our tailored Agency Plan costs just £749pm when on a rolling monthly contract.
To improve your agencies workflow, compliment your existing team with outsourcing tools that give then the power to do their jobs better and faster. If your marketer needs graphic design support and you need a more affordable way of accessing premium quality design from a dedicated designer, Design Cloud is your solution. Another example of complimenting your team with the right outsourcing tools to enable productivity could be teaming your marketing team with a tool like Copify in order to free up the time spent writing long form content that is necessary for reaching SEO goals.
If you’re using the hybrid model agency structure and your team are paired with outsourcing services and tools that help boost productivity, it’s good practice to assign an outsourcing service leader. That means a member of your team who is the main point of contact and who manages how efficiently that service or tool is being used. For example, your marketing manager might take the lead in prioritising and adding new users to the Design Cloud queue to keep a clear overview of all current graphic design work being completed. By having one key communicator within your team who works with closely with the service provider, you can make communication as smooth as possible and therefore improve the ease in which your entire team can access the support they need. The result? A better workflow with less delays due to miscommunication.
Making sure that you encourage open communication cross-departmentally as well as internally in teams within your agency is really important. For example, encouraging better communication between your sales and marketing teams will help you to generate better quality leads faster. How? Your sales team will be able to ask for the marketing collateral they actually need to close a deal, rather than the ones your marketing team presume might work. A great example of this is a marketer who thinks a better looking presentation deck is crucial, whereas the sales person on the front line talking to customers every day knows it’s really case studies that they desperately need. Until there’s better communication across both of those departments, those issues won’t get solved and your agency won’t be as efficient as it could be in generating and converting leads.
How can you encourage communication both internally and across departments? At Design Cloud, even though our UK-based team are currently working remotely, we love having a full team meeting on Slack every morning and in the evening. Additionally, we encourage better communication by having department Slack channels as well as a full group for everyone to take part in. Other ways to encourage better communication in your agency include 1:1 meetings and internal company-wide newsletters to keep everybody updated across the business. Using productivity tools like Asana or Monday.com will give your staff great visibility on what every member of their team are working on, which is another fantastic way to help a team to communicate on the help they need to reach objectives.
In this blog, we’ve talked about some ways you can help to make your agencies workflow more efficient that won’t break the bank and that are fast improvements you can implement today. From improving communication through to finding the right outsourcing tools, there are so many ways you can help processes run more smoothly throughout your agency and encourage better feedback from clients as well as happier staff. If you’d like to work with Design Cloud on any future projects, just get in touch here.