Is version control the bane of your existence?
By Jodie Byass
How do you know the correct version of your marketing content and collateral is the only version that gets distributed? On the face of it, this might seem like a redundant question. But is it?
In some industries, for example, a dedicated resource is made available to ensure the correct or approved version of the product is the distributed version.
In a kitchen it might be the chef or sous-chef checking all the plates put up for service meet the restaurant’s minimum acceptable culinary and presentation standards.
In the health sector, a second nurse must check that the label and dose on the drug you’re being given exactly matches what’s on your file.
And in the media, for example, sub-editors and editors check submitted articles and content to ensure they’re not only correct and ready for publication, but they do the best possible job of telling their chosen story at a given point in time, to a specific audience, for a particular brand.
Does the same apply in marketing? I’m here to tell you it often doesn’t – with confusion, frustration, lost time and opportunity, and increased risk the inevitable result.
Poor version control puts brands at risk
According to research conducted by Simple, more than 50% of marketing teams don’t track their marketing processes, let alone allocate a dedicated resource for managing that process.
The result is at best a haphazard approach to version control, brand governance, risk management and the customer experience.
Here are just some of the ways we see this manifest everyday:
- Off-brand images and posts appear on your social feeds because someone thought they looked good
- Email offers are sent to the wrong distribution list, resulting in offended customers, misdirected offers and misfiring marketing campaigns
- Errors of grammar, spelling and tone of voice are not corrected before publication
- Old and incorrect logos continue to be used, diluting the brand experience
- The wrong exclusions or disclaimers are applied, resulting in the need for make-goods or other costly reparations
- Marketing teams fail audit for not following a documented process or fall foul of regulators — resulting in fines and onerous, imposed processes designed to fix the problem.
The impact: Widespread and chronic
Within marketing teams, the impact of failing to have an organised approach to managing the marketing process is widespread, chronic and largely invisible. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, the way it usually reveals itself is in surprisingly long lead times to get anything done.
So if you’ve ever wondered why it takes so long to get anything through marketing, here’s a quick diagnostic exercise for you: take a look at how you’re managing the creative review process including feedback, version control and approvals.
What I mean by that is when a project is briefed out and the initial creative work comes back, what happens next?
In marketing teams that don’t actively manage the process, we see any or all of the following:
- Multiple, time-consuming rounds of revision
- Email is used to request amendments, resulting in convoluted, hard-to-follow communication chains and overlooked instructions
- No corporate knowledge of the progress or schedule of marketing activities
- Difficulty reallocating work between staff because of an inability to track the detailed progress of marketing activities
- No ability to track version control or retain revision history, resulting in governance failures
- Internal frustration with long marketing approval and lead times
- Rocketing agency costs due to hours of additional re-work and exceeded SLAs.
How to solve it
Ask any marketer dealing with external agencies or designers on the one hand and busy internal stakeholders and approvers on the other – without dedicated resources or systems to help them manage the process — and it’s a safe bet that version control (or the lack of it) is the bane of their existence.
What can you do about this? Here are some simple steps to follow.
- Document your marketing operations process including the necessary planning, briefing, creative review, marketing compliance and final approval processes
- Tier your required approval process according to the complexity or size of the campaign to streamline your operations and make them efficient
- Use briefing software to capture all your requirements and insights before your creative team starts work, and to ensure the creative product delivers against the original objectives
- Introduce a system for managing your creative review and approvals process that keeps all submitted work, all feedback, all amendments, all versions and all approvals together in one place – you’ll be amazed at how this saves time and reduces risk
- Store all approved versions (and revision history) in a central repository to meet your brand governance requirements and enable easy editing for future campaigns
- Mandate and continually communicate your new process and systems.
Take control of your marketing process, and not only will you always know that the correct version of your marketing content is only version being distributed, but everyone else who touches marketing will have similar confidence in your process and in your brand.
Version control will go from being the bane of your existence to the foundation of your brand’s success and the cornerstone of a high-performance, highly regarded marketing team.