How long does it take to get a job from concept, through commissioning to delivery? When you’re planning projects, you should track two data points:
Lead time per project: How long different types of creative project have taken from start to finish.
Estimated versus actual time: What was the variance between your original time/resource projection and what it really took to get the job out the door?
Keeping track of how long different projects are taking will improve the accuracy of your forecasting and ability to commit to realistic deadlines.
Understanding a variance between your estimates and actual performance will help identify strengths and weaknesses in your creative team. You’ll start to see where you’re efficient and where you need to tighten operations.
Efficiency and accurate forecasting? Now you’re talking the C-suite’s language.
How many campaigns or creative projects fall short of their objectives because too much of the budget has been taken by content production, leaving too little for dissemination and promotion? If you want credibility among C-suite decision-makers, budget control is vital. The answer is to track data on final project costs versus your initial financial projection: Estimated versus Actual budget. Over time, the estimated-vs-actual data you collect will help identify where cost over-runs tend to happen in your production process. Again, you’ll be able to generate more accurate forecasts and, ideally, end up squeezing efficiency savings through the process.
Looking from the outside and at headline costs, the C-suite won’t know how tight a ship an agency is running.
But if you can demonstrate strong financial management and budgetary control, you’re a long way towards winning the argument for keeping work in-house.
How senior management and internal stakeholders feel about creative work can be the dividing line between perceived success and failure. “I don’t like it,” is the worst kind of feedback: ill-defined and hard to address. You need a more structured approach to defining “what good looks like” and capturing internal opinions.
In-house satisfaction ratings: Short in-house surveys after each project will help you understand negative and positive opinions from your key stakeholders. Thoughtful questions in a structured survey will help pin-down how senior managers feel – what they like, don’t like – and expectations for future work.
In-house forum/editorial board: No doubt you want to avoid creativity-by-committee. But getting early input from stakeholders – their expectations and preferences – can help avoid pain when it’s too late in the production process to change direction. It’s also an opportunity to explain the quality-cost equation: what’s a realistic quality expectation with the available budget.
Every creative can showcase their flair and originality, but not every creative can demonstrate what they’ve done has worked. Every project needs to start with clarity over what success will look like.
Objectives and KPIs: What are your hoped-for project goals and how will you know if they have been reached? Setting clear objectives always helps to manage internal expectations about the performance of a project or campaign: from engagement to lead generation. Ensure you have clear metrics in place to monitor campaign progress and final performance against your initial objectives.
Benchmarking: Gather available engagement data about the performance of competitor activity to demonstrate what outcomes are typical in your market segment. Use your cost modelling to estimate competitor spend on production. When someone asks “Why hasn’t this gone viral?”, you’ve got a sound base of evidence to show what counts as success versus the competition.
Having clearly-stated objectives and KPIs – and a measured view of the success of competitor activity in the marketplace – can have a transformative effect on internal perceptions of a creative team. You’re no longer the “nice-to-have” team that makes pretty things. You’re shaping customer perceptions and engagement with the business and helping drive commercial growth.
There’s an old cliché in business: people buy people. It’s true … with an important caveat: People buy smart people.
Sure, body language, charm, and soft skills play a part in persuasion. But smart is also speaking with authority and clarity.
If you’re armed with evidential data, a clear purpose, and direction, and can demonstrate a track-record of efficient management of resources and budgets, you’re well-positioned to win any argument.
In a commercial world where no one is indispensable, you’re getting pretty close.