Small but mighty – how small creative teams can scale to support many clients
How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb? In a well-run in-house agency, the answer would be ZERO because the traffic manager would do that for them…!
The secret to running a lean, efficient internal agency is to define roles and responsibilities and make sure you have the right people doing the right tasks. When you are trying to keep your team lean, it’s easy to assign administrative tasks to your creative team. Why not save on staff by having your copywriters open jobs or communicate with clients? Or have your designers upload files for traffic vendors and assign milestones and deadlines? I’ll tell you why not! The more time your creative folks spend taking client calls or opening jobs and assigning tasks, the less time they can spend doing what you really need them to do…being creative.
If you want to run the most efficient team possible, here’s how to determining your staffing:
Step 1 – Roles and responsibilities analysis
– Go through each role and write down all the tasks that role is currently responsible for.
– Next, write down all the tasks you need accomplished.
Step 2 – Gap analysis
– Compare what you need against what you have. The difference between what is being done, and what you want to be done defines the gaps you currently have.
Step 3 – Talent Assessment
– Next, take a close look at the talent pool you have on your existing team. When you cross reference the team skill sets with the gaps, you can determine who is best suited to fill the gaps on your team.
A solid Creative team consists of a mix of Designers, Writers, Art Directors, Traffic Managers, Account Managers, and a Creative Director. The precise mix and quantities of these roles will vary from team to team, based on available resources and need. The key to building a lean, effective team is developing clear roles, and dedicating the right people into each role, rather than asking all team-members to be jacks-of-all-trades.
If you add one role to your team this year, it should be a traffic role, provided you don’t already have one. Start by looking at your existing team. There may very well be someone on your team who is perfectly suited for the traffic role. Is there a person on your team who always knows who has the most work on their plate and who has the most free time? Is there someone who knows off the top of their head how long it takes to write and produce a digital campaign? Does this person have no problem letting others know when the work need to be done, and they understand that how they tell matters as much as what they tell?
Whether you have someone who can take this role already on staff or if you need to recruit someone, it is vital that you have a dedicated person responsible for setting deadlines, determining milestones, opening jobs, and making sure deadlines are being met. Having one of your creative staff double dip and take on these additional responsibilities will not save you time or resources. The opposite. Pulling creatives off their tasks, even for a few minutes a day, is sabotage to your workflow process.
By the same token, having traffic coordinators double as account managers is not a good idea. The skill set required to be an outstanding traffic manager and to be an outstanding account manager are very different. Your traffic person must be highly detail-oriented, great with numbers, with the ability to swing a velvet hammer and make things happen in a way that motivates creatives. The account manager, on the other hand, must be a people-person, who knows how to deliver sometimes not-so-great news to clients and make them feel that they are still your number one priority. It is extremely rare to find one person who can excel at both roles.
Having the right people in the right tasks can make your team run much more efficiently than trying to cut corners by getting creative people to do non-creative work. Having a traffic and account person on staff will make it possible for your copywriters, designers, and art directors to be more effective by focusing on their main responsibilities as creatives.
Compliment a lean staff with a lean process.
Once you have a lean team, you maximize productivity with a lean process. To build a lean workflow process:
Step 1 – Define the current workflow
– Write down from start to finish the process a job goes through in your current environment.
Step 2 – Cut the fat
– Put that process under a microscope and trim it down to no more than 6 milestones. Over-processing can be much worse than under processing. Make sure the very first step in the process is requiring a solid creative brief for every new job.
Step 3 – Document, Communicate, Commit
– Document your new, lean process and clearly communicate it to all members of the team. Make sure everyone is on board following the new process, and commit to the new workflow.
After conducting this exercise for my large in-house team in a previous role, we were able to trim nearly 25% off our time to market for the average job. Not only did we have a strong, lean, and efficient creative team, but we also had a lean and efficient process that avoided redundancy and kept the work flowing forward.
Make no mistake, this is not an easy change to make. Any time you redefine roles people get uneasy. But if you remain open and honest with your team about the changes and the reason for them, you’ll be able to build a lean, mean in-house creative team!
Learn more about building effective creative workflow processes by viewing a live demo of inMotion.
About the author: Debbie Kennedy is former Head of Advertising Operations with CarMax, and is currently Product Marketing Manager for Capital One, and CEO of Write for You, a Digital Content and Creative Workflow Consulting Firm based in Richmond, Virginia. She’s been a power user and advocate of inMotionNow since 2014.