Are Too Many Proofs Throwing a Wrench in Your Workflow?
Ever heard you can have too much of a good thing? How about too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth? If you’re a marketing or creative professional, both phrases probably resonate with you—especially when it comes to review and approval. Tons of industry professionals report that an overly high number of proof versions during the review process is one of their biggest sources of pain. In fact, inMotion users report that an increased number of proof versions actually increases the average total project life cycle.
Many creative professionals know the stress multiple proof versions puts on their team, but they’re not always sure how to break the cycle. So what gives?
For most teams, versioning problems stem from two main issues: Presenting too many options and engaging in too many rounds of review. The good news? Both are totally fixable. Here’s how.
Proof in the Number of Proofs
For a long time, marketers and creatives alike put a ton of stock in bringing as many options to the table as possible for consideration. After all, the more there is to choose from, the more likely the reviewers will be to select one that makes them happy. Right? Actually, according to the Harvard Business Review’s analysis of the 2000 “Jam Study” on choice, just the opposite can be true.
According to the report, “Marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing. They assume, for instance, that offering 50 styles of jeans instead of two increases the chances that shoppers will find a pair they really like.
Nevertheless, research now shows that there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection.”
In other words, while lots of choices can be a good thing, too many often leads to an overall feeling of unhappiness with everything presented, until, as the HBR report puts it, “the marginal benefits of added choice level off.”
And as most creatives know, when clients aren’t happy with any of the choices presented, it means going back to the drawing board and creating more options. Which means more time spent on review and approval. And a longer project lifecycle overall.
So what’s the solution?
According to April Greer in a recent Millo.co article , the magic number is 3.
“Three gives me the opportunity to show fundamentally different approaches to the project while avoiding the dreaded ‘Well, I’m just not sure. I’m going to email them to my grandmother for her opinion,‘ says April. “Three gives my clients the opportunity to choose (and mix and match) without hampering their ability to commit.”
Review Rounds Done Right
Of course, limiting the number of options your team presents at the get-go will only do so much if you’re in the habit of infinite rounds of review. It sounds crazy, but that’s the reality for many marketing and creative teams. According to our Workflow Checkup 74% of industry professionals say it takes at least three rounds of review to get final approval. Meanwhile, a 2016 survey conducted by Hightail found that 86% of participants reported having difficulty getting final approval on their projects.
Negotiating what’s an acceptable amount of rounds can be tricky, especially when you’re working with clients who want to truly collaborate, or dealing with an approval process that requires many different people to weigh in.
Challenging as it may be, the key, says creative professional Ben Fuller is to stay focused on managing the creative review cycle.
“When you have a process of review that allows clear and consistent communication, the reinforcement of the importance of tracking progress easily against the schedule, and maintaining work levels to budget and controlling unexpected burn, it allows the client to actually be a real part of the full creative process,” Ben says in a recent LinkedIn Pulse article.
He recommends fostering a three-round strategy in both your creative and client teams:
- Round 1 – Directional: During this round, questions like “Is the deliverable on strategy?” and “Does it fit the original brief, overall?” should be answered. “Feedback will consist of realigning direction with clear perspective input from the client,” says Ben.
- Round 2 – Adjustments: “Now that it is on strategy and fits expectation, this round will focus on adjusting content or design where needed with clear prescriptive input from the client/client team,” says Ben.
- Round 3 – Tweaks: At the last round, says Ben, “We should be right on at this point if all feedback has been clean and prescriptive and should only be looking at minor tweaks in wording or color palette or layout.”
No review and approval process is perfect, but scaling back the number of options your team habitually presents and working towards fewer rounds of review will go a long way towards managing the pain caused by too many proof versions. And that translates to a more efficient creative production process overall.
Is there a wrench in your workflow? Fear not! We have everything you need to get your creative production process back on track—and your team back to doing what they love.
Don’t forget to check out the next post in our Wrenches in Your Workflow series!
Ellie Baldini is the Content Marketing Manager at inMotionNow. Having been a member of several creative teams herself, Ellie knows the challenges of inefficient workflows. Ellie draws on her experience to connect creatives and marketers with the benefits of inMotion, so more teams can get back to doing the work they love.