Here’s how to assist your beginner marketing agency through Internal documentation, and how it can help your business.
Given today’s intense market competition for consumer eyeballs, thousands of marketing agencies out there struggle to get their clients in the spotlight, and only some of them are especially successful. Marketing agencies face many issues when starting out, and one of those issues is a lack of efficiency. One way to combat this is through the use of internal documentation.
Internal documentation is, as the name implies, documentation within the organization. This documentation may include a variety of things, including guidelines and regulations relating to marketing practices, company policies, and more. But why is it so important, and how do you set it up?
Understanding internal documentation
What does internal documentation do to improve your marketing efforts?
When devising marketing strategies, one of the most important things to consider is whether everything’s up to code. Marketing agencies have to adhere to certain laws, guidelines, and regulations, and falling afoul of any of these can be harmful for the company. However, these things are not always the most straightforward.
An accurate documentation of guidelines, regulations and best practices is mandatory to ensure that everything is up to spec and follows industry standards.
Saves time that would be wasted on research
Without internal documentation, your marketers would have to spend time looking for information, whether for a specific client, past project, or market niche. Sometimes, this can be accomplished rather quickly, especially if there’s not much to research. However, that’s not necessarily going to be simple, as clients and projects mount over time and the database grows.
Granted, internal documentation can’t guarantee that either. For instance, there may have been an obscure document that your research missed, or something new that received little fanfare. Nevertheless, internal documentation ensures that your marketers can spend more time crafting marketing campaigns instead of fretting over every potential regulation they may violate.
Laws and regulations surrounding best marketing practices often vary from state to state. If your marketing agency operates nationwide, you need to make sure that your employees don’t have to research each state on their own.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has a handy guide on how to be in keeping with truth-in-advertising regulations. Not only should your internal documentation guide employees on how best to follow these regulations, but it should also have relevant information that may need to be referenced.
There are certain principles that are fairly easy to follow. For example, whatever you’re marketing, claims should be based in fact. Everything about your campaign should be well-researched for any claims that aren’t obvious. Further, if your marketing campaign feels like it could be misinterpreted, try to tweak it before putting the campaign out there.
There have been multiple companies whose marketing campaigns have ended with consequences due to false advertising. For example, Burger King advertised one of its Whoppers as being vegetarian and having no beef, despite it being cooked on the same surface as beef, which got the ad banned. A more pernicious example is with auto manufacturer VW, which faked emission tests while marketing their vehicles as environmentally friendly.
Failure is a great teaching tool, both for the people who fail and for us. These stories can be used as examples of what not to do. The Burger King example did include an advisory that the burger experiences cross-contamination with beef, but the fact that it contradicted the larger claims made that moot. By documenting this incident and explaining what went wrong and why, your marketers can use that to guide their campaigns.
They will also still have to do research into your internal documentation, but having a complete library of information does at least make that quick and easy. Further, you can’t expect to be able to catch every piece of documentation, so they may still have to do their own research. However, once researched, it can be added to your internal documentation, should you think it may be necessary in the future.
Good internal documentation practices
Allot appropriate resources for research
Creating internal documentation for your business is important, but it’s not cheap. It’ll certainly be a lot more expensive in the short term as you get things set up, but it saves money in the long run. This is because your employees are spending a sizable chunk of their time on the clock doing research. This has the knock-on effect of forcing marketers to either choose the quality of their research or the quality of their campaign, and they tend to go for the latter.
Of course, for a small marketing agency, setting up quality internal documentation may not be the top priority. Smaller agencies aren’t likely to be doing far-reaching campaigns that require knowledge of laws and regulations from other states or regions, for example. So, while internal documentation is important, the quality of your work is more important, and thus, will require you to focus on that first.
That doesn’t mean you can’t set one up, mind you, just that you may have to make some concessions in the process. For example, a smaller agency won’t have the kind of budget that can necessarily afford to spend extra on staff for research, meaning that you need to spend your money where it’ll be most effective. Even if you get it set up yourself, there’ll be a lot of work to keep it maintained. Speaking of…
Keep your internal documentation up to date
Creating an internal documentation system is important and can make the labor in your marketing campaign more efficient. However, internal documentation is not a one-and-done thing, and should be kept up to date as much as possible. Of course, as mentioned, this is not something that could be easily done by an agency’s owner, who has other responsibilities.
Certain regulations regarding marketing and advertising are going to be immutable. For example, as discussed, outright lying or making things up in your marketing campaign will likely always be a marketing no-no. However, other things may change that require you to change your practices. If you don’t keep your internal documentation up to date, your marketers may run the risk of running afoul of new regulations, just because they didn’t know they were changed.
Keep sight of your business goals and practices
Each employee you hire should know exactly what you want out of them and their labor. A lot of marketing works on a formula, and while you can deviate, people generally should stick to what works. However, if you don’t document the processes, how can that be a solution? Rather than have people wing it, document appropriate steps that should be taken, because it’s time well spent.
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