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The hidden (and not so hidden) costs of a weak creative review and approval process

6 min read
Mike Puterbaugh

Given the multitude of marketing channels that creative content is being produced for today, the impact of inefficient review and approval processes are not hard to identify. Delays ricochet through creative production timelines and are felt acutely by your creative team, your project managers, and if you work in the agency world, your clients.

What’s less obvious is how poor proofing and review procedures impact total project costs and overhead. When you’re struggling to get agreement on project deliverables and get them out the door to clients on time, negative cost consequences abound throughout the organization.

Based on feedback from our customers on the issues they faced prior to implementing online proofing, there are four primary areas of which to monitor for unnecessary costs due to poor review and approval processes.

What we'll cover

Your Team is Spending Less Time on Value-Added Tasks

If your review and approval processes for creative production are sub-optimal, it eats into everyone’s time. Instead of time spent on the actual creative work, valuable hours and brainpower across the team end up focused on:

  • Chasing down approvals and finding the most current revisions and drafts across multiple locations, systems, and communication threads. Slowdowns occur due to a team-wide inability to find the feedback, files and supporting content they need to make decisions that move production along.
  • Reworking creative documents and file formats that weren’t properly updated or exported the first time, due to poor communication channels, missed revisions and feedback, or incomplete project briefs. Teams that get bogged down in the technical weeds of reformatting documents for sharing or fixing file incompatibilities between design, markup and collaboration tools end up spending less time executive strategic work. 
  • Replying to email chains and answering questions that could be resolved with automated processes and document storage. 

You’re Seeing an Increase in Client Costs--and Lost Revenue

Sometimes, you can shield your clients (internal and external) from internal process inefficiencies. More often than not, though, it results in missed deadlines, a quality of work that varies from an initial pitch or project scope, and poor client relationships with project stakeholders. Not only will your clients start to feel the heat (or starting feeling like you’ve gone cold without regular updates and progress) due to a weak review and approval system or processes, but you’ll start feeling the heat on the project budget due to:

  • Lost Revenue for delayed deliverables: Consistently missing deliverable deadlines because of behind-the-scenes chaos mean you’re likely making up for messy project management in discounts or reduced rates for future work. Your account management team will also likely spend more time and manpower making up for client dissatisfaction if issues get sent up the chain of command.
  • Lost revenue from broken contracts: Gaining a reputation for missing deadlines or poorly managing client projects affects the way that customers see your brand. Current clients may choose not to renew contracts due to perceived difficulty with output or work that fails to meet standards upon initial or first review. Often, your client success team may not even be aware of revenue that is lost when unimpressed clients or collaborators don’t recommend your team to their colleagues for potential opportunities.
  • Variable vendor costs: When project scopes change or revisions come in outside of anticipated deadlines from your team, the vendors and third-party collaborators you use to complete projects will be stuck holding the bag when it comes to completing last-minute changes and request. From faster turn-around for digital production to rush printing and shipping costs, your vendors will start charging more for time-sensitive orders.

You’re Absorbing Redundant Costs in Your MarTech Stack

Disconnected review and approval processes lead to a very crowded field of MarTech tools across your creative team. Often, the full scale of just how many creative collaboration tools are used throughout your organization doesn’t become apparent until you do a full sweep of what everyone’s leaning on to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Usually, you’ll uncover:

  • Overlapping implementation costs for the same systems. When teams accomplish their project steps in isolation, you’ll find that each group has taken matters into their own hands and purchases multiple instances of the same types of tools and systems. Shadow IT includes ad-hoc deployments of Dropbox and Google Drive and side-by-side usage of Basecamp and Asana, doubling new solution costs for the same function. 
  • Extraneous subscription, licensing, service, and storage costs. When you have redundant, your technology budget also starts ballooning with an extraneous subscription, licensing and storage costs. Even small monthly fees for simple SaaS tools, like multiple types of corporate chat tools, add up quickly when multiplied through the organization. 
  • Increased integration costs between tools. Deploying point solutions for each specific task in the creative review timeline can mean a quick fix for a pressing inefficiency, but it also kicks the cost can down the line for your organization’s technology team. When your team needs to accomplish strategic activities, such as pulling analytics across content types or campaigns, your IT team will be stuck with an integration nightmare. Getting disconnected systems to pass information back and forth—or trying bringing new solutions into a piecemeal system architecture—requires additional time, effort, and often more tools and APIs. If you’re a small shop, you’ll be stuck with new costs for outsourcing these integrations or IT service projects.

You’re Spending More on Workforce Costs

The lack of time management controls, lack of client satisfaction, and lack of integrative tools also contribute to an overall burden on your workforce. Without controls on your approval procedures, you’ll end up with additional labor costs that cut into projected revenue and impact your headcount due to: 

  • Overtime costs: Poorly-controlled review processes with stakeholders bring in unanticipated revisions that can keep your team working around the clock to meet deadlines. Long hours are pretty common in marketing, but it’s also a recipe for paying overtime hours you might not have factored into the project budget or your headcount. 
  • Premium freelance fees: Similarly, last-minute requests or rework for contracted writers, designers, videographers, strategists means you’ll often be hit with premium contractor fees for rush work. You also might miss out working with preferred or in-demand contractors who don’t have the bandwidth to take on last-minute projects or may refuse potential work due to the perceived chaos of working with your team. 
  • Employee churn: Employees that end up spending most of their time on completing project rework, accomplishing repeatable manual tasks, or chasing down stakeholders due to inefficient project management will start to feel burned out. You’ll begin to see turnover for agencies or teams that can promise a focus on client work, not communication. Turnover means pouring additional resources into new employee prospecting and hiring, on-boarding, training, and development instead of retaining employees through appealing operations and day-to-day project support.

From the costs of chasing down approvals to lost projects, poor review procedures have a wide-reaching impact on your agency or team’s operating costs and revenue streams. When review processes are already struggling, it may seem like the time and planning required to get multi-disciplined teams working on the same process flow, the same proofing tools the same approval timelines are cost prohibitive. However, the cost savings that can be recaptured from using one central online proofing, review and approval system greatly outweigh the status quo.

Learn more in about the ROI for online proofing in our ebook ‘The Business Case for Online Proofing.”

Additionally, here's some further reading that might be helpful:

Building the business case for online proofing

Feedback and files are shared across many disconnected email chains, Slack channels, phone calls or intranet sites. Without a set review and approval structure, each content format, from written text to graphic design to video, often dictates its own separate production workflow.

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