All posts by Alex Withers

Creative and marketing alignment is equally important as MarTech integration
December 5, 2017 Collaboration, Content Marketing

The StackInsights series CabinetM produces is interesting because it implicitly suggests users have found some marketing technologies (MarTech) may work better together in some combinations.  For example, a recent edition centered on Oracle Eloqua found that inMotionNow is one of several technologies that stack well with that particular marketing automation platform.

Stacking well isn’t just reserved for the technology layer in marketing, it’s also important to align people and processes too.  Failing to do so runs the risk of automating poorly designed processes, which only enables the completion of ineffective process with greater efficiency.

As CMOs spend more on MarTech, organizational alignment around interdependent marketing teams and workflow will become just as important the integration of technology.  From our vantage point, there is no place where this is more pivotal than the alignment of creative and marketing.

Increased Demand Creates Friction in Marketing Process

A recent survey by a talent agency found three marketing skills were most in demand: digital, creative and marketing operations.  This has been a long time in the making.

Digital marketers need more content, in more formats, and across more channels than ever before. In turn, this has placed greater demand on creatives who put the polish on content – a pivotal point as the competition in content increases.  

These two intersect in marketing operations as an increase requires greater coordination, synchronization or deconfliction. Yet the growth volume also brings growth in friction.  

If you talk to creatives, they’ll say marketing routinely makes poorly conceived requests, with unreasonable deadlines, and are subjected to long and unclear review and approval cycles. 

If you talk to marketers, they say creative is a black hole, that takes too long to get projects done, and this leaves them unable to plan as to when they’ll actually have those pieces ready for campaigns.

If you talk to the business, they say they are dependent on both functions and this misalignment is not sustainable.  The entire business has vested interested in enabling marketing and creative working better together.

5 Ways marketing and creative can work better together

Marketing and creative must assess the current state of people and process in addition to technology in order to reduce the points of friction.  When we go into larger marketing organizations, we often find the sources and solutions center around five areas.  

  1. Create a common lexicon.  Creatives and marketers often speak different languages. As a result, meaning gets lost in translation between data-driven and design-driven discussions.  Both sides need to develop common lexicon to drive alignment.

  2. Streamline requests and prioritization. Creativity is not a science, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a little room for process improvement.  Initiating new creative project requests by email, for example, quickly becomes unwieldy in larger organizations with hundreds or even thousands of projects in play.
    Complicating the matter, prioritization often boils down to the project at the top of the email inbox, rather than by better measures of importance. Both sides should find ways to standardize requests, creative briefs, and prioritization of projects.
  3. Eliminate the bottlenecks of review and approval. It’s not uncommon for the approval of a project to take longer than the project itself. Contradictory or unclear comments and out-of-sequence reviews are often the cause of prolonged reviews that delay getting campaigns into market and driving results.  This can be eliminated if both sides define and document processes for reviews, edits, and approvals.
  4. Develop service level agreements. Creatives get bombarded with requests from marketing – and also one-off requests for things like slide presentations for executives. Then there’s Jane or John from accounting, who stops a creative in the hall to ask for a flyer for the canned food drive as part of the company’s community program.
    The charity is important, but the point is, marketing doesn’t always see, or appreciate, the deluge of work piled on the creative team.  Both sides need to create achievable service level agreements (SLAs) and define metrics that support both sides, like backlog, throughput, and time-to-publish.
  5. Automate effective processes to drive efficiency. Business has invested in MarTech to support virtually every marketing role except creative. Creative project management tools are often relegated to email and spreadsheets, or general project management tools that fail to support the essential aspects of creative workflow.
    Businesses should invest in automation and technology that streamlines creative process and supports an initiative to better align creative and marketing.  Doing so will fulfill the increased demand marketing needs to perform and grant creatives with more time to actually create.

Every business is scrambling to identify technologies that enable speed or insights.  Just as CMOs look for technologies that stack well together, they need to make sure the people and processes are aligned as well.  As the competition in digital content grows, we believe the secret may lie in tighter alignment between creative teams and marketing.  


Alex Withers is the Chief Marketing Officer of inMotionNow, a leading provider of workflow management solutions for marketing and creative teams. Alex is a seasoned digital technology and marketing executive with more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with brands including Pepsi, ESPN, USGA, the Financial Times, and LexisNexis.


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