Insights, Tips, and How-To's
for Creative Operations


Review and approve email campaigns - without the headaches.

Posted by Desirae on February 12, 2014


Today’s enterprise marketers are dealing with a lot of challenges when it comes to email marketing, which range from choosing the right email marketing technology, to taking advantage of the segments they know are out there, thanks to Big Data.

One of the biggest challenges in the process is getting all the different assets they need produced, review and approved on time and on budget. Now, I say "one of the biggest challenges," but there are actually five major review and approval hurdles facing enterprise teams who are trying to send email marketing campaigns. Scratch that - there are at least five.

For now though, let's focus on these five major challenges facing enterprise email marketing teams - and what you can do to fix them.


Challenge #1: Create dozens – or hundreds – of variations on a campaign

Thanks to the data you have available about your customers, email campaigns need to accommodate all the different triggers and behavior patterns you know will influence response rates.

For example, if your loyalty card data indicates that some customers are frequent morning coffee drinkers, while others are more likely to buy a treat with their coffee after lunch, your 15% promotional email can (and should) show up in their inbox with tailored messaging and at different times, so it’s most likely to trigger action.

Multiply that effect for enterprises that are dealing with hundreds of known segments, and want to capitalize on the targeting they know is available, thanks to the data. All of a sudden, there are hundreds of small variations on the content of the email, to best suit each target market.

Creating enough assets to meet the opportunities available is a huge challenge, and reviewing each one is a challenge in itself.


Solution: Operational efficiency

I know – not an easy answer. The days of being able to throw more people at the problem are over, and not only because the budgets aren’t there. The size and scope of the marketing opportunities provided by the amount of data available are simply too big for “more people” to be the answer.

To create enough assets to fill the opportunities and reach every segment that you know exists with an offer tailored to them, you’ll have to work on building an efficient creative operations process. This involves all of the teams and moving parts involved in your creative production supply chain, and you’ll need to have insight into where the bottlenecks are to be able to improve them.

It’s not easy, but operational efficiency is a requirement in modern marketing teams, simply because of the volume of assets being produced, reviewed and approved - and the pace at which they need to be published.


Challenge #2: Make sure every email adheres to brand guidelines

One of the big reasons review and approval on every asset is mandatory in a lot of enterprise environments is that the brands involved are worth a lot of money. There are brand guidelines and standards to ensure that every customer gets the same brand experience, and that includes their emails.

That’s why the marketing and design team will need to see every asset that’s going to be sent out by email. That includes all of the variations on that one image of a coffee cup, and all the email copy. With the volume of emails going out, that’s a big task.


Solution: Make it easy to compare versions and documents

Even if you have two monitors on your desk, toggling back and forth between a PDF of the brand guidelines, and the dozens of emails that need to be reviewed takes time, and isn’t the best experience possible.

Find a way to bring the control materials – whether it’s an email template, brand guidelines or simply a previously approved version of the asset – into the same place as the assets you need approved. Reviewing and comparing assets side by side in one tool makes the whole review process easier when you’re comparing small but important branding details.

With an easier process, you can help reviewers make sure that everything that gets sent out is on-brand and on-message.


Challenge #3: Send media-rich emails using photos, videos and more

While text-based emails have their place, the opportunity to use rich media content in emails is huge, and one that’s only growing over time. Whether it’s creating branded imagery to show off products, which retailers do well, or using video to create a personal connection with your email list, multimedia content in emails isn’t going away.

That means that for every email campaign, a variety of visual assets – photos and videos, alongside written content – have to be produced and approved. Production is a challenge in itself, but review and approval can be just as challenging. With change requests coming from every direction, and multiple reviewers who need to see every asset, getting approved assets out the door in time for the campaign launch can be a challenge.


Solution: Visual feedback system for easy commenting

Since more and more emails are relying on visual assets, review and approval needs to happen in the context of those assets. How does it help? Consider these two examples.

When reviewing a video to be sent out, Reviewer #1 downloads the video file, opens it from their desktop, watches it twice and then opens an email to write down their notes. They need to accurately convey the time stamp of the section they’re referring to, and be clear about the changes or comments they have.

Reviewer #2 opens the video in a review and approval tool, and whenever they have a comment or change request to add, they simply leave a comment right on the video. Their comment is tied to the time and section of the video they’re referring to, and everyone else can see it.


One of these systems takes a lot of the guesswork out of comments and change requests on visual assets, and replaces it with clarity and actionable feedback. That’s what you want to aim for when you’re working on reviewing and approving lots of visual assets – it makes a big difference.


Challenge #4: Comply with regulatory requirements

Another team that will need to see every email asset getting sent out is the legal and compliance teams – especially if you work in a regulated industry. While this applies to all content published by companies working in industries like pharmaceuticals and finance, retailers and other companies who want to send out promotional offers will also have to comply with the laws that are relevant to that type of advertising – in each region they want to send out the offer.

As if there weren’t enough variants on campaigns before, now you’re facing small changes that need to be made for every geographic region or country you’re targeting. These small changes, however, come with big fines if they’re not adhered to, which is why having legal and compliance involved in review is such an important part of the process.


Solution: Easily recorded, traceable feedback and approvals

Making sure every asset is signed off on by the legal team is a huge step towards avoiding these kinds of fines and consequences. An easy-to-use tool that keeps track of who’s seen and approved each asset is key to making sure nothing goes out without the right people giving their stamp of approval.

Additionally, if there’s ever any question about whether someone has given their approval yet, having an easy way to check can save a world of headaches later on, after the email is sent.


Challenge #5: Send final assets to the email marketing tool, and make sure they end up in the right email.

Once assets are reviewed and approved by everyone who needs to see them, the final work can go into your email marketing tool – but that’s easier said than done unless you have a process in place.

If you’ve been reviewing and approving files by email, or in a tool that won’t connect with your email marketing software, you and your team will have to add in every email marketing asset by hand, and make sure it gets added to the right campaign. That’s a pretty time-consuming process if you’re doing it over and over again, and there’s a lot of room for error.


Solution: Make sure your software and metadata are compatible

Wherever you’re reviewing and approving your email marketing assets should be able to assign tags to each asset, to quickly and easily sort them based on the campaign they’re a part of. If this tool plays nicely with your email campaign software, it should be a simple process to either transfer the approved assets automatically, or manually import them with the tags attached.

What’s the conclusion? Well, aside from “email review and approval is hard,” there are just some inherent challenges in reviewing and approving visual assets – especially taking into consideration the volume of assets that need to be dealt with at an enterprise level.

No wonder so many marketing technologies are springing up to help with challenges like this.

PS. If you’re looking for a tool that can do all of the above and more, find out how ConceptShare can help optimize the review and approval of all your email assets and more.


Topics: Creative Operations Resources

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