These days, flexibility is a powerful tool for maintaining balance and navigating uncertainties. This applies especially to marketers who may be managing campaigns across multi-location businesses, facing dynamic local market conditions.
One way to engage local markets efficiently while maintaining brand consistency, is by using marketing templates. Well-designed templates are effective tools for consistent branding, while providing flexibility through customization to address a range of local market factors. They also allow your creative and design teams to focus on more strategic activities rather than getting bogged down in tweaking marketing pieces on demand.
For those looking to streamline local marketing with templated materials, below are some tips, best practices and considerations to help assure your templating success.1. Consult a templating expert.
While templated local marketing materials can make a corporate marketer’s life easier, designing effective templates can be a complex and time-consuming undertaking. Templates become increasingly complex as the number of customization fields increases.
Templates with more than 15 fields approach the level of complex. We have some clients whose templates have 50-plus fields with a variety of “if, then” scenarios. An experienced template creator will understand not only how to manage a template with many field types and nuanced scenarios, they can also offer guidance on balancing the tradeoffs between creating many templated marketing assets with fewer customization fields versus fewer assets with many customization fields. For example, you could create one generic notecard that could be customized as a thank you, birthday or congratulations card, or you could create individual templates for each of these card types.
Some marketers will take the logic too far and end up with hundreds or even thousands of templated marketing assets. A templating expert can advise on more efficient ways to templatize and provide guidance on how to optimize the number of templated assets you provide to local marketing teams.2. Minimize work for the end user.
One of the fundamental goals of using templates is to minimize the work for the end user. Among the ways you can do this is to:
- Include prompts or hint text below the fields in your template that help users to provide information in the proper format.
- Pre-populate custom fields whenever possible, with data from user, location and product profiles (e.g. address information, product information and options). Also, where possible, allow users to choose from a list of features/options instead of free-typing the information into the field.
- Categorize assets based on an end user’s perspective. Determine filters and search terms by surveying a small subset of end users during the template design phase. Then build your filters based on what you learn (e.g., How would they use the template? Is it for use by single or multi-location or single or multi-agent? Is it co-brandable?)
- Create standardized descriptions for each templated asset to help users find templates more easily (e.g., 2-sided, outdoor banner). For example, an insurance agent looking for an auto flyer template will have trouble quickly finding what they need if the template is called “flyer” or “generic flyer.”
- Set up a feedback loop from user support to your template process. If your support team is receiving repeated calls with questions on a specific template, revise the template to make it more intuitive for your end users – this will save time and frustration for your team and your end users.
- Monitor usage. If a template is not being used, consider archiving it to keep your system from overwhelming end users with too many assets.
It’s been our experience that many marketers don’t have the bandwidth to perform adequate quality checks prior to launching a new template or suite of templates. Whether you’re creating your templates internally or outsourcing them to a marketing partner, it’s Important to build in a quality testing process.
Among the best practices for ensuring quality is to include more than one person in the approval workflow. Quality checks should not just be performed by the person building the template. You need more than one set of eyes when evaluating so many fields.
Also, create a quality check list – one that is dynamic enough to evaluate different scenarios. Things you should include on your checklist are:
- field lengths (e.g., minimum or maximum character limits to ensure a font size doesn’t get too small)
- compliance features (e.g., properly configured hidden date fields to record when the template was last edited)
- are the correct field validations turned on (e.g., all caps)?
- are approvals required and are they correct?
- has the template been set up for access by the correct set of end users?
- if an end user customizes a piece that needs to be circulated for approval, do the different departmental approval flows function?
How are you going to want to look at reports on template usage? What kind of data will you need to create meaningful reports (e.g., product type, region, asset type, etc.)? Thinking through your reporting objectives up front is another valuable input for building an effective template.
For instance, in the notecard example above, if you are interested in easily comparing the order quantities of the different types of cards (birthday, thank you, congratulations) it would be better to create templates for each type rather than a single generic card template.
Templated marketing assets are a smart way to maintain consistent branding across a multi-location organization, while also giving your field teams flexibility to tailor marketing messages to changing conditions in their local markets. A key measure of your templating success is how easy your assets are for end users to access, customize and deploy. So, invest the time and expertise up front to build and test your templates and ensure a powerful result.