Companies invest tens of thousands of dollars into CRM systems to better track their customers. They invest equal resources into sophisticated email marketing automation systems to deliver the right message, at the right time in the customer journey. They build social media teams to tweet and post and engage with customers, and invest in team social posting tools and listening solutions. And then when their marketing teams gather to plan all their marketing efforts, they capture their plans in typically….you guessed it…spreadsheets!
If something seems wrong to you in this picture, that’s because it is. Marketing teams of ten to hundred people are still today, hacking together their own versions of planning efforts in spreadsheets, leading to lost time and effort, misalignment, missing data, various spreadsheet versions floating around the org, and inconsistent approaches to managing delivery across different parts of the team. Add to that when people change, or move on, or the team grows, the challenges of trying to use a spreadsheet become frankly impractical.
What are these pains, exactly?
No Common Language
Marketing teams are supposed to be the brain trusts of the organization, the holders of why your company matters in the market. How can this brain trust be understood widely through the entire organization, when all parts of the marketing team are using different spreadsheets and documents to capture marketing information? The answer is, it can’t be widely understood until alignment on common language is in place.
The language of marketing teams are things like strategies, campaigns, product categories, buyer or customer journey stages, key regions or geographies, personas, audiences, and numerous other terms that make up the language or the “data” of the marketing organization. In case after case of reviewing customer spreadsheets, there is alway little alignment on the language used by even small marketing teams to define what does and doesn’t matter to the organization.
Weak Workflows & Tracking
People can be “assigned” work in spreadsheets, with their names included in the appropriate row or column beside what task it is they must do. Then, the latest version of the spreadsheet – by whoever has control of it – must be updated and emailed to the team to ensure they all know what they’re supposed to do. Or if that spreadsheet is shared in a google sheet, perhaps a note is generated next to their name to inform them of their next steps. That’s it.
There’s no easy way in a spreadsheet to track progress or changes, to understand who has done what on what day, what’s late or really late, what’s on time, nor how much time something has taken to move through a particular step. And oh, where are the associated documents referenced in particular tasks? Are they referenced somewhere in the spreadsheet, saved somewhere on a share drive? Or were they emailed separately to someone, or a group of people, and now we’re not sure who has made what changes, when, and where is the latest version?
Strategic Alignment & Visibility
When one person, or a couple of people manage a spreadsheet of activities, events, campaigns, whatever the type of marketing content, that view of content will be naturally shaped by their own perspectives and their own ways of organizing the details. This would be sufficient, if everyone thought the same way and liked to view things in the same way. Is this reality? Of course not.
Some people are visual, and want to see ideas or activities mapped out or captured in a calendar, or color coded to ensure they can see what matters to them. Others want icons, or sortable data fields they can use to create their own views, or reports they can easily create and share more widely in the organization. Still others want a fast view to see only what matters to them. What items does one person need to work on, and get rid of all the rest of the clutter.
Spreadsheets are a great dumping ground for everything the organization wants to capture. Like a dumping ground, however, piles of different items located all over the place quickly become difficult to discern and organize against others.
If marketing teams were made up only of a couple of individuals, or were only people inside an organization, then sharing of a spreadsheet might work in a limited way. This, however, is not the case with most modern marketing teams in organizations.
Marketing teams today may be a few people up to hundreds in a global organization. Freelance writers, designers, agency partners and resources external to a company participate in marketing efforts in both minor and major ways. There are simply too many channels through which people currently engage with each other to get work done, which is great from a variety perspective, but from an ensuring efficient collaboration perspective, does little to support the objectives of the team. It’s why large organizations will build “social media command centers” because there is simply too much to keep track of. Can spreadsheets serve the task of being “marketing command centers?” Absolutely not.
Limited File Management
File management in spreadsheets is only applicable with online files, saved in some share location that can be accessed by the team. If this represents 100% of the marketing team’s asset requirements, then spreadsheets may serve a purpose. Practicality, however, indicates this is seldom the case.
Marketing team members save files on their local computers, share drives, in Microsoft, Google, Adobe, YouTube, or numerous other file formats. There are then numerous versions of these files, with edits and updates, and often in numerous components to complete marketing projects (ie. Individual graphic files may make up a web page, for example). Management of all of the different files associated with marketing efforts simply cannot be managed easily in a spreadsheet.
If you’re tired of suffering the pain of your editorial calendar spreadsheets, their are better approaches. In today’s age, there are quite a few software options to help you manage and stay on track. Don’t waste time administering spreadsheets, formulas, and charts to keep track of your content.