Welcome to The Digital Brew, a podcast about making your business more awesome online.
Your hosts are Angela (a copywriter) and Stew (a web designer). Pour yourself a cuppa and let’s get started with today’s episode…
In this episode, we talk about workflow and processes with a focus on marketing, sales, and client onboarding.
We want to give you an insight into how we do things behind the scenes. A lot of thought has gone into setting things up (plus a lot of experience over the last few years in our own business, and working directly with clients).
So perhaps we can save you a bit of time and effort if you’re looking at reviewing your processes in 2020. Maybe we can give you an idea or two to make things that little bit quicker and easier for you and your clients.
Of course, we’re just a two-person team at the moment – a copywriter and a web designer who do website copy and design packages (plus occasional VA help and an accountant).
So we’re hardly running a sophisticated operation. But we do juggle multiple clients, deadlines, complex projects, and lots of different tools. We really rely on good systems to keep it all flowing smoothly.
What’s the difference between workflow and processes?
First, some definitions. While they’re similar, workflow and processes aren’t exactly the same. I did a bit of Googling and manage to confuse myself no end but found these definitions:
Workflow is a series of repeatable activities that you need to carry out to finish a task. This generally has a focus on technologies and tools that enable info and tasks to flow between people or departments.
A process is a set of repeatable activities and tasks (ordered in a logical way, with cause and effect relations between them) that need to be carried out to accomplish an organisational goal (which is generally to deliver a product, service, information, decision, or other output to an internal or external customer).
So they’re both about repeating activities, ticking off tasks, and accomplishing goals, basically.
So, let’s talk about some of the key processes we have in our business that enable us to deliver projects to our clients, and the tools we use to make that process as smooth as possible.
We’ve got the website and branding in place already (we’ve talked extensively about how we set that up already in previous episodes, so we won’t go into detail here).
Apart from that, we’ve got the podcast for ongoing content each week. Our podcast process looks like this:
- Write dot points in shared Google doc for what we want to talk about
- Set up mics and test the audio
- Record an episode using Adobe Audition
- Edit episode – add intro, add outro, cut out mistakes
- Write show notes based on dot points (like a rough blog)
- Write email and social media posts
- Create graphics for podcast and social media
- Add podcast episode on Tuesday evening (so it goes out to the podcast players before we promote it)
- Schedule/share email and social media post via Social Bee later in the week
Aside from promoting the podcast, we also share a more personal post on social media every week. Usually, we tell a short story or share some kind of behind-the-scenes insight, accompanied by an Instagram-worthy-ish photo.
After someone experiences our brand through the marketing channels we already mentioned (or word of mouth/referral), if they want to work together, they’ll send an enquiry. This is where our sales process kicks in:
- We chat on the phone or via email (sometimes both)
- They send through a client application form (we provide this as a Google survey – or in a Google doc if multiple people need to collaborate on the application)
- We review the application form and see if they’re a fit
- If they’re a fit, we do up a Google doc with goals, recommendations, and quote (inclusions and pricing), plus next steps and availability
- There might be some negotiation around inclusions (phone or email)
- If/when they’re happy to move ahead, we’ll put the content into our proper proposal software (Nusii) and send it through via email
- Client clicks the “accept” button, pays the deposit through Stripe, and we officially book them into our schedule!
Which brings us to the next lot of processes…
Here’s how we onboard clients:
- Send a really happy welcome email as soon as possible after proposal acceptance and payment! 🙂
- Add them to our Slack channel that’s dedicated to the project/brand (send invite link via email)
- Add them to the client portal board on Trello (duplicate our template one and tailor it to the client)
Just to expand on that client portal board, since we’re pretty proud of it…
This is designed to outline our process really transparently for clients. (We also have our process listed on on our website/proposals but this goes into ALL the details.)
Our trello lists are:
- Getting Started
- Stage 1: Plan
- Stage 2: Content creation
- Stage 3: Design
- Stage 4: Launch
- Ongoing management
Under each list, we have cards that include tasks (for us and/or the client), links to resources, and important information).
We use labels to colour-code the cards and show the following statuses:
- In progress
- Awaiting client input
- Reference/info only
- Not ready to start yet
Clients can comment on items in Trello and add info to the cards, if they like. But for the most part, they’ll collaborate with us via Slack.
So, Trello is sort of like a project management system, but we’re mainly using it as an information hub for our clients. It’s got our client-facing processes for transparency so they know what we’re up to and what’s coming up next.
In the past, we found that if they didn’t have this system, clients wouldn’t feel as confident/comfortable. We might spend a lot more time emailing them with updates or answering their questions.
Finally, another client onboarding process is we send a detailed briefing survey. This is an epic document. It takes hours to fill out but captures a lot of valuable info for the copy/design project.
We won’t go into great detail about our design/copywriting processes because we’ve already covered them in previous episodes.
So, let’s just talk about the main tool we use to manage our processes and workflows.
Yep, it’s Asana! All the tasks that aren’t client-facing go in here.
We have an organisation set up for “The Digital Brew” and under that, we have teams and under each team, we have projects. This hierarchy helps keep everything organised (even though we’re pretty much a two-person team at this stage!).
Here’s what we’ve got in each team and project.
- Launches team – We use this for projects relating to new products/services
- Sales team – We have a project in here called “Pipeline” which is set up as a Kanban style board. We add new leads as a card and drag them along as they progress through the pipeline. Then we convert the card to a project once they become a client (pretty nifty Asana feature that’s sorta buried so you might have to hunt for it).
- Delivery team – This is for all our client work. We have an example project process as a template. Then we have a project set up for each client that has all our tasks relating to their projects, including copywriting, design, planning, and admin stuff like invoicing and communications.
- Internal team – Here we’ve got a project dedicated to ideas and another one dedicated to admin/finance. You could split that last board up into two separate projects if you have a lot going on there. It’s pretty simple for us at the moment.
- Marketing team – This team includes our podcast project, website project, and socials project. All tasks relating to each of these types of marketing go onto these project boards.
Asana is good because of the hierarchy – the layout works for my brain. It’s a bit annoying and a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, so be prepared to hate it for a bit if you’re new to Asana. But I like how the information is sorted out.
It’s also free for us (until we grow beyond the limits). I think at this stage, you can have up to 15 users before you have to pay, and there’s some advanced features you can only access in a paid account. But we don’t need them at the moment.
I also like the recurring tasks/due dates options – this makes managing your workflow a lot easier for stuff that has to happen over and over again. Things like admin, accounting, and content creation/sharing.
We’ve tried a few other tools as an alternative to Asana but nothing else has stuck. We recently bought a lifetime deal for Freedcamp which has some really awesome features but we haven’t got used to the UX yet. Might switch over at some point… we’ll see! And we’ll be sure to share on the podcast if/when we do.
Let’s sum it up
That’s pretty much it! We shared just a snapshot of our processes and workflows – there’s a lot more. But these are some of the key ones – and hopefully some of the most relevant ones for other service-based businesses and creatives.
We’re happy to answer your questions about any of these, or cover anything we haven’t mentioned. So please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll reply to you. Or send me an email email@example.com.
A few final thoughts…
Don’t get too hasty with your tools or obsess over finding the right tool for your workflows.
In fact, get it all written out on paper first. Do it manually for awhile. Then you’ll know what processes and workflows you need to create a good client experience and make things happen smoothly behind the scenes before you try to make it fit into a tool.
Another thing – look for ways to make your clients’ experience as excellent as possible. That should be your key focus – creating really good client-facing processes. We put a lot of work into setting up our client portal on Trello, including pretty graphics and lots of bits of copy and even videos to explain things. It’s part of creating a premium service. Then we adapted our back-end processes to fit around that.
Also, sometimes you’ll find a tool that’s 80% of what you need. That’s actually pretty good! You’ll probably never find something that’s 100% unless you can build it yourself. So, do the best you can with the tools you can find (and there’s even so many good free ones out there). And be willing to work around their limitations.
Righteo (as my grandpa would say). That’s it!
We’ll catch you in the next episode, which is all about launching a new brand for the first time.
Thanks for tuning in to The Digital Brew with Ange and Stew. Make sure you head over to thedigitalbrew.com for more episodes, detailed show notes, resources, and our newsletter. And if you feel like this episode has helped make your business more awesome, pop us a review. We’ll catch you next time!
3 thoughts on “#10 – Workflow and processes”
Incredibly helpful! Bluddy loving your poddy guys. Quick question… what tool do you use to send out your client briefing questionnaire. Mine is also epic and I’ve tried a few different things and my biggest hurdle is finding easy functionality that will allow people to save their answers and come back to them later. Thinking of ditching my Google forms tool and going back to having the questions in a Google Doc although I don’t think this is the best UX either. Give me your wisdom!
Awwww you’re the best, Anna! Thank you for being so encouraging.
Very happy to give you my wisdom 😉 I’ve found that issue with Google forms, too. It’s great for short surveys (like VOC surveys and client feedback surveys) but not practical for big briefs. Not just because people can’t save it and finish their answers bit by bit, but also because a lot of companies will have multiple people that need to collaborate on the brief. Sometimes it can take them a couple of weeks to add all the bits and pieces from all the different people.
I’ve done exactly what you said. I put the detailed brief questions into a Google doc and use tables to help structure “answer” boxes. Then I give edit access to the client.
It’s a bit messy but super practical with Google docs’ editing, commenting, and history viewing features.
In the future, we’re looking at using some kind of form plugin on our website that allows clients to complete briefs at their own pace, close it, edit, and submit when they’re ready. That way, we can make it a bit more slick looking with a better UX. But setting that up will be fiddly and good form plugins can be pretty pricey, so I’m pretty happy with using Google docs for now 🙂 In the meantime, let me know if you land on a better solution!
I definitely will. Sad that google docs is the best solution. Clever coders and techy people take note! There’s a serious gap in the market!