For a marketing agency, planning out a content calendar can be tough. You can map out deadlines and publication dates in a spreadsheet, or even use content-planning software to manage your pipeline.
But there’s a missing ingredient in all this: the client. You can’t separate the content from the client.
Integrating a CRM into every stage of your content pipeline is how you transform a messy content calendar into a well-oiled content machine.
Towards client-focused content
When you’re dealing with multiple clients, your content calendar inevitably grows in complexity.
In-house content teams don’t always have this problem, because they produce content for a single company. But agencies get a ton of different inputs from clients, from creating an overarching content strategy, to getting feedback and revisions. That can make managing the editorial workflow and producing content at a steady clip really tricky.
At an agency, the client is the most important person in the room — even when they’re not there. Every sentence that you write should be informed by your customer’s needs, brand, and ethos. That starts in your content pipeline.
You need to build a pipeline and a system around client relationships. By adding a CRM to your content pipeline, you can craft an automated workflow around each customer, build a living system of record that reflects all your work for them, and constantly improve based on feedback.
1. Automate your editorial workflow
Creating client-focused content begins with clear communication at every stage of content production.
With only a couple writers, it’s relatively easy to keep communication up manually. Writers simply email clients with article ideas, deadlines, and completed drafts. But as you expand your agency to include more writers and clients, stuff starts to slip through the cracks. Emails are forgotten; deadlines missed.
At the most basic level, what you want is to link each discrete article to a discrete customer in your pipeline. Doing so, you create a system that allows you to automate a large chunk of day-to-day communications.
In the example above, each article in the editorial pipeline is linked to a specific customer record that contains information such as contact details or the number of articles due. Having customer information connected to each article and easily accessible is handy for providing writers immediate, specific context. Beyond this, attaching each discrete article — whether an idea, a rough draft, or a published post — to a client allows you to shape an editorial workflow around the customer.
You can see at a glance what needs to be done with each article in the pipeline — whether it’s sending clients ideas for articles, or getting their approval on finished drafts.
By integrating with Zapier, you can even automate some of these communications each time an article changes status in the pipeline.
When an idea enters into the pipeline and marked ‘Brainstorm’, that idea is emailed to the customer for approval
When a customer approves an idea, a writer is assigned to start working on a draft
When the status of an article moves from draft to delivered, that article can be sent to the customer for revisions
Streamlining client communications in this way allows you to get the input you need to keep articles moving through the pipeline — without bogging down the whole process. A simple Zapier automation can help you build trust with clients.
2. Build a living system of record
Managing the customer relationship is as much about providing a birds-eye view of the entire process as it is about day-to-day communication. Your content pipeline should be a living system of record that clients can reference at any time.
Internal marketing stakeholders will want to check up on whether you’re meeting deliverables on time. They might want to track certain pieces of content back to their strategy and the results they’ve seen on their blog. They might have an internal publication calendar they want to stick to, and they want to see all your team’s work in aggregate to make sure it lines up.
By giving your customers a single system of record they can turn to for all the work you’re producing, you minimize the amount of back-and-forth around article production.
The example above shows a client-specific view. Articles are organized from top-to-bottom according to their status in the pipeline. With a single glance, clients can check for any article ideas they need to approve, see the status of various articles, and find the Google Docs URLs for finished drafts.
Clients now have a single source of truth that they can check to see where each piece of content is in the pipeline at any moment in time.
3. Collect feedback and improve
Getting a steady stream of feedback is what allows agencies to continuously improve.
Client feedback is extremely valuable, but what you need to make it truly actionable is the ability to index that feedback in a systematic way. That means you don’t have to start from scratch each time you hire a new writer, or switch writers between accounts. You build organizational knowledge as an agency around specific clients.
Rather than just collecting one-off feedback in the form of emails, you want to associate each piece of client feedback to an article in your base. You can do this by creating a dedicated feedback table.
You can use Zapier to help you automate feedback collection, so you’re not constantly trying to collect feedback through a combination of comments in Google Docs and email.
The Zap above triggers an email request for feedback, for every article that gets delivered. The Zap looks up the article’s record ID, and uses it to pre-fill a feedback request form. Clients are linked to a form that looks like this:
Clients can easily jot down both qualitative and quantitative feedback in the form. Once submitted, this form is logged in the base and linked to the respective article:
Now you have a system that allows you to process customer feedback on a per-article basis.
Rinse and repeat
An agency’s bottom-line is determined by its ability to deliver value to clients at healthy margins. The only way to do this repeatably is to build a flexible workflow that grows smarter over time.
Adding a CRM to your content pipeline is the first step toward this bigger goal. That’s how you bake in a focus on the client into your system of content production that compounds in value over time.