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Do it once (and only once) with workflow automation



Do it once (and only once) with workflow automation

There’s a concept in productivity philosophy that suggests you “only handle it once” (OHIO) — the idea is that you immediately deal with whatever crosses your desk rather than wasting time by setting it aside and getting back to it later. When designing workflows for myself and my team, I like to take this a step further and set up processes in such a way that people need only do a simple task a single time. 

“Why would you do something more than once?” you might ask. You may not think of it that way, but, in many cases, everyday work involves doing the same thing several times. For example, you mark a task as done in your product management software, then send an email to your colleague to let them know it’s complete. You enter content into the CMS for your website, then copy the same content to the system you use for your mobile site. Not only is this kind of thing inefficient, but every time you’re entering or copying data from one system to another, you risk introducing errors. 

In my last article, I explained how I save new contacts’ information by entering it into a form that then updates a variety of different systems. This time, I’ll walk you through a few more examples, explaining the automation tools that enable them. 

Cross-posting from one website to another

At one time, we’d frequently cross-post content from one of our sites to another whenever the article would be of interest to both audiences. Rather than start completely from scratch, I designed a workflow where editors would select a certain category in WordPress (which wouldn’t be displayed on the site) to indicate that a piece should be published on both sites. 

The annotated screenshot above, along with this shared Zap, gives you a sense of how this worked. The trigger setting the workflow in motion was the publication of any article on the first site. The first thing Zapier did, using its built-in filter function, is to see whether the requisite category was checked. If not, nothing more would happen. 

If the Zap continued, it next copied over the featured image associated with the article. This took several steps, in part because we were getting a lot of time-out errors on the second site. We solved this, for the most part, by getting the name of the featured image file, downloading the image to our Google Drive if there wasn’t already a file with that name in the folder, then uploading that image to the second WordPress site. 

We continued to have time-out problems, so I set up a step whereby if the image wasn’t uploaded successfully to the second WordPress site, a default generic image would be selected instead. This kept the process rolling along rather than getting stuck on an error. 

Finally, the system would create a new post on the second WordPress site, copying over the headline, body copy and featured image. The rest of the images within the article were still hosted on the first site, which we’d decided we were OK with. The resulting post was set to Draft status rather than automatically published because we did have to do a few things manually. 

The manual part (and why)

First, you may notice the process doesn’t address the question of authorship. Because WordPress stores authors as ID numbers, and because our author IDs differed from one site to another, we couldn’t just copy an ID over. At one point, we did a lookup in Google Sheets that matched ID numbers from one site to another, but that ended up being difficult to maintain so we went with selecting the author by hand.

Our categories and category IDs differ from one site to the other, too, which means we categorized the articles after they’d been copied over to the second site. In addition, we went into the Yoast SEO plug-in and designated the original URL as canonical. This also gave us the opportunity to check the article over to ensure everything functioned as intended before publishing. 

Making form submissions go further 

The submission of a form is a fantastic time to trigger other events. For our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a form to gather information about software vendors in the categories we cover. When someone we’ve asked to fill a questionnaire hits submit, this triggers a number of processes. 

  1. The company logo they’ve uploaded gets added to a Google Drive folder set up for this purpose.
  2. The answers are copied into a Google Doc, which serves as the starting point for a vendor profile. Internal parties receive an email notification with a link to the draft.
  3. The submitter receives an email acknowledgment.
  4. The status of the ClickUp task representing that vendor profile is automatically updated to indicate that we’ve received the form submission
  5. A comment is posted to the ClickUp task with a link to the draft document. 
  6. The vendor’s analysis of industry trends goes into my unstructured data store tool, Mem, so I can tap it when writing the analytical part of the report. 
  7. The submitter’s name, company and email address are added to my directory of contacts.

I’ll walk you through a few of these processes so you can see how it all happens.

Even though we cover a lot of different software types in our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a single questionnaire to gather info from vendors. That questionnaire uses conditional logic to ensure the right questions appear for the correct category. This means that when we make a change to a question that’s required for every vendor, we don’t need to change it 12 times in 12 different forms. We also use a hidden field to link the form to the task for which it is being submitted using a task ID. 

Uploading the company logo (number 1 above) uses a simple JotForm function to call a webhook at the time of submission, sending the uploaded image to the proper Google Drive folder. 

Creating a Google Doc draft from the form input (number 2) uses native JotForm functionality to send an email with form data when it’s submitted. One general challenge with these form submissions is that even though the conditional logic prevents certain questions from appearing to the person filling out the form, those questions (and blank answers) are output whenever you export the form data. And as we expand to cover new categories, this issue grows larger. 

We get around this by utilizing the native email notification feature, which is set to only include fields that are completed. The email goes to a Zapier tool called “Email Parser by Zapier” that parses the email with all the questions and answers (but only the relevant ones, because the blank ones weren’t sent over) and copies plain text into a Google Doc.

It’s not formatted very nicely, but it’s a good head start, putting the answers into the tool we will use to write the profile. That same Zap emails the team working on the report with a link to the Google Doc so we can get to work.

Automatically setting the status of the ClickUp Task (number 4) is something I’ve only recently implemented and I’m really finding it useful. The form submission triggers a webhook from Zapier that passes over the task ID number from the hidden form field. That sets off a POST to the ClickUp API that checks a box in the linked task to indicate that the form has been submitted. 

I’m using the API instead of the native Zapier ClickUp integration because the native connector requires me to designate a space, a folder and a list for each Zap. Because of the way our tasks are organized in ClickUp, this means I’d need a separate Zap (or some other functionality) for each report. With the API, I only have to specify the unique ClickUp task ID to work with that task.

For whatever reason, though, the API doesn’t allow me to change task statuses. So I have a checkbox within the task record that essentially asks “is the form submitted?” and that box is checked through the API when it is. Then, I use native ClickUp automations to change the task status to “Info Submitted” and put a little comment on the record alerting the assignee. 

This process doesn’t “know” about the other Zap that creates the Google Doc, however, so another API call (number 5) is for connecting the task and the draft. Whenever a new Doc is created in the designated folder, Zapier parses the title of the document and extracts the task ID (which I’ve set up to be the last part of the title).

With that task ID, it uses the ClickUp API to POST a new comment to the task providing the assignee with the Google Doc URL.

How it appears in ClickUp

As I explain this, I realize that I probably ought to combine number 2 and number 5 into a single Zap. See? We’re all learning together!

Is all this worth the trouble?

As you can see, there is a lot of detail work involved in setting up these workflows and, like any other computer process, it’s not very forgiving — include an extra space or leave off a slash mark and that’s the whole thing scuppered. 

That said, if you’re automating processes your team encounters over and over in the course of their daily grind, it’s well worth the trouble of the initial setup. We’re doing 12 MIRs this year and each one of them has somewhere between ten and 22 profiles, so it’s worth it to me to set this up once and potentially benefit 286 times in 2022 alone. Once automated workflows like this are functioning smoothly, they eliminate a lot of mind-numbing repetitive work and let you focus on more creative, strategic tasks. 

About The Author

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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Hootsuite joins TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program



Hootsuite joins TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program

Today, social media management platform Hootsuite announced it has joined TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program. Through the partnership, Hootsuite has launched an integration that allows brands to manage, execute and optimize TikTok content at scale.

About 38.5% of  Hootsuite’s customers have planted a flag on TikTok, with the rest (around 63 %) planning to launch TikTock content some time this year, according to an internal Hootsuite study.

What it does. Hootsuite brand customers will be able to schedule and publish TikTok content within the Hootsuite platform. This will allow marketers the ease to manage TikTok alongside efforts on all other social media platforms in one place.

Read next: Ultimate guide to social media marketing

Marketers will also be able to moderate and engage with comments in real-time. They will also gain post-performance and user engagement insights informing future campaigns.

Educational resources. Additionally, Hootsuite is rolling out TikTok-related resources for marketers. They include:

  • A culture guide that highlights key TikTok trends, including sound, aesthetics, types of videos and slang;
  • A blog content series that promotes best practices on growing business and building customer relationships on TikTok;
  • Workshops and webinars to walk through video content development with social media marketers and
  • A newsletter that provides tips and highlights successful video efforts on TikTok.

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Why we care. TikTok isn’t only about reach. It’s also a place for authentic organic discovery and not just paid exposure for advertisers. With this added layer of realness comes a certain amount of risk for brands as they venture into uncharted territory. This Hootsuite partnership and rollout adds some needed structure and predictability to a brand’s debut on this rapidly growing social destination.

About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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The Ultimate Guide to Human Resources



The Ultimate Guide to Human Resources

Remarkable Human Resources (HR) employees are critical at every company. They handle all employee relations so you can focus on your side of the business.


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Getting started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Aligning on a Guidepoint



Getting started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Aligning on a Guidepoint

We recently introduced you to Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, by marketers. We also held a Zoom meeting to discuss the Navigator with members of the agile marketing community.

The Navigator has four major components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices and Roles. Within these categories, there are several sub-pieces for implementation. Over the next several weeks, we’ll dive into each piece and give you practical, actionable ways to use them at your company.

The collaborative planning workshop

To begin with, we’ll start at the top with the Collaborative Planning Workshop. The Collaborative Planning Workshop brings alignment to what the team is trying to achieve and empowers marketers to focus on customer value and business outcomes over activity and outputs. This session should happen quarterly or at the start of any large campaign or initiative.

Where most agile frameworks begin with the backlog of work for the team, we found it very important to start at a higher level and ensure alignment is happening between the agile marketing team and the key stakeholders asking for work from the team. 

One of the biggest challenges we’re addressing with the Collaborative Planning Workshop is the disconnect between the stakeholders who ask for work and the team on the hook for delivery. Way too often, the people setting the marketing strategy and the designers, copywriters, social media specialists and others don’t have a seat at the adult table. Work comes to them in the form of the creative brief via an electronic system, but there’s no conversation. They aren’t being treated like marketers but rather as producers of output. 

The Collaborative Planning Workshop is just what it says—a collaborative conversation where everyone is on an equal playing field and striving towards successful outcomes.

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The Guidepoint

This framework begins with everyone understanding the actual business reasons for success and alignment on a Guidepoint. Here’s how we define the Guidepoint in the Agile Marketing Navigator:

“The Guidepoint helps the team and stakeholders navigate what success looks like for an upcoming campaign or project. Stakeholders come to the workshop with a business goal for the organization. During the workshop, the group comes up with a short written description, called a Guidepoint, of what success looks like for this marketing initiative and how it aligns to the organization’s goals.”

The Guidepoint is the connective tissue that rolls upward and downward in the organization. It’s often the forgotten middle layer between what the stakeholder is on the hook for and the tactics executed by the marketing team to achieve success.

The Guidepoint aligns the agile marketing team and stakeholders on a shared purpose and creates a focus on the team’s outcomes. It also helps with prioritization, so work that’s not aligned gets a lower priority or isn’t done at all.

Read next: Freeing agile marketing from its software development roots

Here are a few example scenarios to get you started:

Industry: Healthcare

Business Goal: Acquire an additional 5,000 new patients during the first year after the grand opening of our new hospital.

Guidepoint: Create a campaign targeting elective surgery candidates that generates 1,500 leads that ultimately generate a higher than average conversion rate than the industry average.

Industry: Retail

Business Goal: Increase cart checkout dollar amounts by 10 percent over last year.

Guidepoint: Launch a campaign targeting suggestive add-on purchases, moving the average cart checkout price to $50.

Industry: Financial Services

Business Goal: Generate a 25% increase in our personal finance app downloads in 2022.

Guidepoint: Generate an average of 50 new downloads apps with an activation rate of 25%.

Ideally, you have an agile marketing team formed with a straight line to a stakeholder and business goals that need to be achieved, which makes it pretty easy to focus on a single Guidepoint at a time. 

However, many marketing teams haven’t streamlined this way and must support multiple lines of business at once. In those cases, we suggest no more than three Guidepoints at once for the team, or they’ll quickly lose focus. If this becomes problematic, the marketing owner on the team will need to work with key leaders to determine the most important business goals for the organization and prioritize them accordingly. Some teams have had great success determining percentages of time each stakeholder gets based on the business value of their line of business.

We can only succeed for a clear, focused outlook on what success looks like for the marketing team and the organization as a whole.

Many marketers struggle to apply agile marketing in a way that adds value to team members. Learn how to break that pattern in this free e-book, “MarTech’s Guide to agile marketing for teams”.

Click here to download!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”

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