Marketing approval can be tricky, to put it lightly. Numerous stakeholders. Conflicting opinions. Round after round of feedback. The time from v1 to sign off can feel neverending, with important deadlines getting missed through no fault of your own.
But with an effective marketing approval process in place – and the right marketing approval system to help you along the way – things become a whole lot easier. Not to mention faster.
In this guide I’ll walk you through the four-step marketing approval process and share nine tips to speed up the entire process. Those pain points will soon be a thing of the past.
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The four-step marketing approval process
The project approval process usually looks like this:
- You submit the first draft of your content
- Reviewers give their feedback and either request changes or approve the file
- You make any requested changes and submit an updated version
- This process repeats until all stakeholders have given their sign-off
Let’s take a look at those four steps in more detail:
1. Share your work with reviewers
The first step of the marketing approval process is to share the first draft with the review team. In most cases, you’ll have more than one group of reviewers that needs to be involved with the process. Think of everyone whose approval you need, and make sure to include them.
Each marketing approval process typically needs involvement from these departments:
- Creative team – making sure the content is in line with the brand, and matches the visuals
- Legal team – checking if your copy can cause any legal issues
- Client – giving their final approval on what can go live and what needs more work
To avoid the chaos of sharing files and collecting feedback over email, you can use a specific review and approval system like Filestage to make the process more efficient.
Having a dedicated approval platform will help you divide your reviewers into separate review steps while having a clear overview of everyone’s reviews and approvals.
2. Collect feedback and discuss ideas of improvements
In this step, you’ll collect feedback from all your reviewers. Regardless of the size of the project and the number of reviewers involved in the approval process, some stakeholders will request changes, while others may give their approval there and then.
To maintain a good overview of what needs improvement, you’ll need a centralized review and approval solution. So, say goodbye to juggling conflicting feedback from different reviewers. This way you’ll have everyone’s feedback in one place which will spark a discussion about improvements.
3. Create and share a new version
Our State of Creative Collaboration Report found that the average creative review process takes eight days and over three versions to get sign-off. This means that the seemingly straightforward process of implementing feedback and sharing a new version of the file can still be improved and sped up.
Based on the same report, brands and marketing teams definitely have the most complex review processes. But by introducing consistent, transparent, and centralized review steps, teams save days off their review rounds.
To make sure you collect and implement your reviewers’ feedback as efficiently as possible for several file versions, you can implement a centralized approval tool. The tool will help you manage file versions and leave all feedback chaos behind you.
4. Repeat until you get approval from everyone
Every successful marketing project is a series of feedback rounds and iterations until you reach the final version that everyone is happy with. To make these cycles fast and effective, without waiting for days or weeks for the next iteration, you’ll need a structured approval process.
Here are three steps helping you reach approval:
- Set due dates for each review round
- Track who gave their feedback and who you’re still waiting for
- Guide your project until you’ve collected all green lights
Once everyone’s happy, you’re ready to publish, launch, and share your marketing content!
Nine tips to speed up your marketing approval process
Now that you know the steps, let’s take a look at how you can speed up the approval process to make sure you never miss a deadline again.
For a quick overview of how to speed up your project approval process, make sure to check out the video:
1. Define all your reviewers before you get started
It’s an age-old tale. You’ve almost got there with approval and then BAM. In comes a last-minute stakeholder wanting to give their two cents’ worth, disrupting the business process and setting you back when you were so close.
Different projects will require different stakeholders to be involved in the content review process, so make sure you know exactly who needs to review your content before you get started.
2. Give reviewers a transparent way to share feedback
When you collect feedback via email, there will inevitably be multiple email chains, crossed wires, and conflicting recommendations. And it can become a complete nightmare to manage.
Using an online feedback tool like Filestage helps you to keep everyone on the same page and avoid miscommunication, conflicts, or crossover feedback. Reviewers can leave comments and annotations for others to see in real time. They can discuss feedback there and then, resolving any conflicts themselves so that you know exactly what amends need to be made.
3. But set up separate feedback streams for different types of reviewers
I’m a big advocate for collaboration, trust me, but there are times when it pays to keep certain stakeholders separate. Your creative and compliance teams, for instance, have different goals, which can lead to unnecessary disputes. The same applies for internal and external teams.
With an approval system like Filestage, you can minimize noise between reviewers with different goals by setting up separate feedback streams and review steps. That way, different teams can have private conversations, and you can manage their feedback in the most effective (and least confrontational) way possible.
4. Set due dates so people know when you expect feedback
There’s little more frustrating than having to waste your precious time chasing people for feedback. You’ve got much better things to be getting on with, after all.
Setting a clear deadline for every review step helps reviewers to prioritize and keep your projects moving forward. With Filestage, you can add due dates to your files, and reviewers who still need to take a look will be sent an automatic reminder. Chasing and pestering is a thing of the past.
5. Take advantage of annotations and timecodes to make feedback clearer
If you’re creating visual content – be that static or video – it can be hard for reviewers to explain exactly what they want to say in an email, or even with words at all. Screenshots, Long-winded descriptions. Misunderstandings. It shouldn’t be that hard!
With Filestage, reviewers can use annotation tools to highlight, strike through, add shapes and emojis, and even draw freehand directly on top of your content. And for video content, reviewers can click and comment, and their feedback will be attached to that timecode. Just click on their comment and you’ll jump to that frame in the video. Simple.
6. Tick off comments as you work on the next version
With multiple amends at every stage of the process, it can be challenging to keep track of what you’ve already actioned and what still needs doing. The last thing you want is a setback because you’ve missed an important amendment.
Create a to-do list (in Filestage, the comment sidebar doubles up as one) and tick each amendment off as you go along so that you can be confident that you’ve addressed everyone’s feedback.
7. Take advantage of automated version control
When you’re creating multiple versions of the same file, it can get confusing. Not only for you, but for your review team too. One missed email and chaos descends.
With automated version control – one of Filestage’s features – all your versions are neatly stacked together, so everyone in your team and review process knows which version is the latest. Plus, you can seek further approval for your work.
No confusion. No chaos.
8. Give reviewers an easy way to compare versions
It’s rarely going to be smooth sailing when there are lots of stakeholders involved. There’s always one who’s convinced their feedback hasn’t been actioned. Or worse, they contradict themselves and forget that they ever said otherwise.
With Filestage, your reviewers can compare two versions side by side and check their feedback has been met. And you can go back and point out comments on older versions too. That means easier conversations and faster approval.
9. Get one-click approval with timestamps
You might find towards the end of the approval process that stakeholders start to go quiet. Feedback given. Job done. Once the hardest part is over with, they can forget how important it is to give their final sign-off.
In Filestage, once your reviewers are happy with the content, all they have to do is hit “Approve”. And if they forget, Filestage will send them a reminder. You’ll get a notification confirming they’ve given the green light, which means you can publish work with confidence instead of chasing people to double check that they’re happy.
How to create automated project approval processes
These days, everything is about automating your manual business process. And the approval process is no different. Having a manual approval process will cost you a lot of time and nerves just to get one marketing asset published.
That’s why you should try your best to automate as many manual tasks as possible and create an automatic approval process.
Here’s how you can create an automated project approval process in Filestage:
- Automatically upload your email attachments to your Filestage project
- Create new items or tasks in your project management tool when files are added to Filestage
- Send review and approval updates to your messenger app
- Quickly verify content with automated version control
- Automatically send a file to the next review step after it gets all relevant approvals
1. Automatically upload your email attachments to Filestage account
Connecting your Gmail with Filestage means you can create various automated actions in Filestage triggered by new activity in your Gmail inbox or the other way around.
For example, you can label specific emails from your creative department and have all their attachments automatically uploaded to Filestage for review. This way, you’ll never miss another file for a review, and make sure you’re on top of all your tasks.
2. Create new items or tasks in your project management tool when files are added to Filestage
Project management tools go hand in hand with an approval tool to create a more efficient approval process. By connecting your Filestage account to Asana or Monday, you’ll be able to create new items in your boards whenever there’s a new file added to a project in Filestage.
That means that every morning when you open your project management’s tool board to check your daily tasks, you’ll have automatically generated items for reviewing content in Filestage.
This way, you can stop going back and forth to check between two platforms for new files and seamlessly organize your daily tasks.
3. Send review and approval updates to your messenger app
One of the most time-consuming tasks in the manual approval process is updating everyone on the latest changes. And in any project, there will be changes large and small until the project is ready for publishing.
By getting simple notifications in Slack, or Microsoft Teams every time there’s a new comment or a change of status of the file you’re working on, you’ll save a lot of time trying to keep everyone in the loop. Plus, all your stakeholders will know when to join a discussion or just check the project’s progress.
4. Quickly verify content with automated version control
With many versions and projects on your mind, you can easily fall into the trap of naming your files Final or Final-1 and soon forgetting which one is actually the final one.
With automated version control in Filestage, you’ll have all your file versions neatly organized one after another and the possibility to revisit them when you need to. You can even compare your versions and have all changes between versions automatically highlighted.
5. Automatically send a file to the next review step after it gets all relevant approvals
Without an automated approval process, you’re forced to gather everyone’s approval manually, and only then can you send the file to the next group of reviewers.
In Filestage, you can set up an automated action tailored to your review process and have your files automatically sent to the next review rounds whenever they meet specific criteria.
Let’s say you need at least one approval from your Brand team to send your file to Legal for their approval. Instead of monitoring your Filestage account and waiting for that approval, you can set that as an automated action.
Your file will be independently cruising to the finish line without you having to do anything about it.
Examples of marketing approval processes
Different types of marketing projects will require setting up different approval processes.
Here are the three most common types of marketing projects and their specific approval processes:
- Content approval process
- Social media approval process
- Campaign approval process
1. Content approval process
Whether you’re creating in-house content or content for a client, keep the approval process as straightforward and fast as possible. You’ll need your content to get published frequently, so avoid unnecessary review steps and include only the most important stakeholders in your design review process.
Here’s an example of a three–step approval process:
- Review step one – copy and design
- Review step two – SEO and social media
- Review step three – client (if needed)
2. Social media approval process
The social media approval process can be a tricky one. On the one hand, it requires quick sign-offs to make sure you’re relevant in the fast-paced social media space. On the other hand, big brands need to make sure their content won’t get flagged or cause any controversy.
To make sure you have a balanced social media approval process in place, define a couple of crucial stakeholders who have to give their approval, and try automating as many manual tasks as possible. This way, you’ll always have relevant content for social media without risking any backlash.
Here are three review steps you could introduce into your social media approval process:
- Review step one – copy and design
- Review step two – legal
- Review step three – client (if needed)
3. Campaign approval process
Marketing campaigns are often big projects that require the involvement of various stakeholders. Unlike content and social media approval processes, this one takes more time. But, you still need to be efficient and well organized if you want to get everyone’s approval on time.
To make sure you can successfully navigate through all the feedback and change requests, try automating your review steps and communication as much as possible.
You can keep your stakeholders in the loop with automated Slack or Microsoft Teams updates or create tailored automated actions in Filestage and reach approval faster with less manual work.
Here are four essential review steps for every campaign approval process:
- Review step one – copy and design
- Review step two – brand
- Review step three – legal
- Review step four – client (if needed)
What is a project approval process?
A project approval process is a structured approach to getting your marketing content signed off by multiple stakeholders. Whether you’re working on a social media video, a print ad, a blog post, or an influencer campaign, an organized approach streamlines, simplifies and speeds up the process.
A traditional approach to the approval process can take days to get a single piece of content approved and ready for publishing. Introducing a dedicated approval tool will create a more automated approval process, and you’ll be able to wave goodbye to a series of manual tasks.
There’s no doubt that getting approval on marketing materials is no walk in the park. Taking care of conflicting opinions and managing all feedback in the most effective way possible takes a lot of planning and great organizational skills.
But with the help from an approval tool, you’ll automate manual tasks and create a faster and more efficient marketing approval process.If you’d like to see for yourself how Filestage could help with your content approval workflow, you can start a free trial here →