Banish Meeting & Email Bloat via Prioritized SLAs! Aimclear® Agile Marketing Digest

Posted in Agile Marketing, Aimclear

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Aimclear® Agile Marketing Digest. Each AAMD edition will share actionable cornerstones of Aimclear agile marketing SLAs (service level agreements), which can dramatically reduce classic marketing bottlenecks. 2016 was an extraordinary (if not tectonic) year in the marketing agency world. Players not keeping pace with change were squeezed out.

Our Aimclear team was smart, prescient, ready to BE the next generation. Back in 2015, we foresaw impending industry changes and set out to embody agency agility as matters most to clients. Throughout 2016 we implemented bold changes, adding agile definition to practical nuts and bolts of day-to-day agency/client relationships. Little about our shop’s standard operating procedures, the HOW-we-get-things-done, was sacred. As a result, Aimclear is stronger then ever, committed to our reputation as one of the world’s top large integrated marketing agencies.

The meetings riddle
meetings

As we studied historic project resource allocation, the matter of meetings and cost thereof loomed large. Meetings were often a substantial chunk of projects. Pretty much every client project was set up with the expectation of weekly, multi-team client meetings. We asked:

  • What percentage of cash in previous marketing budgets was allocated to meetings?
  • Did we budget the right amount of meetings for each client?
  • Were meetings that took place with multiple agency attendees actually covered by budget?
  • Reciprocally, did we meet enough with multi-faceted or larger clients? It’s true, some companies, perhaps with distinct business units, complex collaboration, etc., require recurrent, multi-person meetings. Such collaborative shredding sessions are well worth paying for, if a marketing budget has sufficient resources.
  • Did smaller clients pay for meetings we could perhaps have done without?
  • Were some meetings, which were actually client training, wrongly categorized?
  • How can we change the rules, recasting meetings as “just enough” to be more effective?

Our conclusion was simple and powerful. Recurrent meetings should NOT be the default expectation unless that client needs and/or wants to invest in meetings. Otherwise, let’s put more of our marketing budgets towards, well, marketing.

The trick (of course) is having wisdom enough to predict how many meetings are required. The challenge is that’s it’s not possible to know. The ANSWER is to plan a limited amount of recurrent meetings with a dynamic structure to call additional meetings when needed. 

Questions arose regarding methods. How would we know when to have meetings, if not planned? Should unplanned meetings happen quickly or within a few days? To our delight, these meetings logistics riddles were solved as part of solving another classic bottleneck…EMAIL waste!

Making email more efficient
handing off the baton

As we studied agency project data, it also became obvious that email usage plays a pivotal role in project efficiency. We asked these questions:

  • How efficiently do we use emails?
  • Are email expectations set up in advance?
  • How are email threads accounted for in marketing budgets? We were surprised to find that Aimclear often did not get paid for some slowly moving but exhaustive client email exchanges.
  • Did the first email of any new thread simply communicate its priority?
  • How did email work in tandem with meetings? And then the key: Could an email SLA system be created that solved BOTH email and meeting bloat?

The answer was yes. Aimclear developed a more agile communication process and SLAs, which crank both meeting and email efficiencies, enabling Aimclear to dramatically reduce potential misunderstanding and waste.

The process took some thinking. The challenge was to empower our team and clients to mutually a) request an email response time; b) communicate time sensitivity; c) call meetings as needed, not recurrent as default; and d) increase project effectiveness whilst e) spending the maximum amount of budget possible on marketing as opposed to project organization.

The system we built solved unneeded recurrent meetings and wasteful email threads by skillful prioritization. We’re proud to share our SLAs with you here. The best way to illustrate Aimclear’s SLAs is by the explanation we provide clients at project kickoff.

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Keep in mind as you read: Some clients DO need recurrent meetings. Others rarely do and others are in between. The goal is to budget the right amount of meetings for each case. The email example below is for a client with a tight budget. This client needs us to spend the maximum amount of hours on marketing. At the time of contracting, we shared email and meeting SLA options. The client chose the most agile options. Take note how meetings are integrated in email SLAs. Next in line you’ll find a sample email sharing SLAs with new clients or internal stakeholders. Here you go!

############### Cut Sample Email Here
From: Account Manager’s Name
Subject: Flow: Aimclear Agile Communication SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
To: Client name
Cc: Team [name]<team-[name]@aimclear.com>

Hi [client name],
Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes with this email detailing the communication process you’ve budgeted for with Aimclear. We know marketing “Agility” starts with defined, effective communication.

Aimclear Agile is a powerful set of simple email subject tags [Flow: Expedite: Action: or Error:]. Each tag attaches expectations for how Aimclear handles your emails. We’ll operate, together following SLAs (service level agreements) to manage effective budget, optimized for efficient marketing focus.

Aimclear Agile® Communication SLAs
AC will capture your emails and handle replies, actions, fixes, etc. with timing you direct in every email subject line. Here’s how it works:

Every email begins with a response expectation. We Both Start Email Subject Lines With: Flow: Expedite: Action: or Error: and [optional] Meeting.

  • Required: Flow: Expedite: Action: or Error:
  • Add topic: For example, “Expedite: Marty In New York, Training Soon?”
  • Always cc: Team [name] <team-[name]@aimclear.com>
    • Flow: means Aimclear’s response can take 2-3 days. Flow: is a great email subject tag to crank out ideas for later discussion. Flow: flags upcoming items, gives feedback and/or asks questions to learn more about digital marketing, how/why Aimclear does things a certain way, etc. If your email subject start with Flow: it means Aimclear does not need to read the email now. You won’t get a response right away.
    • Expedite: You want action within 2 business days. Use Expedite: effectively. Here’s why: Aimclear teams schedule 2-5 days in advance, so Expedite: responses take more time and are less efficient than Flow:.
    • Action: Aimclear will read your email now and address any opportunity now or as quickly as possible. Opportunities sometimes warrant dexterous communication engagement. Use the Action: tag for hot ideas and spoils for the hungry. Action: You’re in town, massively viral blog content–want more! and other last minute breakoutsThe Action: tag means investing KPI energy by moving speedily. Action: responses can draw more time from a client’s SOW meeting budget.
    • Error: Aimclear will read your email now and address any crises now or quickly as possible. Error: shouts something important has gone wrong, broken, freaked out, etc. Error: responses don’t draw time from a client’s SOW meeting budget if we later determine Aimclear made the mistake.
    • Add Meeting to any Flow: Expedite: Action: or Error: tag separated by a comma to call a meeting [i.e. Flow, Meeting: Need Creative Refresh In Facebook?]. Aimclear and client designees can call a meeting. Aimclear will reach out to set a meeting according to subject tag prioritization: Flow: Expedite: Action: or Error: In the body of a Meeting email, state length, topic/agenda and any background information to make the meeting more efficient. Aimclear will facilitate logistics to set up the meeting. Remember, if you used an Error: subject, we’ll be reaching out to communicate and/or meet ASAP.

Tips To Stay On Budget

  • Call meetings only when needed
  • Think of Flow: as a notepad Aimclear monitors
  • Flow: Expedite: Action: and Error tags put Aimclear’s clients in control of budget expenditures for email responses and meetings
  • We’d love to hear your tips and ideas. There will be no charge to handle email with subject = Flow: Ideas to Improve Aimclear’s Communication SLAs.

Email Subject Examples

  • Flow: Need Input For Banner Refresh
  • Flow, Meeting: FB Ads Off For 20 Days, Why?
  • Expedite: Board Meeting, Need FB Leads Summary
  • Action: Last Minute Invitation To Speak
  • Action, Meeting: Miles Davis Risen From The Dead…Let’s ROLL!
  • Error: Website Is Down, Help!
  • Expedite, Meeting: Brainstorming Open House Tactics
  • Action: Need Custom Report Quickly to Score Unexpected Budget
  • Expedite: My Webmaster Says It’s Not Working
  • Flow, Meeting: Need Creative Refresh In Facebook?

If you have questions we’ll review via voice. Subject = Flow: Questions – Aimclear Agile® Communication SLAs
############### Cut Sample Email Here

Let us know if these email tags work for you and feel free to use them. In future editions of AAMD, we’ll smash other sacred cows, from intake to reporting, with an overarching goal of increasing marketing efficiencies and client success.