At the end of the day, every company is going to produce something, whether that’s a physical item, a service or something else. Finding a way to streamline the process of production can increase results for your department or company.
Historically, operational efficiency is viewed through the lens of manufacturing, but the assets marketers produce, like blog posts, social media content, premium content offers and webinars all have steps that need to occur to take them from idea to completion and ultimately, distribution. Understanding those steps can help you improve those products and your efficiency.
What is Operational Efficiency?
Operational efficiency is the ratio between the resources required to do an activity and the results of that activity. Increasing operational efficiency involves getting the most out of any production while putting in the least resources.
In order to increase operational efficiency for anything you’re doing, you can:
- Reduce the time spent on an activity while increasing the output
- Increase the output of an activity while spending the same amount of time
- Spend more time on higher leverage activities
- Spend more time while increasing the output to get even more output
The best way to start this process is to figure out how your processes are currently running.
List out all the steps you’re taking today to complete a certain task, along with who does them and how long they take. Be sure to cover every step, from ideation, to completion, through distribution and eventually, reporting.
Then give yourself a target like minimizing the number of steps or decreasing the amount of time needed, and define ways to make the process better. That could include reallocating resources if one of your team members is doing tasks they’re not suited for, or aligning tasks in a way that they can be completed quicker or even in tandem.
Once you take a project and start to streamline it to increase efficiency, you can apply those learnings across all activities within a department or a company.
How to Increase Operational Efficiency
Before starting any activity, define the objective and the resources involved. Your objective is the end goal and your resources include time, money, people, and tools.
For example, the resources that go into creating a social media post are the person creating the content, the time they spent, any software they use to make graphics and any money that goes into promoting that post.
Once you understand the resources and objective, you can look at how they relate to each other.
With more creative outputs like video content creation, the resources going into each content piece might not be consistent from step to step. In cases like that, look at the overall resource investment into that activity and compare it to the investment and output of similar activities.
Similar projects should require similar amounts of time and resources. Huge inconsistencies between your resource investments into similar products might reveal a problem in your process. As the creator of the content gains more experience and works out an order of operations, their process should become more efficient.
Looking at outliers to identify which projects required more time, resources or human-power can help you identify opportunities to improve that task’s efficiency.
For example, someone who isn’t a subject-matter expert in the topic they are tasked with creating content about will likely take longer to produce an output as a result of having to conduct additional research. Conversely, someone who knows that topic like the back of their hand will likely be able to produce a similar output without having to consult outside sources. Knowing that might change how you select who’s responsible for creating each content piece.
Or, maybe a content asset took longer than normal because the writer spent too much time perfecting minor details, in which case you can talk to the writer about defining when it’s no longer valuable to keep investing more time in a project. Once the results obtained from further perfecting don’t match the investment continuing to go into the project, it’s more efficient to move onto the next thing.
On the business-wide scale, you can increase operational efficiency by investing more resources into higher gain activities. If writing a guide takes twice as long as writing a blog post but gets five times the return, that’s a positive investment.
That same process can also be used to analyze which channels you should invest resources into.
If email isn’t working for you, but social media is, take some of your resources from email and devote them to social media. When reallocating those resources, don’t abandon the channel entirely, and make sure you don’t decrease your investment to the point of seeing negative returns.
If you’re doing the bare minimum with a channel, you can try adding more investment into it to see if there’s a corresponding gain. If not, go back to only investing the baseline requirement.
Where Creativity and Efficiency Overlap
Within the sphere of efficiency, think of creativity as being a way to increase output at the same expense.
Defining your actual output for a given activity is the first thing you’re going to need to do. Is the output for blog post creation the post itself or the views it brings in?
Understanding what the output is and then coming up with a creative way to increase that output is a critical component of marketing.
If you’re trying to increase the number of views your blog posts attract, you might rethink your title structure or do more SEO keyword research to inform your topic selection. If you’re trying to produce more blog posts, you could reduce individual post length or redefine what is considered a post and create multimedia posts that take less time to write.
When people think of creativity, they usually think of some visual thing that’s pretty to look at. But that’s not all creativity is. Creativity is the foundation of innovation and problem-solving.
Marketers tend to focus on their output or their creativity instead of operational efficiency.
When you have a lean marketing team, getting more results for less investment is critical for business growth, and understanding how to analyze the processes that go into doing marketing activities and improve them can help you maintain efficiency over time and scale your business.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.