Ever switched jobs and felt you lost 18 months of your life to building out someone else’s projects? There’s that pesky notion of the Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) hampering you from using any of your work--even a portfolio piece--outside the organization. To hone your marketing acumen, each project should lead to the next. Building upon past projects is how you develop as a marketing professional.
Problem: How do you build out marketing systems without disclosing confidentiality or overstepping boundaries?
While a novice marketer, I made some blunders in an attempt to showcase my accomplishments. I am a self-confessed Millennial, ever intent on building out my own personal brand at the cost of boundary testing. During my first year of marketing, I attempted to demonstrate my marketing systems expertise by posting a strategy deck on my LinkedIn profile with all the “important parts” removed. After being turned in to HR by my former boss and then threatened with legal action, I learned my lesson. Though I deserved more than a slap on the wrist for breaching the NDA, I discovered something in the process. What I needed to learn was the art of template creation.
So, you’re in the midst of an intense, complex marketing project. You want to ensure you learn all you can from the process, so you can replicate your efforts in a similar one in the future.
When in doubt, create a template.
Here are my five getting-started tips to become a templating wizard.
Tip #1: Choose Your Tools with Foresight.
I once was a diehard Microsoft Office user, but I’ve since switched to Google Drive when I began freelancing. I had created a couple hundred templates in Microsoft Office, so it was challenging to make the switch to Google. I did find a few automation tools that could do it for me, but I opted to convert them, as needed.
Tip: Think ahead when creating templates. Decide to create your template in a system you plan to use for the next few years. The system should be one that is relatively easy to update and resides in the cloud.
Tip #2: Create Two Work-in-Progress Documents.
When beginning a new project that is worth templating, create two working separate documents before you start the project itself.
First, make a template. The template is where you will spend the bulk of your time crafting what you think should be the structure for this type of project.
Next, make a draft. The draft is simply a living, breathing template. It’s where you work on your company’s project. None of its confidential contents should be copied over to the Template under any circumstances.
Note: Keep the two documents distinctly separate throughout the process. If you discover something in the draft that should be added to the Template, add it in separately.
Tip #3: Plan Like a Mastermind.
Every new strategy, plan and spreadsheet you create should be based on a template. The hardest part is creating that first template. Once you do, you have a template that you can apply to any project for any company. You may need to change the tool you use or the exact execution details, but the framework is already there. You will be seen as the marketing wizard who can “whip up” a project in the fraction of the time it takes your co-workers or colleagues.
Tip: This is how I have been able to set myself apart as a marketer and appear to be a speed demon by getting things done.
Tip #4: Ask for Projects.
Projects are opportunities. Your company can test your mettle and you can hone those marketing chops. Yes, you may already have numerous tasks on your deliverables list. Regardless, ask for projects where you can build out templated approaches.This is how you build a library of templates and can become the go-to person for ____ [fill in the blank with your expertise] at the company.
Tip: When working on any new project, write the first draft as if you are going to create multiple plans from it in the future. [You are.]
Tip #5: Update your Template Library.
As you progress through your marketing career, you will notice your templates from those early years may not match your current standards. Either update them or delete them. Make it an annual practice to update your templates to adhere to your own best practices.
Tip: Create a folder called Templates, where you categorize and store all your templates. It takes a bit of time to create this Library initially, but it makes searching for project templates a cinch.
There you have it. Five tips to mastering the art of templating.
Your Turn: Are you an obsessive template creator, or do you tend to recreate the wheel each time you are faced with a project? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.