Why Anne with a plan, wins over last-minute Larry

At the risk of a rant, here are some tips on why marketing or communications managers should always have a plan.

Running a design consultancy, working with a range of clients, it still amazes me the various feelings working with different clients can give. Indeed, I think the key phrase here is, ‘work with’, rather than, ‘work for’.

The jobs that run the smoothest, and cause the least amount of stress to ourselves and our clients are those where timings and deadlines are planned well in advance. The jobs that run the opposite to this, and cause the most stress are those where a client is demanding, with no thought or appreciation of other people’s existing work commitments or lead-times.

This may sound obvious, but I’m amazed how often this principle is forgotten. Here’s how Anne avoids the stress but Larry loses with disorganisation:

Meet Anne … Anne has a plan

  • Anne is a marketing manager with a calendar and a schedule of events. She can look at least a month ahead at marketing activity she has coming up for her business.
  • Despite the range of marketing activity types she does, such as email, blog posts, printed items and exhibitions, Anne has a rough idea of production lead times each one needs. For example, a quick blog header in her business’ brand style might take her graphic designer less than half a day to produce. At the other end of the scale, an exhibition stand might need two weeks to design and ten days to print.
  • If Anne is unsure of any timings she knows she can give her designer a call to check, working with them to discuss timings for design and production to ensure a great, creative, stress-free job.
  • Advance knowledge allows Anne to book time in with her designer of choice, creating time for a proper brief (maybe face-to-face with a coffee!) Time also allows Anne to get competitive quotes from suppliers, choosing the right person for the job and giving them the appropriate amount of time to supply a great end product. The resulting product will have a great effect on her marketing.

Meet Larry … Larry is last minute

  • Larry is a marketing manager who plans barely more than three days ahead, despite ‘supposedly’ still having a calendar that shows him the marketing activity he has coming up. He often ‘forgets’ that big event is looming!
  • Larry has suppliers that he thinks work ‘for’ him, but he never really works ‘with’ them.
  • When Larry remembers with three days to go that he needs a piece of marketing material designing, orders are quickly dispatched to the designer of choice. All this with no regard to either the designer’s or supplier’s existing workload, schedule or required lead-times.
  • Because Larry is in a panic, possibly with other unplanned things piling up on his plate, the lack of a proper brief to his designer causes confusion, mis-communication and mistakes. This leads to further pressure on both sides.
  • With timings already tight, it’s a shame, as Larry has to run around finding a supplier that can ‘do it in the time’, rather than choosing a supplier he knows and trusts to produce the best end result. Leaving print to the very last minute means you may not have time for even basic finishing processes such as lamination. Larry gets an ‘okay’ looking brochure, but, with a bit more planning (even three days more), that same brochure could have been transformed from ‘okay’ to ‘great’.

Anyway, you get the picture. What we’re saying is, “Please be like Anne … and have a plan.”

We understand that there’ll always be the odd last-minute request and we truly are here to help. It warms my heart when a client gets in touch to tell me they’re planning a piece of communication next month, or even in two weeks time, and they’d like to sit down to discuss the brief and time schedule. A client who gets in touch who’s favourite word is ‘tomorrow’ makes my heart freeze!

Here’s a quick guide to production (not design) timings for common print processes.

(These are a guide only and you should check with your chosen supplier for an accurate picture, or give us a call to discuss).

Digital print — at least 3 working days — up to 5 depending on size, quantity and complexity of finishing.

Lithographic print — at least 5 working days, but could be more depending on size, quantity and finishing.

Single exhibition pull-up banner — 2 to 5 working days

Larger multiple panel exhibition stand — 10+ working days — again, depending on complexity.

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