If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?
If a creative team helps to increase the bottom line and can't prove it, did it really help the business at all?
See "Cella’s Industry Report — Insights For Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 1" for more advice for your creative team.
I think both the tree and the creative team would be offended at these questions. Fortunately for the tree, it will never be able to hear the question. Unfortunately for the creative team, it will likely hear the question again and again until it finds a way to prove its value.
Tracking the impact of a creative team in any company is a tricky task, and 73 percent of CEOs think marketing and creative teams lack business credibility because they can't prove that they generate business growth.
It's unrealistic to think you can accurately show how creative work directly increases revenue, but that doesn't mean there's no way to show upper management that you belong—it just requires a different approach.
Creative Teams Always Have Competition
Most companies recognize the importance of an attractive and well-managed brand, so they're willing to spend money for creative work. However, even though the need for corporate creative work is a given, who does the creative work is subject to change.
Many C-suites, and even internal clients, fail to see how doing creative work in house is actually beneficial to the company. Because of this, in-house creative teams are often scrambling to outshine the competition—external agencies.
It's up to you to show the C-levels and internal clients why you matter, why you're a better choice than outsourcing, and what you have to offer.
Start measuring the right key performance indicators (KPIs) (if you aren't already) so you can show your company that you and your team are an invaluable and integral part of the success of the business, and to ensure that creative work stays in your hands—as well as the decision to outsource.
This responsibility lies on the creative director's shoulders, but the whole team needs to recognize the importance of proving their value to the business.
Here are four KPIs that will get you started, but keep in mind that your company might value certain data points more than others, so you'll have to tailor them to work for your circumstances.
1. Lead Time Per Project
Lead time refers to how much time a project takes from request to final delivery. This KPI essentially measures efficiency. Tracking lead time means you can see how efficiently your workflows and individual employees are working.
Creative directors can use this measurement to make adjustments to the creative process and to give feedback to individual employees. Refer to my blog post from a few months ago for a more thorough explanation of time tracking on creative teams.
2. Estimated vs. Actual Project Time
Similar to lead time per project, estimated vs. actual project time takes efficiency tracking one step further by comparing what the team said they would do to what they actually did. If the results were impressive, an executive might even use the creative team as an example to the company on working efficiently to reach goals.
After tracking this KPI for a while, your team should be able to give fairly accurate estimates to internal clients on how long to expect for certain projects.
3. Estimated vs. Actual Project Budget
If you can keep projects within budget, you'll earn a few more trust and respect points from the rest of the company, especially from upper management; because, as bad as it sounds, if your team can't do it better and cheaper than an external agency, projects will be contracted out until you and your team become obsolete.
To stick around, you have to be able to show that your team can produce good work within budget. And, if you have a chargeback billing model at your company, this KPI becomes even more important, because departments are responsible for costs incurred by the creative team.
4. Client Satisfaction Ratings
Client satisfaction ratings can be measured with a short post-project survey. Knowing your internal clients' feedback will help your creative team benchmark and improve. If your internal clients aren't satisfied, they will outsource your work and you'll lose your competitive edge, or your job.
Internal clients need to see you as a strategic partner and as a better option than outsourcing. Regularly check in on what they think about your service and focus on improving. If you want ideas of how to get started with this, the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF), provides a client satisfaction survey service to its members.
These four KPIs aren't meant to serve as a complete performance measurement arsenal, but if your creative team doesn't currently measure anything, then it's a good place to start. And if you measure some things but not these, try adding them to your list to impress your executives even more.
Only Measure What's Worth Your Time
Having numbers, graphs, and charts will give your team cred, but it's not worth it if you end up wasting a bunch of precious creative time to get the data.
The first step in avoiding this is making sure you're measuring what matters. If you're collecting data just for the sake of having more graphs, then ditch that KPI or trade it out for something that will actually help your team be more cost or time efficient or improve the quality of your deliverables.
Become Your Company's Creative Authority
You'll find really quickly that taking a little time to measure your creative team's performance will earn your team respect and trust from upper management and the company as a whole. Plus, you'll establish yourself as the creative authority in the company, so that if there's an external agency in the picture, it's because you hired them.
Download our free ebook How to Fuel Production Without Killing Creativity: Work Management for Creative Services to learn new ways to improve your team's performance.
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