How to shine through quality assurance
Quality assurance can be a nebulous term that varies between and within industries. Despite the numerous approaches and definitions, QA is essentially the art of removing barriers between customers and the experiences marketers design for them.
This art can be as straightforward as eliminating typos or fixing broken links, and it can be as complex as developing a website test plan composed of hundreds of tests executed across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Regardless of its scope, though, the marketing risk of insufficient QA ranges from missed opportunities to outright customer losses.
With countless buying options these days, customers ultimately make decisions on the basis of emotion and intuition. That's why brands that foreground quality assurance by producing high-quality, error-free marketing create more positive customer experiences, build trust, and foster engagement.
The two pillars of modern quality assurance
Today's customers expect intuitive, seamless experiences from the brands they engage with, and those expectations encompass both information and technology.
On the creative side, brands should copy edit all of their deliverables to ensure they're on point, error-free, clear, and concise. Not only should the language be technically correct, but it also should be intuitive and, above all, human.
On the technological side, brands must thoroughly test every digital output — whether that be an email, landing page, website, or mobile app — to make sure the creative and strategic vision for the project has been realized. For instance, does it look and work as designed on the most popular desktop and mobile platforms?
How to achieve higher-quality work
Ultimately, clients and their customers expect quality. In the tech-savvy, customer-driven, infinite-choice world in which we live, there's no room — or excuse — for substandard work. Customers won't bother with it, and clients won't keep paying for it.
To invest in quality assurance as a core function of their marketing strategies, brands should structure their programs with the following approaches:
1. Have dedicated quality assurance experts, but use your whole team
Quality should be at the center of marketing efforts, and QA should never be an afterthought or simply a last check before a communication is disseminated. Every member of a collaborative team can help support high-quality work through double-checking his own contributions, and it can be helpful to have extra eyes on a high-profile project before it goes public.
But there's no substitute for having dedicated experts with a formal QA skill set. QA team members should be involved from the beginning of a project, when they can compile a detailed list of specific needs. From there, formal QA reviews should be built into timelines for relevant project milestones.
2. Create guides for accuracy and consistency
A simple but sometimes overlooked aspect of marketing communications is consistency in voice and diction. A brand's communications must present a unified front through clarity, concision, and precision.
To that end, brands should use an experienced copy editor to help monitor and revise language and achieve this consistency by implementing a brand style guide. This guide can be either a brief document outlining the essential preferences for diction, punctuation, syntax, etc., or it can be an expanded document that accommodates more robust tone guidelines and product or service positioning.
A brand with an extensive line of products should think beyond a basic style guide and maintain a list of products, including formal names, associated service marks, and descriptions. Similarly, legal requirements, disclaimers, and the words and phrases that trigger them should be listed to reduce errors and save time.
3. Extensively test digital assets
On the technical side, customers expect websites, apps, and emails to work seamlessly. Too big a technical hurdle — such as erroneous functionality, a broken link, or a website that takes too long to load — will cause them to lose interest in a brand and its offerings.
Brands should carefully design and test their digital deliverables. Looping in the quality assurance staff at the beginning of a project to map out requirements and expectations can help design tests that take into account who the audience is, what actions you are driving, what platforms (desktop, mobile, tablet) your customers interact with, and any other technical requirements.
A test plan should cover all of these product aspects, though its complexity should be proportional to the product's. However, keep in mind that even a relatively simple deliverable like a marketing email can have numerous considerations, such as mobile responsiveness and variable data inputs.
A focus on quality is a focus on customers
How you meet customer expectations is defined by the quality of your content, platform, and delivery. While adding progress bars, check-ins, and other communication points can help foster interactions, given what customers expect from today's marketplace, true quality boils down to the entire customer-brand experience. It's not the thought that counts, and brands that understand this are well on their way to stepping up their marketing and achieving success.