When I say ‘template’, I don’t mean a single-paged document with a few headings that you have to try and craft a report from.
I mean a multi-paged, fully branded document based on a company-wide style sheet.
And I mean a structured document with standard headers, footers, sections, headings, and lots of instructions to explain what’s expected of the author.
So, why go to all that bother?
Because those sorts of templates make good business sense.
Your brand isn’t just for the marketing department
If you’ve invested in developing a brand, that investment can’t stop at your marketing department’s door.
The people who most need support interacting with your brand are your non-marketing people. The people in accounts and IT and sales and procurement.
The ones producing those operations documents you use every day. The ones producing those project documents that go to your customers.
The ones least likely to understand your brand.
The ones that may not even know what your brand is!
These people desperately need templates to ensure they’re representing your brand as you expect. And they need them for more besides.
Templates are able to provide much more than brand compliance
Considering the amount of time people spend planning and writing and editing and printing documents, templates can make a huge difference to the quality of the end product.
And, without doubt, templates for your commonly produced documents are a simple-to-achieve productivity gain. They can halve the time you spend preparing documents.
Let’s face it, most business and technical people aren’t writers by profession. Just because they’re good at what they do, doesn’t mean they produce good documents.
They need all the help they can get to produce content at the level of quality you expect.
You can provide that help with the right templates.
Well-conceived templates have big payoffs
Templates are going to support your people to support your brand and help them to produce documents that your customers will happily pay for … and come back for.
Here are the three big payoffs:
1. Templates let you provide support for authors
Fully branded templates mean that staff don’t have to waste time thinking about things like:
- fonts and font sizes
- heading sizes and styles
- margin sizes
- what content is needed for headers and footers
- what content is needed for the cover page
- what the cover page layout should look like
- and more that I’ve seen but can’t think of right now.
If your workplace is like most, I guarantee people waste way too much time on these format and layout issues.
Well thought-out templates mean authors are able to concentrate on content rather than document format and layout. And it means they’re not confronted with a blank page which gives them no idea of where to start.
It means your valuable resources save valuable time. And they’ll be far less stressed in the process.
2. Templates let you promote consistent content
A template enables a single source of truth for a document type.
- This makes it easier to alter document structures according to changing needs.
- It lets you indicate mandatory and optional content.
- And it provides the mechanism for embedding standard content or examples of what that content should be.
Add to that clear instructions and definitions for writing, and what you have are templates which prompt authors for the content expected of them.
For example, you can explain the difference between topics like purpose, objective, background, context and scope, or what content goes under each of the major topic headings. Just add samples of the content and your people will love you for it!
In this way, you guide document authors in terms of company-specific terminology and style. This is particularly important for new team members so that, from day-one, they’re able to produce the type of documents you expect.
So, templates provide help for authors and, most importantly, they provide the benefits of clearer and consistent explanations for readers.
3. Templates help you maintain the integrity of your brand
A good way to explain this is by way of example:
You ask for three similar reports, from three different people. You don’t have a template to base the report on.
What you get is three different layouts, formats and structures — different fonts and font sizes throughout each report, inconsistent headings and order of information, even different cover pages … and no page numbers on any of the three reports.
People, especially your customers, notice that sort of thing.
Templates eliminate this scenario and promote internal brand awareness as well.
You can make sure that every document your customers receive for, say, a project — from the proposal through to handover — has a consistent and well-presented look, layout and structure, which aids them in reviewing and understanding the content.
And I’ll guarantee your people will feel more confident presenting their work in a fantastic-looking document.
Templates are a smart investment in productivity gains
I’m not going to kid you: developing templates is a considerable investment in time and money. But, it doesn’t have to be a big-bang approach. With some thought and smart planning, you can implement templates in stages.
You just have to make a start and see how they make a difference.
Don’t perpetuate the cycle of spending money on the time people waste preparing documents. And don’t lose money and future business because of poor communication delivered to a customer.
Templates provide support for the authors of your documents and help make sure they produce a consistent product.
And that consistency supports the integrity of your brand.
That’s how your templates — whether you develop them in Microsoft Office or Apple iWorks or OpenOffice — more than pay for themselves.
Templates boost your reputation by aiding the development of better quality documents.
Templates lead to productivity and efficiency gains.
And that means templates save you money.