5 steps to a paperless marketing department

How practical and simple going paperless can be.

pile of paperwork against a textured green cubicle wall 92679985
Credit: Thinkstock

Even if you’re an online marketing company, in your office, there are probably piles and piles of paper. From the frayed calendar to the filing cabinet overflowing with invoices, you’re essentially swimming in paper. So, when someone first mentions the idea of going paperless, it’s okay if your first reaction is to laugh. Once the giggles wear off, though, take the time to learn about just how practical and simple going paperless can be.

The state of corporate paper consumption

While you may feel like your use of paper doesn’t have any tangible impact on the environment or those around you, think again. Just consider the following statistics and see what’s really happening:

  • The average office employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper every single year. For perspective, the average tree produces roughly 8,000 sheets of paper.

  • Nearly half of all printed paper — 45 percent, to be exact — ends up in trash by the end of the day.

  • American companies spend more than $120 billion per year on printed forms, the vast majority of which are outdated within 90 days.

  • Employees spend 30 to 40 percent of their time trying to locate emails and paper files.

  • The average documents gets copied somewhere between 9 and 11 times. For each additional filing cabinet a business fills, it requires another employee to maintain.

  • Misfiled documents cost $125 on average. Lost documents can cost between $350 and $700.

  • More than 70 percent of business would fail within 21 days if they suffered a “catastrophic” loss of paper files and records.

  • The average company doubles their use of paper every 3.3 years.

Are these numbers shocking or do they sound about right? While all of these statistics may not apply to your situation, they are fairly accurate across the board. It’s time that you do something about your dependence on paper, no matter your industry, and begin utilizing the various technologies and resources that now exist.

While going paperless certainly helps the environment — and this is the biggest reason why industries are calling for companies to reduce their dependence on physical documents — there are much more tangible benefits for your company, and specifically your marketing department. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that you’ll spend less time and money storing and retrieving information.

“Think about this: 123 years of National Geographic magazine with high resolution photos, or over 1,400 issues, can be stored on just one flash drive,” entrepreneur Chuck Cohn says. “Paperless filing can easily reduce long-term storage costs for your company, as well as allow you to access information near instantaneously. Rather than spending time hunting for a piece of paper in a filing cabinet, you can pull up a document in a digital database within moments.”

Five ways to start the paperless mission

As you transition into a paperless office, you have to take things slowly and consider all the infrastructural changes that will need to be made — as well as the habits that will have to be transformed. With that being said, here are a handful of ways in which you can begin moving towards a paperless marketing department:

  1. Move documents to the cloud

The first thing you need to do is begin moving documents to the cloud. This should be easy, since the majority of what your marketing department does is online anyway.

Find a cloud storage solution that fits your needs and immediately halt the physical filing of documents.

Once you’re sure all new documents are being stored in the cloud, you can turn your attention to older files. Is it worth it to scan and digitally store them all, or is your time better spent keeping them as-is? You’ll have to determine the answer to this question and proceed accordingly.

  1. Use electronic signatures

If it weren’t for signatures on documents, businesses would be able to eliminate the vast majority of in-house printing. You know how it goes. You send a contract to the client. The client prints off the document, signs it, scans it and emails it back. You then have to print off the same document, sign it, make copies, file the contract, etc. By the time you’re done with the contract, there are multiple copies lying around and you’ve wasted a lot of time. This is where the value of electronic signatures comes into play.

Electronic signatures yield a number of benefits including: cost savings, stronger compliance, shortened approval times, and better overall efficiency. “What’s more, e-signature technology has evolved to meet the needs of organizations by supporting a wide array of capabilities,” says Dilani Silva of eSignLive, “such as user authentication, audit trail management to capture the signer’s activity during the e-signature process, and the ability to integrate with an organization’s existing business applications, just to name a few.”

  1. Set up restrictions

While you can integrate as much technology as you want into your marketing department, you aren’t going to be successful unless you establish some restrictions. In the beginning stages, you can curb bad habits by limiting the number of prints and copies employees can make in a given period.

This forces them to think about everything they print, which ultimately instills a mentality of conservatism. (Though it should be noted that certain employees will need more liberal restrictions than others, depending on their roles.)

  1. Educate employees

Employees have to be on board in order for your migration to a paperless office to work. For starters, they have to understand the reasons behind the change. Simply telling them that it’ll lead to more efficiency isn’t enough. Let employees know exactly what the impact will be.

For example, show your employees how much more efficient the process of approving new marketing materials will be. Explain to them that paperless communication will cut approval times by 35 percent — this is how you get employees to buy in.

Secondly, you have to train employees to use new any new technologies that are implemented. “Members of your organization are familiar with the process of reading a physical document, but software platforms involve interfaces that may be new to some of your staff,” says Cohn. “Ensure your entire team is comfortable with a program’s layout and functionality early in its implementation.”

  1. Reward and incentivize

Employees are creatures of habit. They won’t all take kindly to your decision to go paperless, especially older employees who’ve used paper their entire careers. This is why you need to implement some sort of rewards program to incentivize employees for participation.

Simple prizes and recognition can go a long way towards encouraging good behavior. If you make it a contest, you may even be able to get employees to push each other. While a rewards program can’t be the only motivating factor behind a paperless office, it does give employees the jolt they need to get started.

Make paperless a priority

You won’t be able to go paperless without establishing a concrete strategy and putting forth some effort, but don’t assume that it’s impossible to shift directions. Thanks to an influx of new technologies and solutions, any company — big or small — can begin taking the necessary steps to become less dependent on paper.

In doing so, you’ll not only reduce your carbon footprint, but you’ll also save some money along the way.

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