The perfect path to a DAM solution that suits your needs
The day has finally arrived …
Your organization has outgrown the technologies you currently use for content storage and sharing. At one point, solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, flash drives and local hard drives may have worked well enough. But now your visual content (digital assets) is busting at the seams and you’re seriously considering digital asset management (DAM) software.
Sound familiar? Then you’ve found this article at the right time.
To gain the best value and usage from all your visual content, you’ll need to be able to handle that content much more effectively and efficiently — and a robust DAM system can go a long way in doing just that, even when dealing with hundreds of thousands of assets.
A quick DAM definition
A digital asset management system is a centralized repository where you can easily store, organize, search for, access, and deliver content. DAM makes it possible to quickly locate assets, and ensure that the right asset can be found at the right time, by the right person — for the right purpose. As you’ll soon see, if you work with copious amounts of visual content, and distribute to multiple audiences across several channels, a DAM solution offers remarkable benefits.
(If this quick definition wasn’t enough, check out DAM Basics.)
That being said, don’t Google “best DAM solutions” and set up demos just yet. Why? Because evaluating DAM systems and vendors at this stage is not the best use of your time. Any investment in technology requires you to follow an established process, a roadmap to making an informed decision that suits your organization, culture, and business objectives. In other words, you’ve got to understand exactly what you need out of a DAM system before you start trying them out.
This is why we’ve created “The Perfect Path to a DAM Solution that Suits Your Needs,” to help you along this journey.
What you’ll learn from this DAM article
First and foremost, our objective is to give you clarity and understanding on your DAM journey.
A central concept of content marketing is to first understand your customers — who they are, how you connect with them, what types of content they want to see and when. Every marketing decision you make must relate back to this objective, and it should also help you understand which DAM system is best for you — for two reasons:
- You’ll want to make sure it’s going to work well for your internal customers (your teams).
- And be able to handle and deliver content in a way that’s appealing to your external customers, too.
To help you determine this, we’ll examine the following:
- Your front- and back-end content strategy (and how DAM can help)
- How DAM supports content management strategy
- Your current situation vs. the desired state
- The value of using a DAM Decision Toolkit
- Important questions for assessing your DAM system needs
- Use cases: going beyond functional requirements
- Vendor “asks”
Whether you’re taking the leap with your first DAM solution, or are upgrading your system, the following information will make the decision-making process less daunting and more productive …
1. Your “front-end” content strategy (and how DAM can help)
A front-end content strategy approach is focused on the customer’s experience, and creating content that meets — or exceeds — their expectations. When looking at DAM solutions, consider the features you’ll need to help you manage critical front-end tasks that help you get to know your target audience and deliver what they want.
In section 5 of this article, we’ll help you along with this by sharing some important questions for assessing your DAM needs. But right now, let’s dive deeper into content strategy and how DAM can help …
Customer personas and the customer journey
Having an in-depth understanding of customers is key to driving content creation from the front-end strategy perspective, so develop a few customer personas. These fictionalized representations of your customer base help “internalize” buyers so you know how to relate to — and ultimately attract — real humans.
Coinciding with a customer persona is the journey that person takes through various experiences and touchpoints with your organization. The journey may be something like visiting a landing page, filling out a form, or something major like scheduling a product demonstration. Mapping the customer journey through the eyes of your personas helps you position the right content at the right time.
Customer Needs and Business Strategy
Through personas and mapping the customer journey, you gain a glimpse into customer needs, which drive your front-end content strategy. The intersection of a particular persona with a point along the customer journey map gives insight as to what that buyer needs at that moment.
A successful business strategy is developed around an awareness of customer needs, at every stage along the way to making a purchase. Here’s an overview of the 5 major customer needs:
Need identification: Topics shared with potential clients, as they’re just recognizing a need, should be relevant, but broad. Use blogging and infographics, distributed through social media, to accomplish this.
Research: An organization has identified its needs and wants to educate themselves about potential solutions. Email campaigns and newsletters are ideal for providing answers and solving problems.
Assessing options: Here, an organization wants to compare you with competitors. Whitepapers and e-books effectively highlight product features and benefits, and what problems a product solves.
Making the purchase: Options have been narrowed down, and a decision is close at hand. Here, your content should highlight how you solve pain points like nobody else (being truthful, of course). Custom demos, videos, podcasts, etc., show customers how your offering eases their business pain.
Post-purchase support: Initial and ongoing training, support, user groups, and case studies are engaging, relevant topics for post-purchase content. Just keep on solving customer problems!
By following these examples your front-end content strategy will consistently deliver useful information that meets (and often exceeds) customer needs during each respective phase.
How DAM software helps
Here are a handful of the key DAM features that translate directly into strategic benefits:
- DAM software can assist with customer persona management, so you can enhance experiences along the customer journey.
- It can also help you better understand the needs of your customers as they’re proceeding through the decision-making process — giving you insight on the type of content and topics they’re seeking at that time.
- DAM is a content management hub — providing centralized management of assets that are organized, tagged with metadata and EASY to find!
- Relevant solutions include search capabilities that will bring up targeted results when you’re looking for a specific type of asset, saving your team valuable time.
- Create user profiles with permissions, ensuring assets end up in the right hands.
1.5. Your “back-end” content strategy (and how DAM can help)
Your back-end strategy also treats content as a business asset and aims for a scalable approach to content, but it differs from the front-end style due to its focus on technology.
Structure, automation, hardware and software — and DAM — are the bread and butter of a content strategist (also referred to as a digital librarian). When you focus on the back-end of marketing, your goal is to find ways to use technology to manage content in the most efficient, compelling way possible. The more compelling, the easier it is to get buy in from team members who may be resistant to change.
Back-end content strategists concentrate on the how of asset organization: storage, retrieval, automation, structure, etc. — and digital asset management provides tools to handle each of these tasks. The result is saved time for EVERYONE who handles assets, as it only takes moments to find what you’re looking for — instead of minutes, or even hours.
Here’s a quick look at some of the processes/strategies a content strategist is concerned with:
Content Models: The standards used for organizing information is called the content model, and it’s a critical component of one’s overall marketing strategy. That’s why we’ve created the Content Activation Model (CAM):
Versioning: Sometimes you’ll need to share the same asset, over-and-over, but with variations to it. This is called versioning, and DAM is extremely adept at creating versions.
Metadata: Often referred to as data about data, metadata often includes fields of information like metadata type, keywords, story, description, content source, and more.
CMS (Content Management System) Structure: Back-end content strategies focus on CDA, which supports management and distribution of assets that are already in the CMA.
Automation Requirements: The integrity of the tasks that make up a process must be solid in order for automation to work. If the process is flawed, the end result will be, too.
Delivery Requirements: Digital librarians have a keen interest in content delivery because of the resource requirements, especially when working with bandwidth-heavy assets and large content files.
2. How DAM software helps
To follow are some of the ways digital asset management assists with your back-end content strategy:
- Content modeling is managed by the DAM system, eliminating inefficiencies created by editors having to structure content according to an organization’s requirements.
- Versioning makes variations easily identifiable to users. It also ensures all related assets are catalogued together with the latest at the top of the list.
- Metadata clearly defines and indexes assets within the DAM system, ensuring you can easily find the content you need.
- DAM can integrate with an existing CMS to support current CDA distribution workflows, acting as a single source of truth to help better manage content after it’s created.
- When automating certain tasks, DAM can assist with documenting workflows and identifying inefficiencies that must be resolved before automation will work properly.
- You can use DAM to customize delivery across multiple channels, eliminating the need for team members to manually post or distribute individual files to multiple locations.
3. Document current situation vs. the desired state
Before choosing a digital asset management system for your company, you need a firm grasp on your current situation so you know what you want out of the new desired state.
After evaluating your front- and back-end content strategy requirements, and seeing how DAM can help support those roles, you need to:
- Work through the DAM decision journey
- Make sure you understand the basics
- Take advantage of handy tools to determine the very best option for your business
Let’s take a closer look at these three components …
The DAM decision journey
You’re probably familiar with the buyer’s journey for your own customers, but now it’s all about you and your decision-making process for identifying and investing in a DAM system that fits your brand, organizational culture, and business to a “T.”
The following steps can help you do this:
- Strategize: Consider the needs of the people that will be using DAM. Conduct interviews with team members to identify current sticking points and what they’re looking for in a DAM system.
- Research: Review whitepapers and articles about DAM. Research industry reports for more info on the range of options available. Talk with existing DAM users and attend a DAM conference!
- Justify: As the vendor field narrows, you’ll need to calculate ROI as you’re prepare to make the case for DAM to stakeholders.
- Evaluate: Make a checklist of all your organization’s specific needs. Compare the list to the handful of DAM solutions you’re still considering to determine if there is a forerunner.
4. The DAM Decision Toolkit
Our toolkit can help you stay on track as you search for the ideal DAM solution. The toolkit builds upon the four steps mentioned above for the decision-making process to:
- Provide insight into the challenges of your current state
- Provide your goals and vision of the future
The toolkit also features:
- A DAM Solution Checklist of what to do before, during, and post-implementation
- A DAM Solution Progress Tracker that allows you to provide status updates, check off completed items, indicate due dates, and more
- A Price Comparison Calculator to help you compare prices and calculate ROI
Download the free DAM Decision Toolkit from Widen.
5. Important questions for assessing your DAM software needs
Earlier, we talked about defining your DAM needs, and here are some questions to help you do just that. Be sure to discuss with all involved team members and stakeholders, encouraging thorough answers for deeper insights …
Questions for the team:
- What types of digital assets does your team use on a regular basis?
- Who creates the different types of assets for your organization?
- What is the approval process for finalizing your content assets?
- After approval, what follows for your content?
- Where and how are your content assets stored?
- Who fulfills the request if someone needs to access an asset? Identify all the parties involved and each step of the workflow.
- How are digital assets delivered when requested?
- What policies, standards, or guidelines are in place for usage once an asset is delivered?
- Where and how do you store original files and subsequent versions?
- How do you manage expired or outdated asset storage?
Questions for the organization:
- Goals: Are you seeking a DAM solution for marketing, web content, asset preservation, etc.?
- Current Assets: What are your existing standards on content analysis and rights? Will you be managing images, graphics, videos, text, or other formats?
- Metadata and Taxonomy: How do you identify and define your assets to gain maximum searchability? Is search even important to your organization?
- Management: Do you have a DAM champion or evangelist for change management and aligning DAM with your strategic goals?
- Workflow Issues: How do you use workflow modeling and is there a solid process in place?
- Preservation of Assets: Do you have needs to preserve assets beyond typical workflow cycles? Do you have a set of formats and standards in place other than your metadata and taxonomy?
- Legal: Are there specific licensing requirements for your content assets? Do you need to manage permissions, roles, and security within your organization?
As you’re answer these questions, look to identify the stages of your workflow where you have limited control over content creation, management, distribution, and/or preservation. These trouble areas should be addressed before you establish DAM functional requirements.
6. Use Cases: Going Beyond Functional Requirements
Your functional requirements demonstrate your needs on paper, while use cases clarify, organize, and put these requirements into action in a real-life environment.
Create Use Cases That Illustrate Your Needs
You’ll need to develop use cases when evaluating DAM vendors to see whether their solution will be sufficient to meet your goals. When creating these scenarios, ask relevant questions like:
- Who is using the system and how?
The answer will help you understand the needs of different users in connection with their role in content creation, as well as the key details of their workflow.
- How do you want to manage your information?
Here, you’ll need to consider system structure, taxonomy, the role of metadata, purging, archiving, and content variations. Do you prefer cloud-based DAM, or localized?
- What deliverables and results do you want to produce?
ROI can be “soft” or “hard,” so consider your priorities:
- Soft ROI: Includes increased productivity of team members and brand consistency.
- Hard ROI: Includes lowering costs, reducing workflow inefficiencies, and discovering new revenue sources.
Provide Sample Content That Illustrates Your Needs
Use cases need to manage the same types of content users will interact with on a regular basis, so ask:
- What types of content do you want to create, manage, and deliver?
Your content types will probably include images, graphics, videos, 3D models, and text.
- How do you want to address the breadth and complexity of your materials?
Certain unique, complex content — like 3D models and associated information — will need special handling or customization by a DAM vendor.
7. Vendor “Asks”
Finally! You’ve narrowed down the field of potential DAM vendors.
Now it’s time to turn ask these potential vendors a thing or two (or three) …
It’s not advisable to make a considerable investment in technology like a DAM system without talking to the people who have traveled down the same path as your organization. Request at least three references, preferably organizations similar to yours in size and scope.
Consider a Demo or Proposal
The basic goal of requesting a demo or proposal is to find out more about the provider and learn whether the system can meet your needs. However, there are subtleties you should be aware of when deciding on a vendor.
- Request for Proposal (RFP): Typically, your accounting department would issue multiple RFPs and compare them to make a budget-related decision. In a marketer’s world, they can be useful for evaluating the tools and features that are included in the solution implementation. But price is only one part of the equation. (Find out more here.)
- Request for Demo (RFD): This approach may provide a more thorough means of assessing a DAM system as compared to an RFP. You can request real user scenarios and provide a potential script to see how the solution performs designated tasks. (Find out more here.)
Support and Consulting Requirements
Another critical factor in your decision should include assessment of how the DAM vendor will handle the post-implementation process. Training users on essential features will be a priority. Plus, you’ll need ongoing support and may want to arrange consulting in the future, so the vendor you choose needs to offer exemplary, long-term customer support.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the perfect path to a DAM solution that suits your needs. We hope you feel more clear about the steps you need to take on your DAM journey.
Need more info?
Have questions or need additional information? Feel free to get in touch with us anytime! We’re always happy to talk about digital asset management!