Tech Profile: ProofHQ
What is ProofHQ, and how did you and your team get started in this field?
ProofHQ is an online proofing solution for marketing teams of any size in any industry who need to deliver marketing projects faster and more efficiently. The product was launched in beta in mid-2008 and a full launch took place in late 2008.
The light bulb moment was at my last company when I saw just how much time people were spending emailing PDF attachments, using FTP to send artwork and even resorting to fax to get feedback on designs. I also saw, that in nearly every company I’ve worked with, the feedback on creative projects was a slow, time-consuming process. A new generation of business collaboration tools that took advantage of the Internet was just starting to take off, and I believed that there was an opportunity to build a web-based application that could significantly streamline the review and approval process for marketing managers and designers.
How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize ProofHQ to create either better end-results or enhance in-house performance?
Marketers and advertising agencies should utilize ProofHQ to streamline their review and approval process for creative content. It works particularly well for projects with a high volume of content, where there are a large number of reviewers or where reviewers are in different locations.
Rather than emailing or manually ‘walking’ hard copy proofs to reviewers for approval, ProofHQ centralizes proofs in the cloud so staff can distribute, review and approve the content online — no emails and no wasteful printing. With simple markup and commenting tools, all discussion happens directly on the virtual proofs and reviewers can visually indicate their intention rather than having to describe everything in words.
Comments are threaded to keep the conversation focused on action items and next best steps. Reviewers have access to proofs anytime, anywhere they have an Internet connection. Also, version-compare tools enable reviewers to view versions of proofs side-by-side and ensure change requests have been made. The auto-compare feature instantly highlights changes made in new versions for faster review.
All of these features add up to a flexible alternative to current review methods and can meet any marketing departments’ technology budget. On average, our customers turn around marketing projects 56 percent faster and have reduced their effort in simply managing proofs by 59 percent.
What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that ProofHQ would fill a void?
The biggest trend has been the rise of multi-channel marketing efforts in which marketers must design or re-purpose content for the various marketing channels that reach customers today: retail stores, web sites, mail-order catalogs, email, social networks, etc. Review and approval is a crucial step in delivering this content. The void was a lack of tools available to manage this process: from distributing proofs, to collecting feedback, to distributing revisions, comparing versions, and finally approving the material.
The traditional way to review proofs, mainly printing hard copies and writing comments on them, is simply not efficient enough to handle large volumes of content. Think about the large amounts of print ads, catalogs, web pages, mobile pages, in-store signage, radio and TV commercials that must be reviewed by an agency before it even goes to a client. Then take into consideration the various reviewers from different departments (marketing, legal, packaging, compliance, etc.) and you quickly realize how complex and cumbersome this process is. Having to print and manually route proofs to all reviewers and collecting all the comments takes an excessive amount of time and resources.
Also, using email and PDF attachments to review proofs requires a lot of bandwidth, and most repurchasing is into media types that cannot be easily emailed (audiovisual, web banners, etc.). In addition, discussions via email eventually get mired in convoluted threads as everyone tries to figure who said what and when. As a result, marketers are now struggling to deliver content on time and according to specification. They are finding that current review and approval processes are old, broken and slow projects down to a crawl.
How does ProofHQ work with other products in order integrate into an agency’s workflow?
ProofHQ integrates with popular tools and applications used by agencies today such as AdobeCreativeSuite, Microsoft Sharepoint and Central Desktop. The integration is seamless so that users can launch a ProofHQ review directly from within these applications. This is especially useful for agencies that use a very process-centric approach to production. For particularly high-volume projects with specific clients, online proofing helps demonstrate good process and efficient delivery.
What types of marketing disciplines can benefit most from utilizing ProofHQ? Creatives, content creators, video production teams, etc.?
All of them. If a piece of creative needs to be reviewed and approved, any marketing discipline can benefit from faster, more cost-effective approval cycles. ProofHQ supports virtually any print, audio-visual and interactive media file.
When dealing with agencies, have you found that the clients they work with are averse to using online proofing? Or do they find it valuable? How does ProofHQ help with client communication, scope of work and setting expectations from an agency point of view?
I don’t think any company, agency or client is averse to getting things done faster and more efficiently.
In fact, agencies and their clients are both experiencing the same problems presented in communicating openly with each other. A recent study showed that nearly 40 percent of companies reported declining to work with an agency because they felt the agency didn’t have the right tools for managing the work and the communication. 41 percent of agencies said a client or prospect had required them to lock a collaboration system in place in order to retain or win an account.
The bottom line is that efficiency bottlenecks occur whether you’re on the agency side or client side of the equation. If an agency sends a proof to a client, the client’s own internal review team still needs to collaborate and review it before sending feedback to the agency. That is a whole other set of eyeballs that have to see it and a whole other set of comments that need to be collected. If one company can say to the other, “We have a way to make this process work a lot smoother so you have more time to handle more pressing issues,” then they see the value almost immediately.
The great thing about ProofHQ is that it can be tailored to fit very specific agency-client relationships. Our experts and support team can analyze an agency’s scope of work and design a tailored workflow that makes managing feedback from clients exponentially easier. Because it simplifies and standardizes roles and processes, it becomes much easier to set expectations with clients.
Mat Atkinson is the founder and CEO of ProofHQ, an online proofing solution for marketing teams of any size in any industry who need to deliver marketing projects faster and more efficiently. ProofHQ is used by thousands of companies across the world, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to individual freelance designers. Before starting ProofHQ, Mat founded Mtivity, which is a software company providing workflow and automation solutions for enterprise marketing teams, agencies and print service providers. Prior to Mtivity, Mat worked in the publishing industry.
Tarah Benner is the associate editor of The Agency Post, where she edits content, researches new technology and writes on industry trends. She's a runner, rower and avid blogger who enjoys curling up on the couch with good pizza and a movie. Her experience includes copywriting, content marketing, digital publishing and writing for the web. You can connect with her on Twitter @TarahBenner or on LinkedIn.