Digital Asset Management – The Complete 2017 Guide

More and more businesses rely on the web to store their files. As a result, Digital Asset Management software has become more popular in recent years.

But what is it, and how can it help you? This is our complete guide on everything you need to know about DAM.

digital asset management

Put simply, DAM is software that allows businesses to store, organize, share and retrieve their digital files. Typically, DAM programmes will be centralised, allowing everyone in the company to access images, photos, audio and so forth from different locations.

Digital Asset Management is actually quite a broad term covering a number of different software packages. A small company’s photos stored on the cloud is, essentially, a form of DAM. However, the term is usually used for software serving larger companies, especially those that are global.

Is it really needed, or is it over-complicating something simple?

Good question. To some people, DAM is unnecessary. However, there are a lot of benefits to offering employees one access point for all of their company’s digital content.

Some of the main benefits include:

  • It’s usually quicker. One of the primary benefits of DAM is speed. Users will usually be able to find the file they’re looking for instantly. This can be a real time saver for employees that rely heavily on this content (such as those in marketing or sales).
  • It helps employees stay on brand. It can be deceptively tough for modern businesses to stick to their brand, especially across multiple channels managed by different people. Putting all digital files in one place gives anyone creating new documents everything they need to ensure consistency, and to guarantee professionalism in terms of presentation.
  • It can be integrated into other software. Most DAM software can be integrated into CMS or design software, which can save a lot of hours in the long term.
  • It reduces the risk of losing or misplacing work. Being able to store website files, client work, previous pitches, marketing materials and other assets in one place makes it almost impossible to lose them, which definitely isn’t the case when files are stored on individual computers.
  • It can help improve marketing intelligence. The ability to measure ROI on marketing investments is essential to success, and most DAM software includes full tracking and reporting capabilities. As a result, companies can look at their various digital assets – videos, images, marketing documents – and see which ones produce the best ROI. As a result, the most effective assets can be put to greater use.
  • It can benefit third parties. It’s likely that your marketing will at some point require third-party participation. External agencies or freelancers, for example. A company-wide rule that all marketing assets be taken from the DAM software is another way to ensure everything remains on-brand, even when those people working on behalf of your company aren’t direct employers.

digital asset management

So, given these benefits, where can DAM be used effectively? Which departments can benefit?

Content marketing

With content marketing becoming more and more invaluable in a world where paid sales costs continue to become more saturated, DAM software can help you get ahead.

The thing about content marketing as a whole is that it is often managed by multiple people in multiple departments, with freelancers also often involved.

DAM software can act as your central depository for everything your marketing teams might need to use or reference in their work:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Whitepapers and case studies
  • Logos
  • Landing page designs

In short, every one of the company’s documents can be kept in one place, and you won’t have to worry about constantly having to provide materials to staff.

(Having your own library of documents is also far more effective than having to rely on finding royalty-free images online, where rights issues can be fiddly.)

Sales

DAM isn’t a sales tool, as such, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help your sales team become more efficient.

As with content marketing, your sales staff will need to refer to facts, figures, your company’s portfolio of previous work and a number of other materials as part of the sales process.

By being able to access whatever they need immediately, sales staff will be able to work with more speed and flexibility: they won’t have to wait for other staff members to send them what they need.

In a world of cut-throat competition, having to wait a day to access materials could be the difference between losing the sale and closing it.

It’s also possible for sales staff to create what’s called a ‘collection’ through DAM software: a dynamic page that they can send prospects to, where the sales rep can add any documents or information they think might help the sale move forward.

digital asset management

Agency collaboration and partners

We’ve half mentioned this point above, but it’s worth re-iterating.

It’s quite rare for any business to exist in a complete vacuum, especially in today’s communication heavy world. A lot of modern firms rely on freelancers, or form partnerships with other businesses.

DAM can be a great way of streamlining this process by ensuring that the brand messages are in one easy-to-access place.

A company working white-label, for instance, can obtain everything they need to create documents, images, designs and so forth whilst sticking religiously to their client’s own colour scheme, fonts and styles.

Alternatively, if one company buys another out, the business purchased can quickly adopt the more senior firm’s presentation with little fuss: a process that might have taken a few months otherwise.

Which brings us onto…

Branding in terms of hours

An effective brand can be the difference between success and failure.

(Just ask Apple.)

However, the key to ensuring brand effectiveness is consistency. Everything must be maintained to an exacting standard across the board.

If you’re promoting within a number of marketing channels (on and offline), you need to ensure that everything we’ve already mentioned (colors, fonts, design styles) is the same, whether you’re working on:

  • Events
  • Print brochures
  • Digital marketing

And so on.

The trouble is, this can be tough. Especially if you’re growing fast and taking on new staff: ensuring consistency is a thankless task in a large work-force!

DAM can help, by providing one single source of information and materials that all new starters and other staff can be pointed to as soon as they start creating materials.

Essentially, in branding terms, DAM can act as a training manual of sorts. Whenever new staff are unsure about your message and materials, you can refer them to the database.

This can save a huge amount of man hours over the long-term: hours that a growing business could better use elsewhere.

Giving all employees access to relevant information

Ensuring synergy between different departments can be tough in any company. Different staff, different managers, different processes…

Keeping everyone working towards the same end goal can be tough. In a digital agency, for instance, it can be quite easy to let things lapse, leading to developers and designers not working with the content and copy teams in mind.

The result is projects that end up worse than the sum of their parts.

By ensuring that all project information is in one place, you stand a better chance of making sure everyone’s working towards exactly the same target.

Information you can share includes:

  • Brand best practise
  • Product/Website briefs from the client
  • The requirements of each department
  • Project management dates and deadlines

And so on.

If teams share and work from the same information sources, they’re more likely to achieve the end goals.

digital asset management

As with any new software or technology, businesses can use it in the right way…or not.

There are certain pitfalls any company considering the use of DAM will need to avoid, and we’ll go through them here. Steer clear of these, and you’ll be better off as a result.

Not using DAM as a reason for change

One of the dangers comes from simply trying to shoehorn DAM into your existing business plans without altering any of the existing processes.

The point of using DAM software is to become more efficient through automating and streamlining the way you work. By not using it as a catalyst for change, the software is almost wasted.

Instead, take the time to look at your processes with new eyes. Work out from the start how you can use it to make your work better.

Overly focusing on technical issues

Whenever any new software is introduced, it can be tempting to overly focus on the technical side of things, and that’s definitely the case with DAM systems.

Many companies get caught up in a cycle of worrying about the system. What happens if it goes down? What if some areas of the business can’t access it? And so on.

Don’t get too caught up. Obviously ensure everything is backed up effectively, but focus on the positives DAM can bring rather than the negatives. You don’t need a whole technical team to manage the system.

digital asset management

Letting one section of the business have total control

It’s important to ensure that the overall management of the technology is spread across every department. Because DAM is primarily a marketing tool, some companies make the error of giving final say to the creative department.

However, this is a mistake. Obviously one or two people must hold responsibility, but all departments that’ll be using the Digital Asset Management software should have a say in its implementation, including:

  • Email
  • Social media
  • Print
  • Offline and print advertising
  • Sales

As well as any others.

There must be a compromise across departments if the software is to be effective for everyone.

Not deploying metadata effectively

This is more of a practical mistake, but it can have a big impact on how much value you get from your Digital Asset Management software,

In order for employees to find the media files – especially when accessing them remotely – you’ll need to make sure that anyone adding files understands just how important metadata is.

Five minutes spent adding in-depth metadata will save hours of wasted time trying to locate the file later on!

Not filtering what goes in

We’ve emphasized the benefits of employees all having access to the right materials, and how this can improve branding.

However, the key to ensuring this happens is to restrict the number of people who’re allowed to add files to the database.

For instance, if two designers – in-house and a freelancer- were to upload logos, it might be that there are a few differences between the designs. Minor changes that the public might not notice, but a potential client would.

One of your sales team sends a report using the first logo to a client, and then a colleague of theirs sends a follow-up document using the other. The prospect notices, and becomes concerned about your businesses’ focus on detail.

So, you lose the sale.

All you need to do is make sure that every file added is filtered through one or two staff members whose duty is simply to make sure there is total consistency.

If anyone’s allowed to upload new files, you can be almost certain of a drop in quality eventually.