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ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency

In this blog post, we will cover the documentations that is needed for ISO 9001:2015 Certification Process by a local service company, specifically for a marketing agency.

It is good to note that the content within this blog post can be used by all service companies, for the their fundamental operations are similar.

Mandatory Documents for the ISO Certification Process

  • Scope of the QMS (clause 4.3) – here we will define the boundaries of the QMS. We’ll briefly explain the activities of the company.

To provide digital and off-line marketing services.

Scope of the QMS
  • Quality policy (clause 5.2) – a worthy vision that the company strives to achieve through the combined effort of all employees. Therefore, the content of the quality policy must be the real vision of leadership, and it must be effectively communicated with all staff.

Marketing Ltd. provides digital and off-line marketing services.

The company will strive to implement gradual improvements throughout it’s processes as a commitment to continual improvement.

Data from processes, and perceptions from interested parties will be used to ensure that the targets for the company are met, and that customer’s expectations are met.

Leadership shall be the driver for such improvement, by providing communication channels with team members, and customers.

To achieve this objective, Marketing Ltd. has development a Operations Plan that is compliant to ISO9001:2015 within the following scope:

To provide digital & off-line marketing services.

The Quality Control systems and procedures contained in the and referred to in the Quality Manual are mandatory and binding to all staff within Marketing Ltd.

Quality Policy

Quality Objectives for this year:

Have a close ratio of 1:5 for number of clients vs number of proposals issued

Have an 85% accuracy on the man hours required for each project with a client

Generate 25% of our revenue through repeat customers (implying an excellent service from our end)

Receive less than 2 formal complaints from clients

Get more than 250% ROI to our clients for the investment they make in our services

Quality Objectives
  • Criteria for evaluation and selection of suppliers (clause 8.4.1) – as an agency, Marketing Ltd. subcontracts all of it’s tactical marketing work to specialists in their field, including Social Media, PR, etc. This Clause in ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency is therefore very important to ensure a high quality service.

Marketing Ltd chooses it’s supplier by the following criteria:

1. Whenever a new service is required, the company shall seek to find contacts of reliable professionals within their network.

2. The contacts received shall be screened through the following criteria:

– Product Quality – (i) evaluating the portfolio of work done (ii) asking all suppliers to provide a solution for a case study that will be implement as in-house marketing activities for Marketing Ltd.

– Time – (i) note will be taken on the promptness of replies to e-mail sent by Marketing Ltd. team members (ii) the total period of time required for the supplier to effectively deliver the solution.

– Value for money – (i) the return on investment from the marketing activities generated by all suppliers will be compared to find the best performing (Marketing Ltd. isn’t about being the cheapest, but rather about delivering the best results – described in the quality objectives)

Criteria for Evaluation of a Supplier

Mandatory Records

The following is a list of mandatory records for ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency.

  • Monitoring and measuring equipment calibration records* (clause 7.1.5.1) – for a service business, effectively, this refers to software that the company uses. For off-the-shelf software, it is important to keep back-ups of the data within the software. Should custom-made software be built for the company, a rigorous software validation process must be undertaken. We strongly suggest to avoid the latter, and use a reliable, off-the-shelf software. There’s surely enough software out there to cater for all your needs.
  • Records of training, skills, experience and qualifications (clause 7.2) – based on the job descriptions, certain skills and experience will be required. Within Marketing Ltd. since the tactical work will be done by subcontractors, only operational skills will be needed. It is important to create a training plan for newly recruited employees who must be made familiar with (i) the quality policy and objectives (ii) their role within the oragnisation (iii) on-the-job training on how to perform their role. The project leaders are assigned on a case-by-case basis, and a 1-2-1 training session must be done to ensure they know their role within the project.
  • Product/service requirements review records (clause 8.2.3.2) – the worst Quality Issue that could happen in any organisation is to have the customer saying “that’s not what we agreed to”. This Clause neatly solves this issue. No matter how simple the job is, we should create a proposal. The proposals can be simple templates that are modified with appropriate potential client details. Or can be elaborate, and developed as per the client’s requirements.
  • Records relating to the design and development activities can be omitted. This is because the product that is offered to clients is relatively off the shelf. The product is ‘designed’ with the client in the sales process, when the customer requirements are defined. In the case of a manufacturing company, whereby the design of the product needs to go through technical (engineering design) these records must be created. A similar scenario would be of an IT company that designs and implements large IT infrastructures for their clients whereby many variables come into play. Or a software company, that needs to design an intricate software as per the client requirements from scratch. If, on the other hand, the software company will simply modify an existing software (such as a platform), then the design and development records are not required, and Clause 8.3 can be excluded from the scope of certification.
    • Record about design and development outputs review* (clause 8.3.2)
    • Records about design and development inputs* (clause 8.3.3)
    • Records of design and development controls* (clause 8.3.4)
    • Records of design and development outputs *(clause 8.3.5)
    • Design and development changes records* (clause 8.3.6)
  • Characteristics of product to be produced and service to be provided (clause 8.5.1) – clause 8.2.3.2 already begins to tackle this by identifying the characteristics of the product. A client folder can be created (hard/soft copy) to store this information. All working documents must be then stored within the same folder. Moreover, a structured folder system within the e-mail handler, will help to store all communication with the client, and service providers. The documents available or the e-mail communication must demonstrated that the results promised were achieved.
  • Records about customer property (clause 8.5.3) – customers will need to send us material of the products and services they would like us to promote. Marketing Ltd. will use Google Forms to store such information. This will be done to ensure that we exercise care with property belonging to the customers. Google servers are much more secure than custom-built servers could ever be.
  • Production/service provision change control records (clause 8.5.6) – changes are part of the game. It is normal for Marketing Ltd. to have it’s customer requirements change mid-project. Any changes relating to the product deliverable, and/or the finances will need to be recorded. To that effect, a new and updated proposal must be issued to the client.
  • Record of conformity of product/service with acceptance criteria (clause 8.6) – simply put this refers to project completion. Due to the nature of the work, there isn’t one particular moment that the project is deemed as completed. Therefore once all work has been delivered, a customer feedback form will be required from each of the customers, to rate our efforts.
  • Record of nonconforming outputs (clause 8.7.2) – whenever an issue occurs, Marketing Ltd. keeps a documented record on the progression of this ‘lesson learnt’. Trello is used to tackle this nonconformity now, and to ensure that the issue doesn’t repeat itself. For those who really want to improve their service business through ISO 9001, this is a gold mine! You can use this for any internal / customer / supplier issues, and it will be your main dashboard for continually improving specific areas within your business. That in the long term, will have a big impact.
  • Monitoring and measurement results (clause 9.1.1) – the goal here is to reflect the quantitative and qualitative performance of the QMS. Meaning that the results of the processes will need to be monitored. The most important results that will be obtained by Marketing Ltd. have already been defined in the Quality Objectives, above.

Have a close ratio of 1:5 for number of clients vs number of proposals issued – determined through Zoho (CRM)

Have an 85% accuracy on the man hours required for each project with a client – determined through TimeCamp (timesheet software)

Generate 25% of our revenue through repeat customers (implying an excellent service from our end) – determined through Zoho (CRM)

Receive less than 2 formal complaints from clients – determined through Trello (whereby we record Non-conformities)

Get more than 250% ROI to our clients for the investment they make in our services – determined through the product review document (carried out 6 months after completion of a project)

Monitoring, Measurement, Analysis, and Evaluation
  • Internal audit program (clause 9.2) – an internal audit is the way through which the standard encourages us to be responsible for the smooth running of the QMS. Here we give a systematic and independent assessment of the effectiveness of the key processes of the organisation. Marketing Ltd. has a plan (noted as a repeating task on Google Calendar) to perform an Internal Audit twice in a year.
  • Results of internal audits (clause 9.2) – As part of the internal audit, the auditor shall record all reference to documented information that has been analysed. The most critical part of the internal audit is to have a discussion between the lead auditor and leadership on suggestions for improvement that should be action. These improvement ideas should be noted within Trello, building up on the info we get in Clause 8.7.2 – Record of nonconforming outputs
  • Results of the management review (clause 9.3) – all successful leaders have intelligent conversations with their sub-ordinates. Their commitment to improvement drives them to continually monitor the progress against the set goals. During the management review we will (i) determine and evaluate the performance of the Quality Objectives (ii) determine the need for change and improvement (iii) determine the suitability of the policies and the objectives.

Marketing Ltd. will do a management review twice a year, following the idea that ‘little and often is best’. Internal and external issues should be discussed, including the potential effect on the organisation. The inputs of the Management Review meeting are:

– review items pending from previous meetings

– quality objectives

– review the context of the organisation and note any changes

– review of the risk management items, including adding / removing risks / opportunities (6.1)

– possible changes that might effect the management system (6.3)

– the performance of experience providers and suppliers (8.4)

– customer satisfaction and perception (9.1.2)

– Audit results (9.2)

– Status of Non-conformities and corrective actions (10.2)

The output of the Management Review meeting is a list of actions for improvement that will be duly noted in Non-conformities and corrective actions (10.2) and scheduled to action.

Management Review
  • Results of corrective actions (clause 10.1) – this has already been tackled in: Record of nonconforming outputs (clause 8.7.2)

Non-mandatory Documents for ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency

Some of these documents will help you run ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency in the smoothest way possible

  • Procedure for determining context of the organization and interested parties (clauses 4.1 and 4.2) – once the context of the organisation is clearly defined, little changes should occur over time. The first version of the context will be used as a basis for any changes to the context of the organisation. This will be discussed during the MRM as it is one of the topics on the agenda.
  • Procedure for addressing risks and opportunities (clause 6.1) – Trello is used to track all tasks relating to Marketing Ltd. Therefore, there is no need for a procedure on how to handle risks and opportunities. Tasks will be actioned in between Management Review meetings. Progress will be noted during the MRMs, within Trello.
  • Procedure for competence, training and awareness (clauses 7.1.2, 7.2 and 7.3) – being a growing company, Marketing Ltd. has decided to create a procedure relating to the recruitment of (i) operational staff (ii) project leaders.
  • Procedure for equipment maintenance and measuring equipment (clause 7.1.5) – all software used by Marketing Ltd. runs on the cloud. Only world-class software is used, this means that all software is continually updated by the software provider. Therefore this procedure isn’t needed.
  • Procedure for document and record control (clause 7.5) – a shared soft copy filing system is available for Marketing Ltd. Moreover, the system of naming the files yy-mm-dd as the first characters in any file name, ensure that every is constantly using the latest version. Finally, all changes to documents are only done by the company director, and team members do no have the authority to change the existing templates unless with the director’s approval. Therefore a procedure for document control isn’t needed.
  • Sales procedure (clause 8.2) – a procedure is required relating to the selling of (i) off-the-shelf products and (ii) tailored products. The procedure shall include the creation of the product details.
  • Procedure for design and development (clause 8.3) – as explained above, this Clause will be excluded from the scope of certification.
  • Procedure for production and service provision (clause 8.5) – a procedure is required relating to the selling of (i) off-the-shelf products and (ii) tailored products. The procedure shall include the booking of the service provider to deliver the service.
  • Warehousing procedure (clause 8.5.4) – this Clause will be excluded from the scope of certification.
  • Procedure for management of nonconformities and corrective actions (clauses 8.7 and 10.2) – Using Trello, we have a checklist of tasks that we go through to handle non-conformities. This facilitates the process of handling NCs and therefore a procedure isn’t required.
  • Procedure for monitoring customer satisfaction (clause 9.1.2) – Provided that we will collect feedback from each and every customer we serve, we don’t need a documented procedure. Naturally, it is important to analyse all the data received, and ensure that it readily available for Management Reviews.
  • Procedure for internal audit (clause 9.2) – not needed as this can be handled by your consultant who’ll ease your ISO 9001 implementation process for a service company, and maintain a healthy stream of ideas for improvement rushing into your business.
  • Procedure for management review (clause 9.3) – not needed, provided that the information relating to the quality objectives is readily available, and that Trello is constantly updated with status of improvement action items.

Thank you for your time in reading this overview of an implementation of ISO 9001 for a Marketing Agency. If you’d like more information, or a Quote for ISO 9001 Certification by a consultant based in Malta, get in touch.

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