Most marketing managers would prefer to spend 90% of their time on marketing and 10% on management. Unfortunately, the real-world marketing manager’s experience is exactly the opposite. Marketing projects come in a broad variety from weekly blog posts to collateral production to global product launches. This variety requires marketing managers to leverage an equally broad set of marketing project management tools. Small marketing projects require innovation and agility. Repetitive, high volume marketing projects require process standardization and automation. And, big bang marketing projects can require all the skills of a certified project management professional.
Who has time to master it all when you have to get that email campaign out the door? As a career CMO, I’ve had to think a lot about how to produce great marketing without getting bogged down by management. Here are ten marketing project management tips to help you get the job done.
When building a ship or implementing a software system, the project manager’s primary goal is largely self-defining, i.e., build a ship or implement a software system, respectively. However, the marketing project manager’s goal in building a website or producing an industry event is never the project itself. A marketing project is always a means to a larger end, such as generating new business, driving upsells or increasing brand loyalty. Given the fast-paced, frantic nature of most marketing departments, it is easy to get bogged down in the details of day-to-day project management and lose track of the higher strategic goal. Over time, this kind of “strategic drift” can kill your marketing performance. Campaigns lose cohesion, messages wander, and managers spend too much time on low impact projects. Link marketing projects to marketing strategy to reinforce strategic alignment, while maintaining agility and autonomy.
Modern marketing departments live and die by the numbers. While each marketing project rolls up to a higher strategic goal, those lofty strategic goals invariably have hard numbers attached to them, such as leads and revenue. And, those numbers invariably roll back down to individual campaigns in the form of impressions, clicks, attendees, articles and so forth. Whenever possible, you should link marketing work to marketing performance. I say “whenever possible,” because frankly sometimes it is simply impossible to do this. Brand awareness, trial and purchase are more often than not the result of many marketing interactions. That said, sometimes it’s pretty clear exactly how many leads and orders you got from an email campaign or a trade show. And, to the extent that the ultimate marketing results are not clear, there are almost always meaningful interim metrics such as visitors, attendees and clicks that can be linked directly to the marketing projects that produced them.
In many businesses, as much as 50% of marketing as a discipline happens outside the marketing department. Sales reps convert leads to sales. Engineers design products to meet customer needs. Support reps build brand loyalty. As a result, everybody wants something from the marketing department and marketers cannot do their jobs without broad collaboration throughout the company. Facilitate collaboration with marketing stakeholders by publishing marketing plans and marketing results. From a marketing project management perspective, it’s essential to build buy-in up front, so that stakeholders are motivated to work with marketing to produce better results and have fact-based expectations about marketing performance.
Innovation is essential to great marketing. However, you can’t rush creativity. Just because you need a breakthrough campaign idea doesn’t guarantee that you will have it. Alternatively, great marketing ideas routinely fall by the wayside, because on any given day most marketing managers already have more work to do than they can possibly get done. Keep a global backlog of marketing ideas, so that you don’t lose track of the good ideas, and you are always working on the best ideas. Plus, you can harness the creative power of your entire organization by encouraging people outside of marketing to contribute to the marketing idea backlog.
Agile marketing is a new marketing management approach that encourages you to break big projects up into smaller incremental optimizations that are organized into weekly or monthly “sprints.” Applied correctly, agile marketing can dramatically increase marketing output, reduce project delays and enable continuous improvement. Agile marketing is a powerful tool, but like every tool you need to know when and how to use it. Agile marketing projects must naturally break up into independent increments and they must be executed either by individuals or tightly integrated work teams, otherwise your agile team will constantly get bogged down in bottlenecks and delays. Ongoing marketing campaigns such as website optimization, content marketing, and PR story pitching are perfect candidates for agile marketing methodologies. Major trade shows and product launches, not so much. If your marketing team is small, agile marketing may apply to just about everything you do, because the size of your team puts a natural constraint on the size of your projects.
If you like these ten tips, and are interested in more advanced education in marketing project management, check out the latest Markodojo Marketing Project Management eBook on building breakout marketing teams.
Marketing projects often involve the contributions of many individuals with diverse skill sets. A marketing deliverable, such as a brochure or email campaign, is built up one step at time by each contributor, e.g., strategy, copy, design, production, and delivery. Bad hand-offs create useless iterations, rework and delays. Clean hand-offs increase marketing agility and efficiency. Standardize the information, timing, deliverables and expectations around each critical hand-off to eliminate miscommunication. By focusing on the hand-offs, you can gain immediate control over the entire marketing management process.
Many marketing projects, such as publishing an Ebook, creating a print ad, or managing an event are simply variations on a common theme that occurs over and over again. Why waste time reinventing the wheel? Keep a library of reusable project templates that can be quickly modified to fit each variation. A project template that includes a standard schedule, detailed task lists, important hand-offs, and deliverable outlines allows marketers to focus more on marketing, and less on repetitive managerial chores.
The higher the volume of marketing projects, the more marketing project management becomes marketing process management. Content creation, creative services, media production and online campaign execution all scale into continuous marketing process workflows as a marketing department grows. After standardizing the handoffs and deliverables for these workflows, it is far less important to track every individual task. Define clear process stages and monitor the flow of work by stage, not by task. Management by stage allows you to identify bottlenecks, balance workloads and develop performance benchmarks, such as productivity and cycle time.
Most marketing departments have many diverse functional groups; however, each function tends to gravitate in one of two directions: segments or services. Business segment functions focus on a specific product, customer, or geographic region and have direct accountability for marketing programs, leads and revenue within their respective segments. Marketing services functions consolidate specialized skills and production processes to increase marketing efficiency, while supporting support multiple business segment groups. Marketing programs tend to originate within the segment functions, fan out as interdependent projects to multiple services functions, and then recombine into integrated campaigns for the relevant target segment.
If that sounds complicated, it is. Segment managers must orchestrate execution across many moving parts throughout the marketing organization, while services managers need to balance workloads, minimize rework, ensure quality and meet tight deadlines. Don’t try to do it by punch lists and spreadsheets. To integrate the work, you must integrate the systems that track it, so you will need enterprise-class marketing project management software. Create a request form and capture project information at the source. Then, automate project tracking, collaboration and reporting, so that all stakeholders can stay in sync and aligned on expectations and performance.
Marketing projects require marketing managers to work with a broad array of external contributors outside the marketing department, including customers, agencies, journalists, industry analysts and social media influencers. These relationships are a core asset of any marketing department. However, they are usually very poorly managed. Unlike virtually every sales and support organization on the planet, most marketing departments don’t even maintain a rudimentary contact management system. Who was the designer for this website? Who is our contact at that newspaper? Who was the customer contact for this case study? When was the last time we spoke to them? Does anyone remember? Centralize marketing relationship management into a single department-wide system to keep important marketing relationships intact. In the end, every marketing project is only as good as the people that contribute to it. Don’t lose your best people.