11 Easy Ways to Improve Your Marketing Project Management

July 14th, 2015

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When I searched for marketing project management this morning, I found this introduction in one of the top results pages:

Traditionally, marketing experts are not strong project managers. They are creative geniuses who produce their best ideas by themselves or in small collaborative teams.

That’s in an article from Forbes. Thanks for the compliment on being creative, though. I guess.

As “creative geniuses,” there are lots of awesome ways we can put our skills to work to focus on goals, plan super-efficiently, create faster than ever, prove our ROI, and generally kick butt at marketing.

Here’s how you can become your own “strong” marketing project manager.

Keep It Simple

A popular project management method has five phases:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and controlling
  5. Closing

 

It doesn’t all have to be complex mind maps, charts, and plans. Here is the minimal project management we do at CoSchedule to manage our marketing with a small team. You can do it, too!

Initiate Your Marketing Project

marketing project management goals

Define Your Marketing Goals to Focus Projects on Growth

You probably have a lot of ideas of things you could do with your marketing. At this point, there is the vetting process to understand what projects to tackle based on their impact for your business.

For example, we have three general marketing goals at CoSchedule that build upon one another:

  1. Increase traffic.
  2. Increase email subscribers.
  3. Increase customers.

 

Every project we take on must connect into one of those goals, or we don’t do it.

Apply this to your own marketing:

  1. Define your overarching marketing goals. The more you choose, the more difficult it will be for your team to focus on the ones that truly have an impact on your business. I’d suggest three or fewer goals that every project will influence. This is how you’ll measure your success.
  2. Write SMART goals: specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and time-sensitive. Here’s a good example to fill in the blanks: We will increase [measurement] to [number] by [month, day, year] to [reason it’s your goal].
  3. Keep this list in a tool your entire team can access. You’ll add to it as you read on, and it’ll serve as the basis for the projects your team will tackle in the coming weeks and months. Evernote and CoSchedule work really well for this.

 

marketing project management priorities

Prioritize Your Marketing Projects

Now it’s time to prioritize your list of project ideas. I love how Marcus Sheridan does this at The Sales Lion:

marketing project management prioritizing with Marcus Sheridan

Marcus and his team prioritize their projects based on content that sells. That said, you can tailor this algorithm to prioritize your projects according to your overarching marketing goals.

It’s simple to get started: Rate your content on a scale of 1–3. A score of “3” means the project will significantly influence your goals whereas a score of “1” suggests you should put that project on the back burner.

Do this for your own marketing:

  1. Compile a comprehensive list of the marketing projects you’ve been thinking about lately.
  2. Define SMART goals for each marketing project. Know exactly how you’ll measure success with tools like KISSmetrics, Google Analytics, and CoSchedule’s social analytics.
  3. Rank your projects from significantly great for growth to OK for growth.

 

marketing project management requirements

Define Your Project Requirements

Lots of software startups like CoSchedule use agile project management to move quickly and nimbly. One of the coolest things about agile management is using stories to define the outcome of projects.

That might sound like gibberish to you. What it means is that requirements for projects aren’t based on a type of content necessarily, but on the end result of what your audience wants from your marketing.

Stories look like this:

As a marketing lead, I want to manage my projects more efficiently to save a ton of time.

That’s pretty broad, right? There are tons of ways you could help folks with that challenge,  including:

  • Marketing tools to help them hit every publish date, like a marketing calendar
  • Blog posts focused on marketing project management
  • A marketing project management template
  • E-books compiled from your posts
  • Twitter chats on project management

 

When you look into these bullets, those are the “conditions of satisfaction” according to the agile world. In human terms, they’re the requirements you set upon yourself to target your project on meeting your audience’s needs.

Do this for your own marketing:

  1. Before you focus on a marketing project as a single piece of content, put yourself in your audience’s shoes and form a story like this: As a [specific audience role], I want to [action your content will invoke] to [angle of your content that focuses on the benefits of consuming your content].
  2. From there, choose the best content types you know your audience loves. There are about a bajillion posts out there on finding your audience, so I’ll spare you from another. Choose to create the ones that are great for growth, not just good for growth. Also, don’t forget to include content distribution tactics in your list! Those pieces are now your requirements for your project.

 

Bonus: If you have multiple stories that are related to each other, you can work on them all at once and call it a sprint. Think of it like a marketing campaign to complete several projects in a short period of time.

Plan Your Marketing Project

marketing project management resources

Assess Your Resources Before Tackling the Project

You know what you want to create. Now it’s time to understand how you’ll do it. This takes talent, tools, and budget into account.

There’s a reason you planned your optimal project requirements first before considering the resources available to you to make that a reality.

Your audience needs to win. Every time.

If you don’t currently have the resources to create the content your audience will love, how will you execute your projects? Cutting your best projects because you don’t have the resources in-house is a mistake. 

For example, at CoSchedule, we knew a big project for us involved helping our audience write better headlines. We could have written a slew of posts to help our audience—and we did—but we knew they would value a headline tool way more than posts alone.

That’s why we invented the headline analyzer.

The analyzer took talent for research, design, and coding, tools to do all of that and host it, and money to complete the project.

That project—even eight months after its launch—is still a huge driver of growth for our subscribers. While it was a challenge for us to create, it was the right choice for our audience.

Do this for your own marketing:

  1. Look back at your list of prioritized projects. Did you skimp on including different content types that may be more complex because you don’t have the talent, tools, or budget right now? Add the content types to the list that will drive huge growth for your business instead of just good growth.
  2. Add talent, tools, and budget to every project on your list. Include names of who will create the projects (even agencies), the tools you’ll need to do it, and the budget you anticipate the project would take.
  3. From here, prioritize your projects again according to complexity using the same ranking scale from Marcus Sheridan: “3” for easiest, “1” for most complex. Take the talent, tools, and budget available to you right now into consideration as you rank your projects.

 

marketing project management schedule

 Schedule Your Projects

The top projects are now the ones that are both the easiest and will have the most dramatic impact on your goals.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Sprints typically last two weeks. Select which complementary projects you’ll complete at the same time in your sprint.
  2. If you have a bit too much on your to-do list to complete in two weeks, split the project into milestones. This gives your projects near-term deadlines, which gives you the opportunity to improve nimbly as you execute.

 

marketing project management tasks

Break Out Your Projects into Tasks to Complete

Remember the content types that make up your projects? Now that you know your project deadlines, it’s time to break those into individual tasks to complete.

This is when you flesh out the research you put into Step 4 for planning your resources, focusing mainly on talent needed to create, publish, and distribute your content.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Hold a planning meeting with everyone who’ll be involved in the execution of your project. Go over all the content you’ll need to make your project a success. Get their opinions on tasks needed to complete the project.
  2. Get time estimates for the tasks. Determine which tasks need to be completed before others. Work backward from your publish dates to plan your tasks from beginning to end to hit your deadlines.
  3. Create your workflow.

 

marketing project management calendar

Plan Everything with a Single Marketing Calendar

Everything you did until this point would be hard to manage without a single tool used by everyone involved in your marketing projects.

As Joe Pulizzi says:

One thing is certain: If you don’t keep an editorial/content calendar, the content doesn’t get done.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Add your top four projects on your CoSchedule marketing calendar to plan your next two months of work. Include your milestones. These are your publish dates—hard deadlines.
  2. Create a workflow in CoSchedule to assign tasks to everyone on your team with clear deadlines for everything. Don’t forget to assign distribution tasks to be completed after your content publishes.

 

Execute Your Marketing Project

marketing project management execution: create, publish, and share

Create, Publish, and Share Your Content

You just planned your marketing projects brilliantly. This is the easy part we’re all familiar with, or so Forbes says, which is why there is a lot of content about this step:

  1. How To Plan A Content Creation Process Your Small Business Can Actually Achieve
  2. How To Blog With As Little As Possible
  3. 4 Lessons From Psychology That Will Help You Grow Your Blog

 

Here’s how to execute using your CoSchedule marketing calendar:

  1. Review the tasks assigned to you to complete them on time. Easily see if someone’s slacking off by viewing the tasks assigned to them in CoSchedule. Every project gets a handy progress meter to show the percentage completed, which helps you stay on target with your deadline.
  2. Create your content directly in CoSchedule’s custom content editor, WordPress, Evernote, and even Google Docs and easily integrate it directly into your marketing calendar for everyone to see.
  3. Use comments to communicate the progress of the project and maintain a calendar of record you’ll review later on. We’ve seen this help teams send 75% less email to work faster on their marketing projects.

 

Monitor And Control Your Marketing Project

Review Your Progress Frequently

“Where are we?”

That’s a super important question to ask yourself as you progress toward project completion. And with agile project management, it’s something you ask every day.

  1. Designate a product owner and scrum master. Essentially, the scrum master leads daily meetings to keep projects rolling, and the product owner makes sure everyone involved is working on the right tasks to complete the project on time.
  2. Hold daily scrum meetings every morning to review your progress as shown in CoSchedule. Everyone involved in your project gives an update on their progress with three simple things: What you worked on yesterday, what you’re doing today, and what roadblocks you hit along the way.
  3. Your scrum master is responsible for finding a way to remove the roadblocks so tasks aren’t held up. Finding roadblocks is one of the main reasons to hold scrum meetings daily—only finding roadblocks once a week could potentially put you a week behind schedule.
  4. Your product owner reviews your tasks in CoSchedule and assignments. Make sure you focus on the tasks you planned in Step 8. Put an end to the off-track things pulling you away from the project.

 

Close Your Marketing Project

marketing project management measurement

Measure the Project’s Impact on Your Goals

When you went into this, you knew your marketing goals and chose to tackle a specific project because it was the best option for growth.

How did it play out?

  1. Review your metrics from KISSmetrics, Google Analytics, and CoSchedule social analytics.
  2. Analyze how individual content pieces performed to understand what you can improve in the future.

 

Consider It a Learning Opportunity

You’ve learned a lot. Do a retro on your lessons learned to improve your process for your next marketing project.

A retro is a meeting you’ll hold with everyone involved in the project. Everyone participates by reviewing starts, stops, and continues.

Essentially, ask yourself:

  1. What should you do next time that you didn’t do with this project?
  2. What should you stop doing that didn’t go over well?
  3. What should you continue doing that worked?

 

Are You Ready To Become A Strong Marketing Project Manager?

I bet you are. Get started with your free trial of CoSchedule to put your plans into action. If you know a marketer who’s been struggling with project management, share this post.

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