All client-based businesses should aim to have a clean approach to project management. Otherwise, there’s the risk of missed deadlines and incomplete deliverables.
In marketing, precise project management is critical, yet can be difficult to achieve. The time-sensitive nature of marketing projects can make them even more risk-prone than those in other industries.
If you run a creative agency or help clients with marketing in another type of service business, it’s important to have a clear strategy for project management.
Here, we’ll consider:
Best Practices for Successful Marketing Projects
Client projects are different from work your team completes for other internal departments or stakeholders, in that your client relationship and business reputation are at stake. Furthermore, external projects in marketing can require the involvement of many different roles in both your business and the client’s.
Following the best practices below can help your team avoid miscommunication, complete tasks as efficiently as possible and generate repeatable processes to support continued success for future projects.
- Gather detailed information to clarify project scope. It’s easy for marketing projects to bleed into one another, especially when they’re part of an ongoing campaign or involving A/B testing. To prevent misunderstanding about what your team has been hired to do, make your initial discovery as in-depth as you can. Understanding the client’s goals is not enough to produce a tight contract. You should know where the project begins and ends in the client’s eyes in terms of timeline and scope. Then, ensure that your sales professionals or account managers aren’t overpromising before a project manager can confirm what’s possible.
- Plan out tasks with detailed dependencies and potential roadblocks. Simple task assignments won’t cut it for marketing projects. Sure, project managers should have a record of individual responsibilities and deadlines, but they also need to be able to see complete workflows and predict where things could go awry. In marketing, this might mean:
• Coordinating with creative teams to understand the graphic design or video editing process
• Knowing how long it takes your vendors to process requests and respecting their SLAs
• Considering limitations on content production or quantity of posts on various digital platforms
• Predicting the most likely stages of the project that would be prone to budget overages
• Staying aware of how this project fits into the client’s larger campaign or ongoing content plan
- Use past data to set project milestones and timelines. Instead of diving into each new project with arbitrary expectations, you should lean on and learn from what’s already happened. Even though each new client and project will be unique and may need a fresh take on marketing, the way their projects progress through your processes shouldn’t be radically different. When you use software that generates reliable data, you’ll have meaningful reports that help you set realistic milestones and timelines for the next big project.
➡️ The quality of your data depends on the sophistication of your software. With Accelo, you can customize your marketing projects and tasks and connect them to every other part of the client journey. See how it works by signing up for a free trial or demo.
- Assign clear roles and responsibilities. The marketing industry tends to attract multitalented people who can take on more than one role. Even though your team’s broad talents can benefit the business in many ways, your project management practices could suffer if it’s unclear who’s in charge of what. If you don’t have a full-time marketing project manager on staff, training one person on project management protocol and ensuring that they delegate clearly and consistently is advantageous.
- Establish simple modes of communication — with a paper trail. Team collaboration is key, but it’s a part of project management that can be overcomplicated. There shouldn’t be too many ways to talk about one project or task. Assign expectations around where your team will keep pertinent notes and how they’ll communicate with one another and clients. Ideally, all communication will be visible to project managers so they can easily discern project status and sustain workflows.
- Set up analytics that reflect project profitability. Monitoring overdue tasks and tracking task completion for individual projects is necessary, but it’s even more important to generate reports that help you assess profitability. Without them, your team could unknowingly continue expending effort on projects that are draining your resources without producing a return. Reporting on marketing projects is much easier with software that allows for customizable automation.
- Keep your organizational strategy top of mind. If your team is great at project management in marketing, they may be able to generate plenty of recurring work for your business. However, even if something works well, it shouldn’t operate in a silo. Be sure that everyone on your project management team understands the larger goals they’re working towards. Regularly reiterate your business strategy to the entire organization and team leaders to ensure that decisions on the project side align with what you want to achieve overall.
Why Structured Campaigns Are Ideal
There are several methodologies that could apply to project management in marketing, but they shouldn’t be the only things that dictate your chosen approach. Consider whether the specific types of projects you do can fit into a given methodology and if they can adjust to align with traditional marketing campaigns.
Whether you’re developing websites, coming up with a branding strategy for a new product or working with influencers, most forms of marketing still work well within the confines of a campaign structure. Even if the content and format of what you produce evolves with advancing tech and industry changes, good marketing campaigns go hand-in-hand with solid project management because they’re both orderly and efficient.
A successful marketing campaign will typically have the following five elements:
- At least one measurable, achievable goal
- A defined target market or persona
- A detailed plan for offer creation and placement
- An exact timeline with specific milestones
- At least one person named as accountable for all of the above
The elements of a project plan are essentially the same, though a project may be smaller in scope than a campaign. Individual projects can be essential to one or more of the elements that help the client achieve the campaign goal over a given period of time.
If your business has not thus far taken a campaign-based approach to marketing projects, you may have found it difficult to stay on task internally and communicate how project progress aligns with external expectations. Campaigns often act as a framework for the pieces of project management, helping clients see the bigger picture.
3 Tips for Marketing Projects Involving a Product Launch
Depending on your clients’ industries, they may request your team’s help with launching products. Complex launches may involve multiple projects. Here are three ways to keep your team on track during the course of a launch-related project:
- Make the client’s value proposition part of your team’s discussion. While you may not have been involved in the product’s creation, you should fully understand how your client is positioning this new product to be conscious of the steps in your project that will be the most critical. Will they need additional time in the testing phase to develop brand awareness? Is the product like others your team has launched, or will your typical templates for marketing tasks need some adjustments?
- Provide advice and data that’s not easily obtained without your help. Project management may seem like it’s all about the outcome, but don’t forget it’s just one part of the creative process and ongoing client relationship. Your team should prioritize reporting to clients on project success and suggesting ways to improve upon future projects. Presenting data in a way that the product owner can’t produce or analyze on their own is one way to increase word-of-mouth marketing for additional consultative services and keep new projects in the pipeline.
- Encourage your client to consider product life cycle. Often, there’s so much effort dedicated to a product launch that the team forgets that’s only the beginning of its product’s life. Your job is to remind your client that there’s more work to come. Perhaps that means more research, data analysis, testing or iteration. All of these are opportunities for additional projects if you have the capacity. Having these conversations internally and then communicating them to the client before and during a launch is a great way to make your team indispensable and encourage the client to sign on for recurring work.
Resource Management Matters in Marketing
The way you demonstrate results to clients certainly matters, and you won’t be able to do so confidently without tightening up your resource allocation. While many types of resources combine to make project management successful, let’s focus on your most valuable resource: your project team.
Understanding how your team spends time is the first step in getting a handle on resource management. Instead of wasting precious time on outdated timesheets, find an automated time tracking solution. This will give your leadership team and project managers a better sense of which tasks are taking the most time and help you capture minutes dedicated to everyday tasks such as email.
The other vital piece of managing resources for projects is budget. Staying with the parameters of project budgets depends largely on smart employee utilization, which you’ll be able to identify over time if you gather accurate time-tracking data and differentiate time in two key ways:
- Billable vs. Non-billable: Your accounting department isn’t the only one that will benefit from tracking time in billable or non-billable buckets. Project managers can give better insights that contribute to accurate estimates, and everyone involved in a marketing project can get a better sense of their own contribution to the revenue those projects bring in.
- Estimated vs. Actual: This distinction is gold for project managers. Knowing if their estimates of task and milestone completion are correct can help them adjust and lead to a host of positive outcomes, including faster projects and greater client satisfaction.
Marketing Project Management Software: The Value of Consolidation
Time tracking isn’t the only function for which you need the right software. The entire project management process can benefit from upping your digital game.
Sticking with a single-function project management platform alone won’t help you connect time logs to project budgets, nor will it save your billing and client success teams from spending unnecessary time tracking down project progress.
Still, you may think: If my project team has been getting by with multiple platforms — or insufficient tech — until now, why change?
Getting by won’t help your business grow. When clients are depending on you to keep up the pace and deliver what they’ve requested, it’s tempting to stick with what you’ve been doing anyway because it can feel risky to change things up. But it’s important to overcome your fears about adopting new tech to open up the very real ROI potential of implementing software that’s built to solve your marketing project management problems — and all of the other challenges that arise in your client work.
READ NEXT: How one web design agency streamlined its project management with Accelo
Project Management Platform Recommendations
You have a wide range of digital tools to choose from to manage each element of your client projects. There are many popular platforms with different functions, but at a minimum, you should look to adopt a solution that helps you apply the aforementioned five core elements of project management in marketing.
Here are three of the top software platforms that can support marketing project teams.
Accelo is a cloud-based client work management platform designed to help professional services firms, including creative agencies, manage client relationships and save time using customizable automation. The powerful platform helps marketing project teams expand visibility, improve collaboration and maximize efficiency.
- A full suite of project management tools, including automated time trackers and customizable project templates
- Custom trigger automations to streamline workflows
- Centralized client database connecting client projects and tasks to a client record
- Automated scheduling and task assignments to help manage workload
- The platform may be too robust for agency leaders seeking only one or two functions
- Not the best agency management software for teams of fewer than five people
Trello is a sister program to Jira, managed by Atlassian. One of the most well-known and widely used project management tools on the market, Trello integrates with many of the tools your team may already use. Its interface is inspired by the Kanban framework of agile project management. However, it's easy to use Trello with the Scrum framework as well.
- Simple drag-and-drop interface with labels, tags and comments
- Task assignments for groups or individuals
- Automated email notifications for deadlines and mentions
- Voting and discussion options
- Free version available for unlimited users
- Well-organized and user-friendly with a recognizable format and versatile uses
READ NEXT: Accelo vs. Trello
Workamajig is a project management software for agencies and creative teams. It features a variety of financial reports that tie time logs and team capacity to projects and tasks, making it a good option for agencies looking to focus on maximizing the profit potential of billable time.
- Project management templates
- Daily dashboard for task and scheduling visibility
- Profitability reports by client and project
- Time tracking attached to projects
- Gantt and burn charts provide meaningful project timeline visuals
- Strong resource management tools, including task prioritization and re-assignment and workload forecasting
Check out this complete list of the best project management, team collaboration and time-tracking tools specifically for creative teams.
In our experience working closely with professional services firms, including marketing agencies, the most effective marketing project management tools unite multiple features built for client work management — and Accelo does just that.
Try it out yourself with a free trial or schedule a demo to dive deeper into how the platform can facilitate more efficient marketing project management.