So… what exactly is project management and what the heck does it have to do with Digital Marketing?
Not enough people are asking this great question. Project management is a highly effective tool for getting marketing work done. From advertising campaigns and SEO, to social media content and promotions. A well-rounded understanding of Project Management has the potential to make or break your experience in digital marketing.
On the most basic level, project management is a managed approach to doing work. All tasks are structured within a set of processes & procedures which can be actively tracked and monitored for adherence to deadlines. Sounds simple enough, but the number of Digital Marketers that have no project management experience, or even a basic understanding of project management principles, is staggering. While there are a lot of different ways to approach project management, most involve some of these common components:
Deliverables: These are the tangible results that the project will deliver. In a website development project, a new web design could be the primary deliverable. In a social media marketing project, the deliverables might be Facebook or Instagram posts. Some projects also have secondary deliverables, such as ad campaign data analysis.
Tasks: Each project is made up of multiple tasks, each of which is assigned to a responsible team member or sub-team. When subcontracting out your Digital Marketing efforts, you may find that some of these tasks will require involvement from you or your team members to be successful.
Stakeholders: Everyone involved with the project is a stakeholder. This includes all the people in the project team, as well as others such as clients, or customers who will be targeted with the marketing assets delivered from your Digital Marketing team.
Methodology: A set of rules about how the project is managed. We utilize and encourage the adoption of the Agile methodology. You can read more about Agile here.
In a nutshell, the project needs to deliver certain outcomes, which can be broken up into tasks. The tasks are assigned to people on the project team, who must complete the work within a managed process.
Marketing project management in-practice
Project management is used to deliver all sorts of marketing projects, such as:
Sales Funnel Development
Social Media Marketing, such as:
Facebook Ad Campaigns
Regardless of the specific work being delivered, project management is usually centered around a project management software. This is the digital platform where stakeholders can manage their tasks to completion, and where senior stakeholders can monitor overall project progress.
Every team member should be able to access the software using their own login credentials. When logged in, they can see the tasks which have been assigned to them. They might be able to upload files and comments to the tasks, and change the status of tasks to reflect whether they have been initiated, completed, or held up by some sort of ‘blocker’.
Senior stakeholders can also assign tasks to team members and set deadlines for their completion. In some teams, all stakeholders are granted permission to do this. When subcontracting out your Digital Marketing, objectives should be identified in the Statement of Work, and further broken down into tasks within the Scope of Work.
In any project, it helps to have a team member acting as the project manager. This person is responsible for helping the whole team use the project management process and software successfully. Some project management methodologies also require the project manager to perform additional duties, such as leading regular team meetings (sometimes called ‘scrums’) and helping other stakeholders find solutions to blockers.
A marketing project will typically flow through an intuitive series of phases. When working with our agency, we will work together to move through these phases.
The phase we’re calling kickoff is the start of the project. At this point, the marketing team gets together with the stakeholder (typically the business owner) who is commissioning the work to discuss the details of the project. The parties will come to an agreement on some fundamental details of the project, including: What are the project deliverables? Ex: Ads, Copywriting for Ads, Sales Funnel Buildout, Website buildout, etc. What are the baseline time and cost budgets for the project?
What is the maximum amount by which the project could exceed its baseline time and cost budgets? When all the key project stakeholders are happy with the terms, a contract or informal agreement can be made to start the project. When working with our agency, all details of the project plan will be established throughout our multi-session onboarding system.
During project planning, all the team members with a strategic role get together to decide how the project deliverables will be achieved. Typically with smaller businesses, this tends to be exclusively the owner working with the Digital Marketing agency they’ve chosen to subcontract with. While the planning process varies from business-to-business, the following elements are usually involved:
Setting milestones. Milestones are the key waypoints on the road to project completion. For example, in a video ad campaign project, ‘storyboarding completed’ and ‘filming completed’ could be milestones. Each milestone is given a deadline, as well as who is expected to complete the task, to help keep the project on-track.
Identifying project risks. In project management a ‘risk’ is a possible external event which could affect project outcomes, either positively or negatively. Identifying major project risks during project planning ensures the team is ready to capitalize on opportunities or respond to threats during the project.
Dividing the project into tasks. These are the individual pieces of work needed to accomplish the project’s deliverables. At this stage, it’s also important to identify dependencies, where the completion of one task depends on another task being completed beforehand.
Assigning tasks and ownership. Each task needs to be assigned to a team member (or sub-team) who will be responsible for its completion. In some cases, senior stakeholders may also be given ownership of project deliverables.
Once the project is planned, the team can get on with the work of project delivery. Each team member should be using the project management platform to manage their tasks throughout this phase. Project management supports the team in several ways during the delivery phase, including:
Task management. Throughout the project, each team member is responsible for updating their own tasks within the project management platform. This typically includes uploading files, changing task statuses, and informing the project manager of any blockers which are preventing tasks from getting done. If new requirements are identified during the delivery phase, new tasks are created and assigned to a team member.
Progress tracking. Most project management platforms include visual tools for tracking project progress, such as Gantt charts and burn charts. These resources help stakeholders assess how well the team is progressing with its tasks, relative to the project’s time budget. Senior stakeholders, or owners, tend to carefully monitor project progress throughout the delivery phase to determine whether the planned time and cost budgets for the project remain achievable. Note: To save you valuable time, we proactively send weekly reports each Friday with a summary of the Project’s status, as well as analysis of ad metrics (if you are running ads).
File storage. Depending on the nature of the team’s work, the project management platform may be used to store project work, e.g. documents containing copy for use in content marketing, videos, etc. The easy accessibility of the project management platform to the whole project team can help prevent important work from getting lost.
When outlining/establishing all project work is completed, the senior stakeholders – including the client or internal customer – can meet up to review the proposed project outcomes. If all parties are satisfied that the project deliverables have been outlined appropriately, the project can be considered as ready to proceed, and the stakeholders can provide their sign-off.
This could be anything from analysis of website data following a site redesign project, to customer sentiment analysis following a video advertising campaign.
Analysis can be understood as a bridge between the current project and future projects. The findings from this phase can be fed into the planning for compatible projects in future, helping the team plan more efficiently and optimize its processes.
Some project teams will also analyze their experience of the project management process, during a project. This helps to identify problems people have encountered with the project management approach, which can be amended ahead of the next project. We are constantly monitoring our processes and making improvements when gaps are identified.
How to use project management to deliver routine marketing work
The phased approach to project management we’ve just discussed is best-suited to delivering time-limited marketing projects with a moderate-to-high level of complexity.
If your work is of a more routine nature – for example, if you need to deliver a certain number of social media posts each week – this can also be accomplished through project management. You just need to use a slightly different approach.
For routine marketing work, we recommend using a project management solution with a Kanban-style system to manage your content. In a Kanban system, each task is represented by a card, which can be moved from one column to another to represent its status. In a social content workflow, you might have columns titled ‘Ideas’, ‘Text’, ‘Text and photo’, ‘Text and photo signed off’ and ‘Scheduled/Published’. As new components are added to the draft for a post, its card can be moved along, until the post has been published. This approach simultaneously enables a team to plan social content, work on the content, and manage the progression of each post as a kind of “mini-project”.
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