Nearly every marketer will be asked to manage a project at some point in their career. However, not every marketer will have formal project management training. Nor will everyone necessarily feel confident in their planning or leadership skills.
So, when your moment comes to take the driver's seat on a project, how will you respond?
If you don't immediately have an answer, this article is for you.
Leading and managing marketing projects doesn't have to feel overwhelming. With some simple skill development and a streamlined process to follow, success is well within your grasp.
Why Should Marketers Care About Project Management Skills?
If spreadsheets and timelines sound less enticing to you than stretching your creative and analytical skills, you're not alone.
But, understanding how to plan and manage projects is invaluable for marketers.
As Inc. contributing editor Jeff Haden writes: "This skill will never die out. Project management is essential to any organization. To go along all of the data, metrics, optimizations, campaigns, and budgets—you need somebody to help coordinate everything and keep it on schedule. Companies will always value this."
In short, project management is about as evergreen as valuable skills get, even in a fast-paced and ever-evolving industry like marketing.
An investment in developing these capabilities is an investment in your career that will never stop paying dividends.
Which Project Management Skills Should Marketers Consider Building?
Though we might think of project management as a skill unto itself, it may be more helpful to think of it as a broad discipline requiring multiple core competencies.
So, which skills are most useful? Consider the following three.
Communication skills are table stakes for effective marketers (and, really, anyone who works in an office).
But excelling at interpersonal communication becomes all the more important when you need to lead multiple individuals toward a goal. You need to clearly convey what the project needs and to mitigate any potential conflicts that may arise among team members.
Marketing projects and campaigns are made up of many moving parts. While creatives are heads down cranking out their individual contributions, someone needs to have hands on the wheel to make sure everyone's driving in the same direction.
To effectively lead a project or campaign, you'll need to be able to do two things:
- Keep yourself organized: You can't help the team if you can't help yourself here.
- Keep the team's work organized: The less they need to worry about workflows and deadlines, the more mentally free they'll be to produce high-quality work.
Marketers are idea people. Accordingly, there are always going to be more ideas floating around in your team than you can actually execute.
So how do you make sure you're focused on the things that'll drive the most value? Develop a process for vetting which ideas have the most potential to be the most impactful.
Here are a few questions to ask when vetting ideas:
- Does this solve an existing problem (for our company or our customers)?
- Do we have prior data to suggest this idea might work?
- If we ship this project, does it have the potential to drive a 10X return for a given metric?
At a high level, this question set provides an easy-to-follow framework for choosing the best ideas.
An Actionable Process for Putting Your Skills Into Practice
With a few simple skills under your belt, you're ready to start putting them to use.
Learn how to run effective project kickoff meetings
The phrase "this meeting should have been an email" has become a painfully relatable cliché for a reason: It's something everyone's experienced.
If you can learn to run meetings that aren't soul-sucking, you can quickly make yourself a hero.
Before kicking off a project, set up a meeting to discuss the following:
- The basic details of the project and its goals
- What will be needed from each team member to complete the project
- How much time they'll need to finish each step
Once you've completed the meeting, you'll have all the pieces you need to start mapping out an end-to-end timeline for the project, with deadlines for each individual piece.
Map out tasks throughout the project from start to finish
Do the following with each piece of the project you gathered in the previous step:
- Put each one in order.
- Add a deadline to each step (in accordance with how long team members said they need).
- Place those steps and tasks into your project management software (there are many options available on the market).
Holding that meeting takes the guesswork out of lining up everything that needs to be done.
Lead morning standup meetings to discuss project progress
Daily standups (a concept borrowed from the world of agile marketing) keep teams in sync by meeting for 15 minutes each day to discuss project progress.
You might even opt to run these meetings to discuss all of the team's work day-to-day (including this specific project you're leading, and others as well). Doing so helps offer context for what else people are working on (which might impact your project, too).
Here's an easy way to run standups:
- Call the team to a meeting in the same space each morning.
- Have each team member share what they did yesterday, what they'll do today, and what obstacles might be preventing their progress.
- If team members need to discuss details on anything that comes up, have them collaborate after the meeting.
That's all it takes to develop transparency within the team and make sure each step of the project is being completed without your needing to look over anyone's shoulder.
Go Forth and Manage Your Marketing Projects
You don't need to be an expert project manager to take the lead on marketing projects (though expertise certainly helps, and skilled project managers are indeed valuable). With some basic skills and a bit of structure, you can easily guide your projects from concept to completion.
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