As companies strive to capture attention and stand out from the barrage of advertisements, marketing campaigns aim to be bigger and better. More complex.
Achieving these lofty visions is no easy feat. Transforming an idea into a full-fledged marketing campaign often relies on an unexpected force: a marketing project manager.
For aspiring marketing project managers, our guide offers an introduction to the fundamentals you need to know, including key concepts, relevant terms, and actionable tips to help you get started on your path toward success.
Marketing project management 101
Marketing project management refers to all processes relating to planning, executing, and delivering marketing initiatives. A marketing project manager typically oversees campaigns from start to finish, in addition to managing the team members involved in the project.
This includes creating timelines, managing budgets, allocating resources, and tracking progress. The framework set by the marketing project manager is essential to ensuring projects are completed on time, within budget, and meet the campaign’s expected goals.
Marketing project management builds upon the framework of conventional project management, applying similar procedures to marketing activities. There are 5 stages of project management, each with its own procedures.
The 5 stages of project management:
- Performance & control
Stage 1: Initiation
The first step in any marketing project is to define the goals and objectives of the project. This involves understanding the desired outcome of the project, what metrics will be used to measure success, and how the project fits into the broader marketing strategy.
Without clear goals and objectives, it is impossible to measure success or make informed decisions throughout the project lifecycle.
- Define your goals and objectives. Establishing a definitive “North Star” goal upfront will set the foundation for the entire project. Goals represent specific, attainable targets (ex: increase conversion rate by 5%), whereas objectives represent broader, overarching missions (ex: improve customer loyalty).
- Determine your KPIs. Identify which metrics you’ll measure your project’s success at the start of your project.
Stage 2: Organization and planning
Once the project’s purpose has been defined, the next step is to develop a detailed project plan. This includes identifying the tasks that need to be completed, assigning responsibilities, setting timelines and deadlines, and determining the resources needed for the project. It should also include milestones, deadlines, and dependencies, as well as contingencies in case of unexpected delays or issues.
It’s essential to have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what tasks, as well as to ensure everyone on the team is aligned with the project goals and understands their role.
- Create a detailed project plan. A thorough project plan will guide your team throughout the project’s lifecycle. Your project plan should outline all aspects of the project, including scope, deliverables, budget, individual tasks, and timelines.
- Delegate tasks. Break down your project’s tasks and assign specific responsibilities to your team members. Visualize workflows and tasks using a Gantt chart or Kanban board to easily track progress.
Stage 3: Execution
With the project’s roadmap in place, the team can put the plan into action.
The execution phase is where the actual work of the project is completed. This involves carrying out the project plan, including implementing marketing strategies, completing tasks, and meeting deadlines.
During this stage, a marketing project manager’s role shifts to overseeing and managing operations. Marketing PMs may have regular check-ins with team members to ensure that everyone is on track and working towards the same goal.
- Monitor progress. Track and visualize task progress using project management software or tools like Gantt charts or Kanban boards. It’s important to track project progress against established benchmarks and metrics to confirm the project is operating as expected.
- Check in with your team. Schedule regular check-ins to support team members’ progress, provide feedback, and assess potential roadblocks. Additionally, marketing PMs typically report the project’s progress and share regular status updates with teams and relevant stakeholders.
Stage 4: Performance and control
As the project progresses, it may be necessary to adjust the project plan to ensure that project objectives are being met. This may involve revising timelines, adjusting resource allocation, or developing new risk management strategies while continuing to track progress and KPIs.
- Continue monitoring progress. It’s important to track performance against the project objectives throughout the project’s lifecycle. Routine monitoring allows you to identify potential issues early and take corrective action as needed.
Stage 5: Delivery
Finally, you’ve reached the project’s end!
The final stage can vary from project to project. After completion, you may be asked to conduct a post-mortem evaluation to measure the project’s outcome against the original goals and objectives and assess the overall process to identify areas for improvement. A post-project review often also includes internal and stakeholder feedback.
Marketing project management has a relatively short history compared to other marketing disciplines. Prior to the 1960s, marketing campaigns were generally managed by individual departments with little coordination with other departments or across campaigns.
Around this time, advertisers began developing increasingly complex campaigns involving multi-stage processes and diverse teams from creative development to media buying and production departments. These campaigns required careful planning and coordination to ensure that all elements were completed on time and within budget.
Project management techniques grew more popular within the marketing industry in the following decades. This was due in part to the development of new technology, such as computer software and the Internet, which made it easier to scale production and create elaborate projects. The result? A boom in global competition that demanded efficiency. These factors also drove the marketing industry to integrate project management techniques.
Terms to know
An alternative plan to be used in the event that the original plan does not work out as expected. A contingency plan can be thought of as a “plan B” or backup plan, outlined in advance to ensure projects operate smoothly.
The completed service(s) or the finished product(s) expected upon completing a project. Deliverables can refer to a broad variety of tangible or intangible items, such as a product marketing strategy, social media campaign, or improvements to conversion rate.
Tasks that rely on the completion of different tasks before they can begin. For example, launching an email marketing campaign has a number of dependencies. The final stage is dependent on creating email templates, writing copy, and receiving final approvals. Publishing an email marketing campaign cannot be achieved without first completing these tasks.
A preliminary meeting during the planning phase that involves team members and stakeholders. The purpose of the kick-off meeting is to communicate key information, such as discussing a project’s goals and aligning on a project plan.
Key performance indicator. A metric used to measure a project’s success and effectiveness, such as conversion rates, website traffic, and total revenue generated.
A comprehensive blueprint of all components needed to meet a project’s goals. A project plan includes a proposed schedule outlining each phase, individual assignments, deadlines, and scope.
A component of project planning that establishes a project’s objectives, deliverables, timeline, tasks, and budget. Setting a project scope ahead of the execution phase informs team members and stakeholders of the project’s roadmap and detailed expectations.
A detailed schedule for your project, designed to align all team members on their work. A project timeline includes a chronological list of individual tasks, deadlines, and task dependencies.
Efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of potential risks. Risk mitigation involves assessing problems that may arise and creating contingency plans to manage potential challenges and setbacks.
Changes made to the project scope beyond what was initially outlined. Simply put, scope creep occurs when unexpected deliverables or tasks are added to a project during the execution phase. Without careful management, scope creep can impact a project’s timelines and budget allocations.
The people directly involved with or impacted by a project. This is inclusive of team members working on a project, investors, C-suite executives, and even customers.
User experience. The way people interact with a product, service, or company. UX also involves users’ overall experience, such as value, efficiency, and general perception.
- Get comfortable with adapting. If you’re lucky, everything will go according to plan. If you’re not… well, it’s best to be prepared. Being proactive and flexible is essential to navigating the unexpected challenges and problems that are bound to arise. Before you move into the execution stage, make sure you have a backup plan in case something goes awry. Anticipating potential risks and proactively developing contingency plans will help you address these issues as they crop up while ensuring your team is able to continue making progress elsewhere.
- Stay organized. Marketing projects involve many moving parts, and it’s easy to get lost in the details. However, staying organized is critical for marketing project managers – it’s your job to keep yourself and your team organized. Regularly checking in with team members and updating your project plans, resource allocation, and performance tracking documents can ease the burden of managing all aspects of your project.
- Focus on results. At the end of the day, the success of a marketing project is measured by results. Make sure you are focused on achieving the desired outcome and regularly track performance metrics. Use these metrics to make data-driven decisions and adjust your strategy as needed.
- Communicate! One of your most prominent duties as a marketing project manager will be communication. It’s important to keep everyone informed about the project’s progress while being clear, concise, and transparent. However, being a good communicator isn’t just about your speaking skills. Successful marketing PMs practice active listening, ask questions, and, most importantly, encourage collaboration and feedback.
- Embrace learning. The marketing landscape is constantly changing. As a project manager, you won’t have the same hands-on involvement with the granular day-to-day tasks that your marketing team is working on. Staying up to date with the latest trends and best practices will help you adapt to the industry and help you be a better marketing project manager for your team. Reading newsletters, attending conferences, and networking with other marketers and PMs are accessible ways to enhance your working knowledge and improve your skills.
Tools & resources
Marketing project managers have a variety of tools at their disposal. Here are a handful of the most popular project management tools and resources:
Asana is a popular project management platform that helps teams track their tasks, projects, and deadlines. The platform’s features include project timelines, resource tracking, to-do lists, and customizable workflows, in addition to its collaborative framework. Bonus: Asana offers a free basic tier!
Trello is a cloud-based visual project management platform. Users can delegate tasks, track progress, and collaborate with team members through boards, lists, and cards. Trello is a great tool for marketing PMs, as it is highly customizable and has a number of available plugins and templates designed specifically for marketing projects.
Monday.com is among the most popular project management platforms within the industry. Similar to its competitors, users can create boards for different projects, set up custom workflows, and track progress using visual analytics. However, the platform is fully customizable and offers a robust library of templates that can be tailored to fit the needs of your team and projects. Monday.com also offers integration capabilities with other popular marketing tools such as Google Drive, Slack, and HubSpot.
Gantt charts are visual project planning tools that can help project managers map out tasks and deadlines. Gantt charts provide a timeline view of tasks and their dependencies, which is ideal for projects with many tasks, team members, or complex dependencies. This allows project managers to easily monitor progress and identify potential delays while ensuring the project remains on track.
Similar to Gantt charts, kanban boards are a way to visually represent tasks and their status. Unlike Gantt charts, this tool is best suited for small to midsize teams that value collaboration and optimization. The emphasis on individual tasks and their progress allows teams to manage ongoing work and make informed decisions about what tasks to prioritize.
Marketing project management requires a passion for structure and creating order from disarray. Success in this field relies on your dedication and willingness to adapt to change. Although it may seem intimidating, with the right knowledge and tools, you can master marketing project management!
Want to learn more about careers in marketing project management? Check out our Marketing PM career guide!