Feel like your marketing team is spread way too thin?
Endless email chains. Missed deadlines. Unhappy clients.
Ah, the classic signs of insufficient marketing project management. We know them all too well.
Listen: there’s a reason why marketers that are proactive about project management are 3.5x more likely to report “success.”
Struggling to exceed client expectations without totally burning your team out? That means it’s time to rethink your approach to marketing project management.
Because marketing teams and agencies can’t afford to “freestyle” their projects. Literally. So in this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about marketing project management:
Ultimate guide to marketing project management
What is marketing project management?
5 phases of the marketing project management process
How project management helps teams to communicate
How to instill project management skills and responsibilities into a marketing team
The benefits of a project-managed approach to marketing
Project management tools and platforms
What is marketing project management?
Marketing project management represents the process of planning, overseeing, and delivering marketing-related projects. This process is defined by a framework that’s put together by a project manager, owner, team lead, or head of marketing.
Think of this framework as the step-by-step blueprint that your marketing projects follow. When done right, a PM framework empowers teams to complete their work on-time and on-budget.
The specific steps and methodologies of project management vary from agency to agency. That said, here are the basic steps:
Each project progresses through defined phases from planning to delivery. This is based on a predetermined project timeline and budget.
The project is focused on producing specific outputs called project deliverables. A deliverable is basically what the client gets when a project ends. This might be individual blog or a whole new marketing strategy.
Project work is divided into manageable chunks. This includes task lists, tasks, sub-tasks, and project milestones.
Projects are put into the context of big-picture business efforts. For marketing specifically, this might be part of a business initiative such as a rebrand or content marketing push.
The work is managed within a project management solution. Project management software is a digital workspace used to track tasks and empower teams to efficiently
collaborate and be more productive.
Ideally, your project management framework can be applied to any type of marketing activity or campaign. This includes pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing, SEO, content marketing, product maketing, or brand campaigns.
For example, in a brand campaign, project management could be used to align the efforts split between different marketing roles. This might include graphic designers, copywriters, market researchers, and strategists.
What exactly does a marketing project manager do?
The role of marketing project manager is a dynamic one. That’s because PMs are researchers, communicators, and marketing experts rolled into one.
The day-to-day duties of marketing PMs aren’t 100% identical. That said, here are some of their priority tasks:
Defining project goals, objectives, target outcomes
Simply put, a PM helps spell out why a campaign is necessary.
Because no marketing push should happen just because. If someone requests a rebrand or outreach campaign, there need to be specific outcomes as a result. PMs can determine these outcomes through their own research alongside discussions with the rest of the arketing team, c-level colleagues, and even clients.
For the sake of accountability and ensuring that the target outcomes actually happen, marketing projects are tied to project metrics and KPIs outlined by the PM. This might include:
Sales and revenue
Engagement rate (Likes, comments, and social media interactions)
Share of voice
Researching best practices and tactics for marketing campaigns
There are endless variables involved when it comes to marketing project management.
PMs are there to rein in the chaos by defining the scope of work and budget for a project. This will influence the fine details in terms of tactics, duration, and tools needed to make the project a reality.
Let’s say someone’s interested in a content marketing campaign.
Okay, how long is the campaign going to last? How many writers are involved? What are the specifics of the deliverables in terms of length, SEO, and overall project lifecycle?
Based on available resources and conversations with stakeholders, PMs can answer all of the above with confidence. What makes them even more confident? Knowing exactly how much work is assigned to the entire team and what's assigned to each team member through resource allocation reports.
Organizing people and resources to get a project moving
Consider that breaking down organizational silos is among the top challenges of today’s content managers today. Project managers need to be proactive and attentive as a result.
PMs often act as a sort of liaison between clients, the C-level, and marketing teams to ensure that projects run smoothly. This involves:
Providing instructions to project participants
Establishing deadlines for deliverables
Communicating with collaborators and stakeholders
Setting expectations for all of the above
Overseeing projects once they’re in progress
Following up on the point above, PMs have to be meticulous about making sure project deadlines are met and within budget. They also need to manage the clients’ expectations. Meetings, check-ins, and progress summaries are a huge part of your average PM’s schedule.
5 phases of the marketing project management process
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing marketing campaigns. That said, most marketing projects can be broken down into a five-phase project lifecycle.
Chances are you’re already implementing some variation of this framework already. Below is a high-level breakdown of what this process looks like using a marketing project management software like Teamwork.
Phase 1: Planning
To kick things off, key project stakeholders from the C-level to the marketing team will define and agree on the goals and objectives of the project. If you’re part of an agency, your client will also be part of this process.
Note that 52% of marketing experts struggle to communicate strategy with people that are not marketing-savvy. This speaks to the importance of breaking down projects into a schedule so you can see specific goals, objectives, and deliverables.
Goals represent big-picture accomplishments such as “improving our customer experience” or “increasing brand awareness.” Meanwhile, objectives represent the specific tasks and initiatives required to meet those goals. This might include “increasing our NPS” or “creating more content.”
Goals and objectives form the basis of a project charter. The project begins when this document has been signed by all the leading stakeholders. Everyone is on the same page.
From here, the project manager is tasked with figuring out what’s needed on a granular level to meet the goals above. The project then moves into its next phase.
Phase 2: Organization
With goals established, the team can agree on a budget and identify the deliverables.
Again, a deliverable is anything produced for a project that’s necessary for completion. The most common deliverables for marketing projects are campaigns themselves, as well as crucial pieces such as ads, graphics, or blog posts.
After defining the project’s deliverables, the team formulates a marketing project plan made up of several tasks. The more complex the project is, the more tasks are required.
Each task is then allocated to a team member. Sometimes leading stakeholders assign tasks to team members. In other cases, team members might self-assign their own tasks. This varies from team to team.
Below is what assignments look like in Teamwork. Each task is tied to a specific team member along with its respective due date, time budget, and priority. These assignments create a sense of visibility and urgency that are crucial for moving any given project forward.
The organizational phase is also where the project scope is defined. In short, this is the extent of work involved in the project. Defining the scope of work ensures that teams don’t too much and likewise stay within the budget of the project – or avoid the dreaded scope creep.
Creating a project schedule is another priority task at this point. Here’s where you'll define the chronology of activities required for the project.
This can be represented visually through tools like Gantt Charts, which can be updated in real-time to highlight a project’s process. With an established timeline, teams are ready to get started with the actual project itself.
Phase 3: Execution
This is the phase where the team puts its plan into action.
During execution, project leaders are responsible for outlining expectations for the team's task management. This involves tracking and reporting on task progress, creating new tasks as needed, and taking action when projects aren’t moving forward.
Visualizations such as kanban boards are a popular way to track your team’s progress, giving participants and stakeholders an “at a glance” view of a project’s status.
Kanban boards are ideal for marketing project management as they clearly highlight the stages involved in a campaign (think: drafts, revisions, and so on). When a task progresses to the next stage in the process, its task card is moved to the appropriate column.
Tools like kanban boards also create a sense of accountability and autonomy for team members. This is a win-win for project managers and participants alike: the former always has the pulse on their projects while the latter is empowered to work without being micromanaged.
And hey, that leads us to the next phase of marketing project management.
Phase 4: Control
Once a project is in motion, you need to make sure that everything’s on-schedule.
Are team members hitting headlines? Are there any hold-ups or missing deliverables?
Fact: less than half of people (42%) say that they understand what other team members are working on at any given moment. Piggybacking on the point above, visibility is crucial to a successful project.
This speaks to the value of a tool like Teamwork where you can see everything.
If a project is running behind time or over budget, the project manager is responsible for identifying issues and intervening. They should also provide status updates among stakeholders and project participants alike.
Doing all of the above quickly and efficiently means consolidating communication. This is yet again where Teamwork can save the day, providing an all-in-one platform to provide updates, assign new dates, and set fresh due dates as-needed.
Phase 5: Delivery
Finally, we reach the end of the project.
What happens here largely depends on the nature of the marketing team’s relationship to the project. If the project is a one-off marketing campaign, it could be considered finished once it has been delivered to the commissioning stakeholder.
But if you’re a marketing team or agency working on a retainer basis, the final phase of the project lifecycle will likely involve an evaluation process. This includes not only client feedback, but internal analysis of the project.
For example, in Teamwork, you can assess the timing, budget, and individual teammate performance to define success in the detailed profitability report.
This final piece of the process encourages you to refine your project management approach and find the best way to empower teammates in the future. This is a win-win for you, your teammates, and clients alike.
The benefits of effective marketing project management
The most obvious upsides of project management are productivity-related. Beyond that, also consider:
Consistenly: a defined, repeatable process encourages more consistent work regardless of the project, team, or client involved.
Collaboration: teammates are encouraged to work together, empower each other, and keep projects moving forward faster.
Accountability: transparency and visibility make it easier to understand who’s on-task and who might be struggling.
Organization: less guessing, fewer check-ins, and no deliverables getting lost.
Thoughtful planning: putting each piece of your project under the microscope results in more meaningful projects versus just winging it.
Project management encourages long-term efficiency gains for marketing teams.
For example, each project involves a structure that can be tweaked and repurposed for future projects. You can use lessons learned from the evaluation phase to improve your decision-making.
And the longer a team applies a project-managed approach, the more they can optimize it.
How project management brings marketing teams together
Food for thought: 92% of marketers believe that collaboration with their teammates could be improved.
This speaks to the importance of marketing project management software that encourages more proactive communication. This includes:
Commenting on tasks for the sake of providing updates and asking questions
Tagging other team members to bring them into the conversations ASAP
Being able to see conversations, questions, and answers throughout the entire project lifecycle
With tools like Teamwork and integrations like team chat, you can do all of the above seamlessly. Regardless of specific features, a project management platform facilitates all team collaboration in one place.
While emails, phone calls, and Zoom catch-ups can lead to resolutions, a project management solution speeds up the process and keeps communication consolidated.
What are the key project management skills for marketing teams?
To implement project management effectively, you need to do the following:
Develop project management skills within your organization
Assign specific management-related responsibilities among your team
Some marketing teams might be best served by sharing project management responsibilities among themselves (versus employing a project manager.) This approach is cost-effective and provides an opportunity for more individual workers to level up.
If you do take on project management internally, you’ll need an accessible project management tool and process that addresses your specific needs. No questions asked.
An effective way to divide project management responsibilities among a team is to rotate leadership roles between projects. One team member leads on one project, another team member leads on the next.
Rinse and repeat. This gives everyone on the team opportunities to learn the project management process firsthand.
Not only will rotating project management leadership help team members gain crucial skills but also highlight what a “good” teammate looks like in a non-leadership role.
The project management competency of a team can also be improved through training. Additionally, make use of free online learning platforms like StuDocu, which has a massive library of educational resources your team can access to learn more about project management and improve their skills. Here are some of the key skill areas to focus on in professional development:
Organizational skills. Sure, your project management platform can automate many of the tasks related to organization. That said, skills such as employee time management and task prioritization are critical on an individual level.
Communication skills. People are the most important piece of marketing project management. Coworkers should feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback. If not, the whole process falls apart. Building a collaborative culture is a must-do.
Do you really need marketing project management software?
The short answer? Yes!
Sure, the idea of adding more tools to your marketing stack might be daunting.
But ensuring a seamless process, engaged teammates, and high-quality projects means having a dedicated tool to make it happen. There’s a reason why brands and agencies alike rely on marketing project management software.
The good news? A tool like Teamwork allows you to manage all of the moving pieces of your campaigns in one place.
You can do so without sacrificing your current marketing stack, too. For example, Teamwork has tons of baked-in integrations with many of your current tools like HubSpot, Slack, MS Teams, and Chatify.
Getting started with project management software now represents a long-term investment in your business. From better collaboration to fewer missed deadlines, having a defined process consolidated into a single tool is the best way to boost your efficiency ASAP.