Part One: 8 Keys to Delivering Your Marketing Projects On Time, Every Time
You created your marketing plan and within your plan are a number of important projects that need to get done on time in order for you to reach your goals. Those projects may include a website or a sell sheet or a webinar or ongoing content development. All projects that will help you move the needle so you can continue to grow your business.
It’s time to execute those projects but where do you start? What steps do you need to take to make sure you are completing these important projects on time so you can receive the results you are looking for in your business?
At Pace Marketing, we plan and execute hundreds of projects each year for our clients, so we have a keen understanding of what it takes to deliver a project, not only on time, but also with the results needed for growth in your business. In this article, I will discuss the first four of eight aspects we have found to be key to a project’s success. The first four keys will focus on the steps you need to take to plan and launch your project.
In addition, we have even created a free downloadable tool called the 1-Page Project Planner to help you plan your next marketing project.
The First Four Keys
Key 1: Define your project:
If you want to get to a destination, you first have to know where you are going. That is why this first step is needed to execute your marketing projects successfully. At Pace, we call this a project roadmap because we map out the purpose of the project, deadline, desired results and deliverables. Below are the areas we ensure are defined with a client before marching forward into execution.
This one may seem like a, duh Stephanie, why are you even bringing this up? Because even the aspects of a project that seem obvious are important. Name your project something that is clear for you and anyone else involved in your project. If you have multiple projects running at the same time you will want to make sure the name makes it easy to differentiate one project from another.
In the simplest terms, why are you spending your resources on this project? Why is it necessary to and how will it contribute to the overall growth of your business? When defining the purpose, it will also be good to define who you are trying to reach with this project. Who is the target audience and why are they important to your business’s growth?
Every project needs a deadline. Why? If the project is important enough to spend your resources on it, then it is important enough to have a deadline. Even if the project is not based on an event or launch that makes the deadline critical, give it a date. If you have a deadline and a timeline (which we will cover a little later) you are more likely to complete the project and have it contribute to your business goals.
Desired Results or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
This area ties into the project’s purpose by defining what you hope the project will accomplish for your business. What is your desired result when the project is completed? What will it produce for your company? In other words, what are your KPIs for this marketing project? It should be something measurable, an outcome you can verify that led you closer to your overall business goals. Is this project tied to a sales goal? Then perhaps your KPI should be based on the number of marketing qualified leads it generates. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? Your KPI could be based on website visits or social media follows.
When defining your project it is important to understand what final product will need to be delivered. What may look simple at the start can grow into a multi-step fiasco if you have not thought through the assets and deliverables that need to be a part of the project. Knowing what needs to be part of the final project will help you plan the steps you need to take to deliver on time. Let’s take a website as an example. You may be thinking, well, my deliverable would be a website. Although that is true, I encourage you to be more specific. Dig deeper. Your website will have how many pages? Will it have videos? A blog? Are there images on every page? What content needs to be included? Basically, outline the content and assets that need to be created to deliver the final product.
What amount of money do you have in the budget to execute this project? When defining this area of the project, start breaking down the budget into pieces. What budget will be used for design? Will there be cost for printing? Do you need to pay any influencers or key opinion leaders as part of this project or campaign? At the very beginning of the project you may have estimated numbers. Be sure to keep track of your budget on a regular basis and update it as the numbers become more defined so you can ensure you are staying on budget.
Key 2: Identify stakeholders
Once you have defined your project you can move on to the next key step in the process, identifying who should be involved in the project. According to the Project Management Institute, a stakeholder is “individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution or successful project completion.” In other words, a stakeholder can be directly or indirectly involved in the execution of the project.
For a marketing project, this could include:
- Directly involved in execution
- Project manager
- Graphic designer
- Website designer or developer
- Content writer
- Product manager
- Photographer or videographer
- Event planner
- Outside organizations such as publications or event organizers
- Indirectly involved in execution
- Management, business owner or decision maker – anyone who may need to give the final seal of approval prior to launch
- Customer service – will they be fielding calls or answering questions related to the project or campaign?
- Target audience – does any research need to be done to determine the relevance to or impact on the audience?
- Manufacturing – will the project or campaign impact inventory or demand?
Define both who needs to be involved in the direct execution of the project as well as who needs to be informed about the project’s progress along the way. Make a list of who is involved in the project and their role as well as how often they need to be involved in project meetings or communications. If you are utilizing outside vendors, make sure they understand the full scope of the project, including any meetings they will need to be involved with along the way. This will help estimate their time involved in the project and prevent any scope creep with them as you move through the project.
Key 3: Create a timeline
Step three to helping your marketing project cross the finish line on time is to build a timeline. Does this sound unnecessary? This step can stress you out if you are trying to squeeze a project into an unrealistic timeline, but it is a lifeline to you as you are managing the project and to your team as they make sure they are meeting the expectations of the project. A timeline will help keep you and all of your stakeholders on task so that you can deliver your crucial project on time. It also helps you adjust deadlines for different steps of the project if there are delays in earlier steps or bring challenges to management with the impact those issues will have on the final delivery.
Start with the end in mind
The best way to create a timeline is to start with the end in mind and work backwards. That is why I had you set the deadline when defining the project. Hopefully I stressed the importance of having a deadline enough in key one. In case you missed it, having a deadline will be critical to keeping your project moving along. If your marketing project does not have a deadline, it is likely to sit on everyone’s list of to-dos as a low priority or get lost amongst the other projects or tasks needing to be completed. By the time it is finished, it may be irrelevant to your customers or your organization.
Break it down
Take some time to break your project down into manageable steps. Depending on the complexity of the project, this may be as simple as Version 1, Version 2, etc. It could be a more complex project that you want to break into sections like Preparation, Production, Testing, Approval, Launch. Don’t worry, at the end of this section I’m going to share an example of one of our project templates with you so you can see how we structure our most common projects into bite-sized pieces. This eliminates the feelings of overwhelm that come with planning the details of a project.
In addition to thinking through the steps, you will want to consider dependencies – are there steps that cannot happen until another step is completed? Can any of your steps happen simultaneously to keep the project moving at a quicker pace? You will also want to consult with your stakeholders to determine the amount of time it will take to complete each task. Don’t forget they have other responsibilities as well. How long will it take to complete each task, in days, considering the other obligations in their (and your) pipeline? You will get behind from day one if you expect all your stakeholders will spend 100% of their time on your project, unless, of course, that was mandated by management. In that case, lucky you! Enjoy that you have the full attention of your stakeholders!
If you are not using a project management software, one way to think through your project steps would be to get some notecards or post it notes and create a Gantt Chart on your wall, whiteboard, chalkboard – whatever you use to brainstorm – so you can visualize the workflow of your project. Label each notecard with one step. Treat the horizontal plane like your timeline, you can even place some notecards with dates at the top to give you a time reference. Use the vertical plane for steps of your project, from first to last. If the steps can happen simultaneously, stack them one above the other on the timeline. Otherwise, they would be placed next to each other as they fit in the timeline. See the below example of brainstorming this on an open space. At the end of this section, along with the example of project steps, I will share what this looks like when input into our project management software. That will allow you to see the dependencies as well.
Checklists are a handy feature often included in project management software. If your organization does not use a project management software, I recommend creating checklists for each task in a format you can share with your team. This is especially useful if you have multiple people assigned to a task to clarify who is responsible for which parts of the task. Microsoft Excel is one option to organize your checklists.
In our checklists, we also include important items that are vital to us delivering a quality product to our clients, on-time, every time. This reminds each team member to pay attention to that piece of the project even if completing that item is second nature. For example, one item on our project manager’s checklist is to “send: all feedback and due date to designer.” Our project manager is already in the habit of sending a deadline to our designer, but everyone has an off day. The checklist items help us ensure nothing gets missed.
It also allows us to capture special details that are specific to a client. For example, one client requires an approval code on all of their marketing pieces. The checklist reminds our team to obtain the approval code before passing the project on to the next phase, reducing extra back and forth between team members, reducing revisions and decreasing the risk of missing this important detail.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
As the project manager for your marketing project, it is imperative that you communicate well and often to your stakeholders. How will you launch the project with your stakeholders? How often will you communicate progress and how will you do that? How often will you have group meetings to discuss the project status? I am including this in the timeline section on purpose. Whatever communication process is appropriate for your project, build it into your timeline so you know when meetings need to take place or when you need to send status updates to team members and those stakeholders who are indirectly involved in the project.
Example of a marketing project timeline
I am going to use a common type of marketing project for our team as an example, what we like to call a Print Project with Concepts. It is important to understand that for us Print Project does not always mean it will be printed. It is the base project we use for almost any kind of graphic design project we are working on – a sell sheet, a catalog, a tradeshow graphic, a PowerPoint presentation – the template we have created gives us a good foundation for many projects that allows us to modify for the specific needs of the project. Note: in this example I will not go into the specifics of checklist items or include any of the extra steps we have internally for quality control.
In this example, Joe from Hard Working Client came to me in need of a new brochure for his company. He currently is leaving a self-printed, self-designed Word document with prospects after meetings summarizing his product line and wants to upgrade that leave-behind piece with a more professional look. During our roadmap call, we discussed his needs and determined that he will need some product photography, copywriting for the overview (but not for product descriptions), 3 design concepts of a 4-page folded brochure and final delivery of 1,000 printed pieces. He had no specific timeline for the project but would like it as soon as possible. We agreed upon the estimate and the Hard Working Client Brochure is now in the hands of our project manager.
After asking our sales team any clarifying questions and reaching out to the client to ensure she understands his needs correctly, our project manager enlists the team members needed for the project and builds out the timeline. These are the steps she and the team determined would be necessary to complete the project in a timely manner with our highest quality product. If the steps below have the same number, they are happening simultaneously. I have also included a screenshot of this sample project timeline in our project management software.
1. Launch project
- Create timeline
- Launch meeting
- Collect brand assets
- Design 3 concepts
- Client review – choose concept and supply edits
- Concept edits
- Client approval
2b. Product photography
- Receive products
- Edit photography
- Client review
- Reshoots (if necessary)
- Client approval
- Final photo files
- Interview client (can happen during stage two)
- Write content (dependent on Concepts: Client approval for word count)
3b. Print quote
- Initiate print quote(s) with print vendor(s) (dependent on Concepts: Client approval)
- Obtain samples for client (if needed)
- Receive print quote
- Client review
- Adjustments to print quote
- Client approval
4. V1 (dependent on completion of steps 1-3a)
- Creation: V1
- Client review
5. V2 (dependent on completion of step 4)
- Receive client revisions
- Creation: V2
- Client review
6. V3 (dependent on completion of step 5)
- Receive client revisions
- Creation: V3
- Client review
7. Approval (dependent on completion of step 6)
- Receive client approval
- Save final files
8. Printing (dependent on completion of steps 3b and 7)
- Send signed estimate and final files to printer
- Review proof
- Send proof to client for final approval
- Client approval
- Printing delivery
9. Close project
Click the image to enlarge
Key 4: Launch with a meeting
Remember how I asked you in the last step how you planned on launching your marketing project with your stakeholders? In most cases I would recommend you launch that project with an official project launch meeting. This will allow you to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page regarding the purpose, expected results or impact on your business and deadline for the project. It will also give you and your team the opportunity to answer questions and clarify steps or checklist items.
Approach your meeting with an agenda. If possible, have your stakeholders submit questions they have prior to the meeting so you have an opportunity to do any research necessary to answer them. Here is an example agenda:
- Project Introduction
- Expected results
- Introduce each team member and their responsibility
- Review timeline
- Clarify any outstanding questions and/or adjust timeline based on feedback
- Define how the team will communicate
- Approval process
- Mandatory meeting dates
By utilizing these first four keys to delivering your marketing project on-time, you will greatly reduce the headaches that can come with bringing a project to the finish line. Defining your project, enlisting the right talent to enhance your team, planning your action steps and launching the project with a meeting will all help you deliver the marketing tactic on-time so you can continue to grow your business.
Look for our next article, where we share keys 5-8 to Delivering Your Marketing Projects On Time, Every Time. These four keys focus on the execution and review phases of the project.
If you need help planning your next project, download our free 1-Page project planner or schedule a Roadmap Call to discuss how we can help you make progress.