By Monica Pitts
Making sure your marketing gets done, at its root, is simply project management. And good project management can be broken into 4 main steps:
- Outline the process.
- Break it down to the smallest components.
- Assign a due date to all of it.
- Do the work.
Yes, the steps are front loaded. Over half of project management happens before you even begin working. Planning is key to smooth project management. It’s not improv— it’s a fully-rehearsed production.
To start, you should have a plan with a list of your marketing activities for the year. Another part of your plan is outlining your deliverables, or all the things you’ll produce throughout the year. Usually I start my project management process there, treating each deliverable as a big picture starting point in the planning journey.
One deliverable might be a website, brochure or a trade show booth. All these deliverables have varying levels of complexity. You’ll approach managing each project a little differently. For my example I’m going to outline the process for managing a website. This type of project is a pretty complex beast so it’s a great example of something that requires beaucoup project management.
Real Life Deliverable: Website
STEP 1: Outline the big picture.
First, you’ll need a process to go from concepts to finished site. These are your big picture benchmarks.
Our web building process is never completely finished because the deliverable of building a website is a moving target. While the individual steps inside of our process continue to evolve the phases and benchmark of the process have remained the same since we started in 2005. Our big picture process looks like this:
- Phase 1: Planning
• Initial consultation
• Project kick off
• Initial designs
- Phase 2: Develop
• Write content
• Build templates
• Page designs
• Take live
- Phase 3: Monitor & Improve
• Continuing updates
• Site monitoring and software updates
• Annual site review
STEP 2: Break it down to the smallest components.
When we plan a website, we start with a master document. It outlines everything that’s going to be on the website and exactly how the site will work.
The time invested to build a website is more than just about coding the pages and building the templates. There are other deliverables that are needed in order to build the website, such as research, text, photos and videos. Time is invested planning programming features, researching SEO, writing content, taking pictures, and developing videos. So we break everything into little pieces and document it in a long document that is very comprehensive. We list every page, what’s going to be on it and how it will function.
That’s where it starts. We basically create a blueprint. And once you have your blueprint solidified, then you’re ready to move on to timeline.
Step 3 : Assign a due date to all of it.
With our blueprint in hand, we move on to creating timelines. We call our timeline a task calendar.
In the task calendar, which is a magical Google Sheet, it outlines the benchmarks and their deliverables in the order they need to be completed. Using the overall project estimate the task calendar assigns an estimate for the amount of time it will take to complete the deliverables. Yes, this estimate of time is necessary for every single task. The task calendar also assigns a due date for every single task. In this magic document all you need to do is type in the project start date and the due dates for all the tasks as well as the project completion date auto calculate.
Recently we found a hack to import items from our task calendar Google Sheet into Google Calendar. With a little bit of extra formatting and a sprinkle of pixie dust all the deliverables are scheduled on our calendars.
Yes, it is magic. Really this whole step is magic. You can’t just make a huge list of stuff and start checking boxes. You need to physically assign it a due date and put it in a place that you will see it every day. Time blocking on your calendar is the best way to make sure the work gets done.
Step 4: Do the work.
The work begins by putting all the deliverables into our project management system. We have a staff of 10, so a project management system is essential to keep all of the details and lines of communication straight. You can manage your project however you like. You might use email and a spreadsheet or even a good old-fashioned binder to keep the details straight. Do what works for you. You just need an established protocol to hold all the details and communicate each step of the way.
Then the work-work begins. Work your process. Have weekly meetings, to report where you’re at and what’s needed to move on to the next step. Consider both internal and external check ins at key intervals throughout each project to make sure that you’re still on the right track. And respect your calendar as the almighty time management king. Reschedule the tasks you don’t complete on time and adjust your timeline accordingly.
And that, in a nutshell, is project management for marketing.
These principles aren’t new. They’re not exceedingly inventive (except maybe the magical Google Sheet we call a task calendar). They’re just the backbone of how we manage to get things done on time and on budget, over and over again. And you can use these same techniques for your own company.
Monica Pitts is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days constructing a marriage of form and function; creating art with her design team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. Monica considers herself an artist, marketer and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.