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Project management is an indisputably important skill for any digital marketer, but it’s one that’s often overlooked – in the midst of a flurry of ever-changing deadlines and deliverables, many marketers can forget the simple act of taking a step back to plan out their requirements and next steps. In its simplest form, project management is about collaboration, ingenuity, and making use of a set of core organizational competencies in order to perform as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Project management benefits every key stakeholder (and becomes increasingly essential the more there are), from managers, to marketers, to designers, to clients. The volume of project management tools available to marketers is testament to its necessity, and will help you to implement and manage a process that will seriously simplify your marketing efforts.
If you’re new to using project management software, we’ve listed some of its most simple purposes below:
1. Create personal checklists to manage your workload
Trello is a project management tool that is incredibly well suited to managing personal tasks, which serves as the perfect introduction to project management as part of a marketing function.
As a tool, Trello perfectly complements what is known as the “kanban” methodology, which dates back to the 1940s. Toyota began implementing a system on its factory floors, with the goal of aligning inventory levels with the actual consumption of materials to prevent waste. Real-time communication was required to relay capacity, so workers would pass a card, or “kanban” between workers, the warehouse, and suppliers to indicate what material was needed, and how much, and only when it was needed.
With Trello, you can create your own cards, or kanbans on your own board. A basic kanban board has a three-step process: “to do”, “in progress” and “completed”. You can use this simple workflow to help you visualize the volume of work you have to do, and optimize your performance accordingly.
If you can become adept at organizing and structuring your individual responsibilities within a working day, these skills will be scalable, and you can apply them to a wider marketing campaign scenario.
2. Prioritize tasks
Prioritizing your workload involves determining the most important tasks that you should be focusing on, and to lend a sense of urgency to your campaign tasks that will help you to focus better and accomplish more. In short, if you take the time to prioritize tasks within your project management software, you’ll be able to enhance your productivity.
Use a simple prioritization structure to outline your key priorities. You can demarcate them within your project management tool appropriately, either in chronological order, or by marking them A, B or C:
A – Urgent priority: the completion of these items as soon as possible is critical to your campaign. If you fail to complete them, this will result in the failure of your campaign.
B – Important priority: as per their name, these items are important, and failure to complete them will have serious negative consequences for your campaign. However, they are less essential, or time-sensitive than those marked “A”.
C – Optional priority: these items are by no means essential, and can be viewed more as added bonuses, i.e. multiple creative options from which you can choose. Failure to complete will not have a significant impact on the execution of your campaign.
3. Add delivery dates
The timeliness with which you implement and launch a marketing campaign can be the difference between success and failure, especially if your digital marketing activity is affected by seasonality. When planning and managing a project, after you’ve designated your most important tasks, it’s important to mark key dates against them.
Setting stringent deadlines becomes infinitely more important the more complex and multi-faceted a campaign is, and the more stakeholders are involved. Forewarned is forearmed, so if you’re able to see what tasks and activities are imminent, you’ll be able to plan for these milestones accordingly.
You can set delivery dates for internal staff and external stakeholders, for example, if you happen to be working with an agency. It’s particularly important to communicate these deadlines if they have a knock-on effect and have the potential to impact the start of other activities within your campaign.
You can create realistic delivery dates by taking the time during campaign planning to think about what’s required to complete each task within your campaign. What resources do you need? Which stakeholders are involved? Always remember to incorporate a buffer within your deadline to ensure you’ll meet it.
Using a project management tool such as Asana enables you to easily add a delivery date to individual tasks. It will also provide you with email notifications as to when these tasks have been completed by the individuals to whom they were assigned, and when they are overdue.
4. Track your budget
It’s important to keep an eye on what you spend and how you spend it. Budgeting is an integral to the ongoing effectiveness of your campaign, particularly if your funds are limited. Within digital marketing, it’s very easy for costs to fluctuate, especially if you’ve incorporated paid advertising into your campaign. Paid search and social campaigns are always calculated on a per-click, or per-impression basis, and measuring performance and monitoring spend as you go will help you to make the most of these models.
A significant advantage of consistently maintaining your budget is that it helps you to avoid the shock of unanticipated costs that can often hinder or derail a campaign entirely. It’s also a factor that should be taken into account when assessing the priority of different tasks. Tracking your budget will help you to stay disciplined and organized, an essential attitude when you’re conducting and managing an involved digital marketing campaign.
Genius Project is a project management and budget management tool that compares planned versus real expenditure versus estimated work to complete so you can highlight and maintain budget drift. Detailed, customizable dashboards allow you to keep an eye on every element of your budget and it also automatically calculates actual and re-estimated costs.
5. Monitor your progress
Project management software makes it incredibly easy for you to track and monitor your campaign progress. By breaking your campaign down into individual tasks and assigning them delivery dates, you can easily evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, which areas of the campaign are running seamlessly and where bottlenecks are being created. Delivery dates are particularly important as they help you to create a baseline for your campaign that can be compared against the progress of your tasks.
You can gain status updates manually, by contacting project participants, or you can leverage functionality within your project management tool. Tools such as Basecamp help you to avoid the potentially fragmented approach of emails, texts and meetings in favor of a centralized hub of communication. There’s even a special progress tab that provides you with a clear, tangible timeline that enables you to see what’s been happening in your project.
To support this progress tab, there’s the ability to post messages that everyone else using the tool can see and respond to. This is useful, not only for providing status updates but providing feedback and discussing the relevance of certain tasks in relation to overarching campaign goals. If you’ve added external stakeholders to the tool, you can choose to hide certain messages from them, making them visible only to members of your internal team. There’s also the ability to attach files as required.
What are your key rules and tools for effective project management as a digital marketing professional? We’re keen to hear your tips and insights in the comments section below!