You may have never considered how similar marketing management is to project management. But the fact is, you should be project managing your marketing! Most people think of project management as killing tasks and getting things done, naturally because that is, in fact, part of it. However, there is so much more to it.
Marking the tasks off of your to-do list is just one little phase of project management (around here, I call it The GSD Phase, but we'll get to that soon enough). If you really want to get technical, you can look at the Project Management Institute's definition, but the only point I'm trying to make here is that it's way more than marking through some tasks on your notepad.
True project management goes through a series of phases and cycles and your marketing should too. According to PMI, there are five phases of project management - Initiating (deciding something needs to be done), Planning (analyzing, budgeting, assigning, creating schedules), Executing (getting it done), Monitoring and Controlling (checking progress and quality, making adjustments, communicating), and Closing (learning, measuring ROI, analytics). So how does this relate to marketing?
Initiating - At some point, you make a decision that something needs to be done. How you come to this decision is an entirely different blog post, but for now, let's just say you are a restaurant owner and are adding some new seasonal items to your menu. You've decided, "I need to convince people to order these items." Voila... you've initiated.
Planning - This is arguably the most important phase — we've all heard the saying, "Without a plan, plan to fail." At its basic level, marketing planning is all about developing the key messages you're communicating and tying them to your marketing objectives — You must determine what you want to communicate, who to communicate with, when you're going to communicate, how you will communicate it, what needs to be done in order to communicate it, and who is going to get it done. It should also include budgeting and some analysis as to how you're going to measure success (ROI), which should always be looked at together.
Another element in this phase is risk mitigation (what could go wrong, what should you avoid). Back to our seasonal menu example — you determine you need to create a seasonal flyer to attach to your existing menu, update your website, send an email blast, create some social media content, and update your monthly print advertisements to showcase the seasonal items. Because you've thought through this instead of knee-jerking, you know the flyer on the menu should be somewhat different than the print ads because the flyer is targeted at folks already in your restaurant and the ad still needs to convince them to come in. You also know that you should wait to publish all of this content until you run out of your current seasonal items... such as strawberries. Had you rushed at the excitement of the pumpkin ice cream sundae you might not have sold as many strawberry shortcakes causing your existing inventory to spoil. Oh, and since you're a marketing planning rockstar, you know that you need to sell about 75 of the sundaes to break even on what you spent on the design fees and flyers.
Executing - All of that hootenanny in the planning phase now gets done in the executing phase. This is the what I also call the GSD phase (on a politically correct day, GSD stands for "getting stuff done"). Since you already planned the what, who, how, and when of your communications... things should all just get done in this phase. So, your marketing agency comes and takes pictures of your seasonal menu items; they design the flyer, update the website, send the new ad design to your media partners, schedule the email blast, and send you some social media graphics. Your assistant manager gets the posts scheduled on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, while your servers all work together on inserting the flyers into the menus. Boom!
Monitoring and Controlling - This phase happens concurrently with the execution phase and triggers new tasks or adjustments. I like to call this the marketing project management phase because you are basically holding folks accountable, managing the tasks and subtasks that align with getting things done on time, and watching progress to make adjustments. You might be saying, "But Mel, if we do all of this in-depth planning, why would we need to make adjustments?" Well, I hope you don't have to make adjustments, but sometimes, even with the best planning, you may not be hitting the mark. So, you'll need to execute additional communications that weren't in the original plan.
Or perhaps something out of your control came into play. For example, during the summer of 2015 my client, Cammack Station, dealt with a huge ice cream recall from their distributor, Blue Bell Ice Cream. I quickly had to get a blog post up, social media posts, and in-store signage alerting customers why they had no ice cream. What followed was revising the menu and the marketing plan while creating new communications and promotions once they had ice cream again. If we weren't monitoring and controlling, we would have still been promoting ice cream flavors we no longer carried. Yikes!
Closing - During this phase, you review the project and reflect on what went well and what could have been better. This is valuable in working toward continuous improvement. You review the feedback and performance of your communications. You are sure to take note of what drove results and what was a bust. For instance, you may see that your seasonal items weren't getting asked about until you spent $50 on that mouthwatering Facebook ad. Once that was up, the phone-in orders went through the roof. Now, you know to put that in your plan and budget for your next seasonal switch. You are more informed because you took the time to look back and document results.
Applying these project management phases to your marketing will make it much more efficient and effective. But if you're not currently employing every phase, don't worry — you're in good company. Many small businesses struggle to find the time and talented team members to do this right while maintaining a small business marketing budget. Yes, budget, because going through these phases takes time and, for some, the hiring of a marketing consultant or agency. There are tools and templates that can help you and your team go through these phases and improve your marketing project management. And of course, I'd be happy to help you!