As marketers, we are the go-to people. If a sales team needs a new deck to present to an important client? Ask marketing. If an engineer needs to test new product copy? Ask marketing. If recruiting wants to improve the employer brand? You get the idea.
These tasks are on top of the marketing team’s actual responsibilities. Which are, of course, driving brand awareness, generating leads, graphic design, running campaigns, go-to-market initiatives, creating content, enabling sales, maintaining social media, internal communications, media relations, market research, working with vendors, and analyzing company performance.
Despite these many competing priorities, marketing teams rarely have dedicated project management and have to manage their own priorities.
As a marketer, how can you better manage your own projects? And, as a member of a marketing team, how can you help your colleagues be successful with project management and deliver great work and results every time?
Implement agile methodology for marketing project management
Modern development teams have been using the agile methodology for years. This project management system adheres to twelve principles that streamline software development. Some of these principles also apply to marketing.
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
Marketers are often trying to satisfy everyone, including internal stakeholders. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is customer happiness.
Welcome changing requirements
‘We’ve always done it this way,’ is a death knell. The best marketers are flexible.
Deliver frequently, and maintain a constant pace indefinitely
Marketing projects can be on long or short timetables. Yet, showing consistent markers of success helps teams stay engaged and move projects along.
Manage capacity for solo-tasking
When I was starting out in marketing, I always made sure to mention in interviews that I was a ‘good multitasker.’ It was a sign that I was accommodating, would say yes to anything, and was happy to work with anyone.
It took me a few years to learn that these are not the traits of a good marketer. It took me even longer to learn that if your marketing team is multitasking, you have a prioritization problem.
Each member of your marketing team can only work on one thing at a time. If their effort is split among projects, the chances of success don’t double.
Marketing teams must realize and understand their true capacity. Consider the number of team members, their expertise, and their hours available. This will determine exactly how many projects your team can take on. The goal is not to do less work, it’s to stay focused on tasks and initiatives that matter the most and do them well.
Integrate and communicate
With competing priorities and interests, marketing teams can become siloed. A marketing analyst might never interact with a field events marketer, for example. Yet, their goals and objectives may align closely. The opportunities to align your team will ease the collaborative project management process.
Work with your colleagues to identify gaps in your marketing project process. With ongoing remote work, there may be some gaps that you aren’t able to see at first glance. Once these are identified, the team can find opportunities to align. This could mean weekly standups, or it could mean a centralized repository for marketing assets. If your team is struggling being apart, it might mean a weekly Zoom that has nothing to do with work at all.
Practice ruthless prioritization
Without multitasking, we force marketers to prioritize. We all know this means that something must come first, but it also means something must come last.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding what not to work on:
If I don’t do this task, will it create a bottleneck?
Is someone relying on you to complete this task so they can begin their work? If so, prioritize it. If not, postpone it.
Will this task take a long time?
Can you accomplish two or more other tasks in the time it would take you to do this task? If so, prioritize the shorter tasks, and postpone the time-consuming task.
If I postpone this task now, will it snowball into something bigger?
Will postponing this task create more work for you in the future? If so, prioritize the task. If not, postpone the task.
Ruthless prioritization is often just that: ruthless. Marketing project managers may upset stakeholders when they deprioritize a project. Though it may be unpleasant, it’s a crucial part in being able to achieve marketing goals.
Learn to love the backlog
Many marketers are ‘type-A.’ We love a checklist. We love feeling a sense of accomplishment. We love the feeling of stepping back and saying ‘job well done.’
This is rarely the reality on a marketing team. Even if you’re celebrating a big launch or a historic sale, there’s never a true sense of completion. Marketing is continuous.
As the backlog grows, it can start to overwhelm. It feels like you’re staring into your refrigerator and every food item is going bad at once.
Accept that the backlog isn’t a refrigerator—it’s a deep freezer. It’s where ideas, tasks, and initiatives can live for months or years. You can store something in there while you’re working on something else. Or, you can let something fall to the bottom and dig it out to defrost when you absolutely need it.
Marketers must adopt a project management mindset. Once they understand how to operate with an agile mindset, within their capacity, and address priorities, the never-ending task list becomes more manageable.