Project Management for Marketing Teams: Definitive Guide

Lucija Bakić

March 10, 2024

Screenshot of a project management interface for marketing with tasks organized into backlog, to-do, and in-progress columns, highlighting planning and meetings scheduled for October 11.

Welcome to the complete guide to project management for marketing teams.

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing project management includes processes such as creating a project charter, developing a marketing strategy, identifying and managing risk, and analyzing key performance indicators.
  • Some of the biggest challenges that marketing project managers need to address include: aligning projects with agency goals, keeping projects on time, and maintaining efficient resource management.
  • Key strategies for project success include getting stakeholder buy-in, keeping your workforce competitive, and switching from multiple tools to a single solution.
  • Marketing agency software like Productive supports agencies with real-time data, workflow automation, and improved collaboration.

The Importance of Project Management for Marketing Teams

According to research, organized marketers are almost 7 times (or 649%) more likely to report success than their peers (CoSchedule). But what is it specifically about project management for marketing that contributes to this success?

Good project management includes a mixture of factors such as:

  • More efficient workflows
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Better control of financials and potential risks
  • Reliable and real-time data
  • Increased project transparency and collaboration

Challenges of Project Management in Marketing Agencies

A skilled marketing project manager, supported by reliable marketing project management software, is essential to achieving the benefits described above. As a middleman between internal and external stakeholders, a project manager uses their expertise to keep projects on track and drive successful results.

They also address the various challenges that appear during the marketing project management process, such as:

Maximizing Resource Efficiency

For a service-providing business, people are everything. Managing your resources correctly means that employee workloads are balanced and tasks are assigned according to seniority and skill sets.

Marketing projects can pose a specific challenge due to how cross-functional project teams are: from designers, copywriters, and web experts to analysts of various kinds. All of this means you must put extra care into handling your allocation.

Always consider the utilization rate as one of the leading indicators of efficiency — rates that are too high can have adverse effects. Still, if they are too low, it can point to scope creep or inefficient workflows.

Find out more about managing your agency’s utilization rate:

Aligning Projects with Business Goals

Whether it’s improving brand awareness, increasing customer engagement, or driving sales, your marketing projects need to be aligned with your agency’s strategic goals.

Some main tips for internal projects include:

  • Involving marketing in high-level processes from the get-go in order to ensure that projects contribute directly to agency growth.
  • Identifying and tracking meaningful metrics to track if your initiatives are progressing according to plan.
  • Being realistic about the expected results and the time needed to achieve them.

Agency and project alignment is equally important when working with clients. In a multi-project environment, gauging the feasibility and profitability of projects is key to effective prioritization. This, in turn, is crucial to your agency’s continued success.

We ended up terminating contracts with two of our oldest clients after only a few months of using Productive. We thought that we were at least at zero with them, or that we had some small earnings, but it turned out that we were losing money because the money they paid us did not cover salaries, fixed overhead per hour, and variable overhead per hour.

Ilija Brajković,
CEO at Kontra Agency
 

Ensuring Timely Delivery of Marketing Campaigns

Depending on your project scope, your timelines might differ significantly from one engagement to another. Industry benchmarks suggest a period of 8 to 12 weeks for completing most client marketing plans, including conducting market research and setting goals.

In order to complete project deliverables in a timely manner, you’ll need to maintain communication with the client and internal stakeholders, allocate sufficient resources, and closely monitor your progress with marketing project management software.

Support Your Marketing Project Success

Invest in an all-in-one tool that supports a wide range of marketing activities, from collaboration and project planning to in-depth agency analytics.

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The Main Phases of Marketing Project Management

Similarly to generic agency project management, a marketing project goes through various phases of the project life cycle, from planning and execution to post-delivery insights.

Marketing Project Planning

The planning stage usually incorporates the development of two essential documents:

  • Project charter: This is a document that provides a succinct description of the project, with key marketing goals and constraints, stakeholders, and project budgeting overviews.
  • Marketing strategy: A marketing strategy is a more in-depth resource that includes the result of your marketing research (target audience, positioning, channels, metrics for success) and guides the project’s development.

The latter, in particular, can be a blind spot for agencies that do internal marketing projects. In fact, research shows that 47% of agencies that do digital marketing don’t have a fully defined digital marketing strategy (Smart Insights). However, developing one and putting it down on paper is key to driving customer engagement, brand familiarity, and sales alignment.

Setting Realistic Milestones and Deadlines

According to research by RGPM, 31% of project managers report issues with unrealistic deadlines (RGPM). PMI provides part of the reason for why this can occur:

The reality for many of today’s project managers is that they are no longer asked to generate authentic, bottom-up schedules and cost estimates. They’re instead given those values as targets and then have to force-fit their plans to suit the situation.

The drawbacks of setting deadlines based on incomplete data or unrealistic expectations can be significant. From causing burnout in employees, which also leads to lower quality of project deliverables, missed deadlines, lack of trust, and deteriorating client relationships.

To combat this, consider the following:

  • Make sure to foster historical data, such as reports on estimated vs actual time, in order to be more secure in your future estimations
  • Work on open and transparent communication — if you provide clients with insights on your circumstances, you’re liker to avoid sudden requests for changes in project scope
  • Use agile project management marketing principles to keep your progress flexible and resilient to potential changes and risks

Monitoring Your Performance

Don’t go into a marketing initiative without defining exactly why you’re pursuing a project and what you want to get out of it. The main way to ensure that you’re working towards a tangible goal is by monitoring key project and agency metrics.

Screenshot of a marketing project management dashboard showing a rebranding campaign's progress, with a bar and line graph tracking budget and hours over weeks 23 to 27, and detailed time and invoicing breakdowns.


source: PRODUCTIVE HELPS YOU VISUALIZE AND FORECAST KEY METRICS

Some of these metrics include:

  • Utilization rate: One of the key capacity planning metrics that depicts how efficient your teams are by using the ratio of time spent on billable work vs total hours worked.
  • Lead Generation: Consider your organic traffic, pipeline engagement, and qualified leads in order to optimize marketing and outreach practices.
  • Lead Conversion: How many leads are becoming prospects, and how many prospects are being converted to clients? A low lead conversion rate indicates issues in your marketing or sales funnel.
  • Profit margins: Calculated by looking at profit divided by revenue. A high profit margin signals you can grow your operations with new staff, technologies, and other investments.

Efficient Resource Allocation

Capacity planning in agencies is a complex process in itself, made more difficult because a single project manager can lead anywhere from 2 to 10 different projects simultaneously (RGPM).

Screenshot of a project management calendar displaying tasks and time allocations for team members, with color-coded bookings for various projects and personal time over a monthly view.


GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR AGENCY’S RESOURCES

It includes key steps such as:

  • Identifying required resources: The identification step includes everything from knowing which resource is the right for the task to predicting potential gaps and how to resolve them.
  • Assigning tasks: After the first step is completed, your employees’ expertise and availability should be considered when assigning tasks.
  • Staying proactive: Whether you’re allocating weekly or biweekly, a project manager’s work is continuous. For example, sudden sick leave can significantly impact your deadlines — good allocation means responding to changes quickly while mitigating impacts on budgets or deadlines.
  • Monitoring utilization: Keep an eye out on your employees’ billable hours and efficiency in completing tasks. If there are issues in the process, analyze and address their underlying cause. Do employees lack the proper information to complete their work, or are they overburdened with other tasks?

Risk Management

According to research, 65% of senior finance leaders believe that the volume and complexity of corporate risks have changed “mostly” or “extensively” over the last five years. Risk management can be complex, as it requires significant foresight and strategies to resolve it.

Some common practices include:

  • Risk avoidance: If a part of your marketing strategy seems complex to execute, i.e. technology-wise, you can avoid it by searching for a more reliable alternative.
  • Risk reduction: If you can pinpoint a specific risk associated with your project, you can take steps to mitigate it. For example, the risks of launching marketing campaigns in an unknown channel are reduced by conducting in-depth research.
  • Risk transference: This includes sharing or transferring risk to an outside source. For example, if a marketing campaign includes organizing a large-scale event, this can be outsourced to a specialized PR or event planning agency.
  • Risk acceptance: Risk acceptance is usually used if the potential rewards outweigh the risk. For example, using an innovative technique to market a product launch instead of a tried-and-tested, but outdated method.

Communication Strategies

Strategies for effective communication with stakeholders are universal across various types of client projects. They include being proactive: for example, making sure that you send key reports without waiting to be prompted.

Otherwise, you can foster transparency in multiple ways, such as by sharing access to your market project management software. Clients can then get first-hand insights into your task management and leave their feedback.

Screenshot of a project management tool focused on blog posts, showing a task for motion graphics with options to add a description, attachments, and subtasks, an in-progress status, and details for an assignee with a due date of May 5, 2024.


Manage your tasks with productive

Communication strategies are also important for handling internal teams. According to a survey by Fierce, Inc., 86% of respondents believe that lack of collaboration or ineffective team communication is to blame for workplace failures. This is why ensuring that all key team members are aligned on project goals and how to achieve them is so important for effective workstreams.

Tools for Project Management Marketing

According to PMI, organizations that use manual processes for managing their data, such as Excel, or use outdated marketing project management tools have a project failure rate of 18%. With features such as billable hours tracking, collaboration and communication, budgeting, and more, organizations can optimize business performance and increase efficiency.

Tools can be specialized or comprehensive when it comes to their functionalities.

  • Specialized tools: Focus on delivering a specific feature, such as time tracking, accounting, or collaboration tools.
  • Comprehensive tools: Support various facets of agency operations in one platform, such as resource, financial, and project management.

Though an agency can have specialized tools in its stack, using an all-in-one solution for project management can be especially beneficial. Some advantages include centralized data, standardized workflows, and streamlined day-to-day activities.

With growth comes a bigger need for one source of truth, and that’s what Productive gives us, and that’s really important.

Maike Vilé,
Partner at Makerstreet

Productive – The Best All-in-One Management Tool for Marketing Projects

If you’re looking for marketing agency software to manage your tasks, documentation, and budgeting, look no further than Productive. This comprehensive platform provides agencies of all shapes and sizes with the tools to efficiently manage their current and future projects.

Screenshot of a project management dashboard displaying social media posts with a publishing pipeline, showing tasks in 'Not Started' and 'Done' columns, with various viewing options such as list, board, calendar, and table views.


SUPPORT COLLABORATION WITH VISIBILITY INTO PROJECT PROGRESS

Some of its key features for marketing departments include:

  • Project Views: Visualize and manage your project lifecycle with various customizable dashboards, including Gantt and Kanban.
  • Time Tracking: Use Productive’s integrated time tracking to easily manage time entries or automatically sync it with your bookings in your Resourcing.
  • Budgeting: Whether you’re working on a one-time or retainer project with a fixed or hourly rate, you can build your project budgets and get real-time insights in Productive.
  • Financial Forecasting: Learn more about your key agency metrics, including revenue, profit margin, and budget burn, across the project timeline.
  • Docs: Create essential documents, like a project charter or marketing strategy, and share them with key stakeholders.
  • Sales Pipeline: Drive alignment between sales and marketing by managing your sales cycle, forecasting revenue, and getting insights into your performance.

Additional features include: Billing, Purchase Orders, Automations, Permission Builder.

If I had to describe the one thing that Productive does for us it’s decision-making. Not just in my role, but across our finance and operations team. We are in and out of the platform on a daily basis, using the data and the reporting to help us make key commercial decisions about how we’re running the business, running our accounts, how we’re hiring and managing resources. It really is the tool for helping us make decisions.

Marketing Project Management: Examples of Strategies

There are two main frameworks that you can use to combat poor communication and define your marketing goals: SMART and RACI.

Defining SMART Goals

The SMART framework lists five essential factors to consider when turning your plans into action. Your marketing objectives should be:

  • Specific: Your goals should clearly state what needs to be accomplished and who’s responsible for it.
  • Measurable: Incorporate measurable benchmarks to determine whether the project is progressing according to the project schedule.
  • Achievable: Consider past data to ensure that your project objectives are realistic and can be completed.
  • Relevant: Make sure that your specific goals are in alignment with your agency’s strategic aims.
  • Time-bound: Set specific project milestones to ensure that your project progress is on track.

Using a RACI Matrix

The RACI Matrix is a popular framework for defining and communicating roles and responsibilities within project teams.

It includes four main categories:

  • Responsible: Who is responsible for completing a specific task or objective?
  • Accountable: Who is the person who signs off on a completed project task?
  • Consulted: Who needs to provide additional information to complete the work?
  • Informed: Who needs to be updated about the progress but does not need to contribute to the completion of the task?

The RASCI framework adds an additional role, that of Supportive, or those employees that can provide assistance to others in responsible roles.

3 Tips and Tricks for Successful Management

1. Promoting Stakeholder Buy-in

Lack of stakeholder buy-in can negatively affect client projects, for example, inaccurate estimations, unannounced dependencies, lack of support, unidentified risks, and more.

In order to get everyone fully on board, a project manager should aim to get a full understanding of the needs of a particular stakeholder and ensure that they’re fully aware of what they expect or require from the project.
Buy-in is equally crucial for internal initiatives. Changes should be introduced and disseminated from the top brass to the ground level.

Another important factor is open communication and willingness to receive feedback. Ensuring all team members understand the benefits of significant changes and allowing them to comment on them is important for agency-wide adoption.

2. Fostering Expertise

Your agency can’t stay competitive without a skilled workforce. Multiple research has shown the benefits of upskilling or reskilling employees in favor of hiring new staff — developing capacity building plans, both on a long-term and short-term level, ensures that you can fill project requirements.

This is applicable to a larger extent to various types of marketing projects, as they lean heavily on technology and consumer behavior, both of which are changing at a rapid pace. Equipping your team with the necessary expertise on emerging technologies, data analytics, and digital marketing trends ensures that you can meet the demands of the volatile industry landscape.

3. Minimizing Tool Overload

According to research from Personio, 37% of employees report that there are too many digital tools to use, and as many as 36% state that having too many tools in their stack disrupts their productivity.

Other drawbacks can include:

  • Lack of data standardization
  • Working in silos across departments
  • Increased tech overhead

Although it’s unlikely that you’ll find one single tool for all various facets of an agency’s day-to-day operations, you can often condense multiple functionalities of project marketing management into one.

Consider a testimonial from the VP of Digital Strategy at 4Site Interactive Studios:

We used to have a project management tool, a time tracking tool, a support tool, a way we handled opportunities and sales-driven processes. Those were all separate tools that we had, and it wasn’t good. It also meant that all that data was being lost every time we switched between tools, or we had to find a way to normalize the data between them. And now, the fact that it’s all in one, it’s really a game changer.

Bryan Casler,
Vice President of Digital Strategy at 4Site Interactive Studios

How to Support Your Marketing Project Management Process

A marketing project manager has their work cut out for them. Thankfully, with the right mindset and marketing project management software, success isn’t too far away.

This includes strategies such as defining and aligning your marketing objectives with agency goals, managing risk, and promoting collaboration and communication throughout the process.

Finally, investing in a good marketing tool is a key part of handling the above. The right tool can help you minimize tool overload, get reliable data, and manage marketing processes efficiently.

To learn more about how you drive successful marketing projects, book a demo with Productive.

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Lucija Bakić

Content Specialist

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