“Marketing is a creative process,” – they said, “It does not need project management,” they said.
Marketing teams keep thinking this way up until the moment they can no longer estimate deadlines. Or successfully launch marketing campaigns. Things usually get complicated and result in team burnout, frustration and pain.
But why live in pain if you can successfully project manage marketing campaigns and keep your teams happy and motivated?
While a lot of marketers take marketing project management for creating marketing plans, marketing project management is a broader concept and does not usually have a direct impact on the creative side of marketing.
In this piece, let’s break down what marketing project management really is and why marketers and marketing managers should start thinking about project management in general.
Marketing project management is the process of developing a framework for delivering marketing projects from start to finish. The same marketing project management framework can help marketing teams deliver various marketing projects be it a product marketing campaign, a user engagement campaign, a Black Friday campaign, or an SEO audit.
Marketing project manager is a person who oversees projects related to marketing campaigns. Usually, this is a person with hands-on marketing expertise who also masters project management essentials.
A marketing project manager is the person who oversees and takes lead on a project from start to finish. They lead all of the steps below:
Usually, a marketing project manager manages an in-house team of marketers, copywriters, and designers. But in bigger companies, they can also manage third-party vendors like paid advertising specialists, graphic designers, developers etc.
The marketing project manager is not always responsible for the bigger vision. Usually, the chief marketing officer or the marketing director is responsible for setting up an overall vision for the marketing department. The marketing project manager takes the vision and initiates marketing projects based on that vision.
Every project manager is responsible for 4 key primary project areas. If you are intending to kick off a new product launch, for example, you’ve got to figure out what marketing channels you are going to use, who is going to work on the implementation, how much it will cost, and when exactly you will launch the campaign.
So, let’s take a look at each of these 4 areas in more detail.
Project managers are in charge of defining the project scope. The scope includes the intended objectives and the tasks required to complete the project.
These include the human resources as well as tools and equipment required to complete the project. The marketing project manager should ensure the resources are used effectively. Tasks should be assigned in such a way that eliminates any chance of overlap or double work.
Budgeting is also one of the most important responsibilities of a marketing project manager. Every project has a cost. The cost can include the hourly rates of the employees, the ad budget if the marketing project includes paid advertising, and all the tools that will be required to carry out the project. The project manager hence is responsible for overseeing the budget and keeping the spend within budget parameters.
A marketing project just like any other project cannot last forever. It should have a start date and an end date. The marketing project manager is thus responsible for setting the start date and estimating an end date for the project. They should make sure the project is completed within the timeline they set initially and that there are no overdue tasks or activities.
Considering that a marketing project manager does all of the above, they also have to do 3 core activities – planning, overseeing the execution, and communicating the results to the stakeholders.
Defining the scope, allocating resources, setting up timelines, and budgets could fall under the planning stage. Based on the planning, the marketing project manager should track the project progress and advise the team to make changes accordingly. Those little adjustments should help complete the project on time and within budget.
The final thing a marketing project manager should do is pulling the results of the project and communicating them to all stakeholders both internally and externally.
Some of the internal stakeholders could be the marketing department, the marketing team that was executing the project. Some of the external stakeholders can be the chief marketing officer, the head of marketing or the clients (if it’s a marketing agency).
Marketing project managers do marketing project management across different industries and in different companies. Their role can range from helping external clients achieve their goals (marketing agency) to managing internal resources in a corporate environment. Here are 3 main types of marketing project managers (note that they can be others as well).
Be it a website redesign or a rebranding campaign for the client, the marketing project manager in a marketing agency is in charge of making sure all the deliverables are there for the client on time and within the budget.
The marketing project manager in this setting takes the role of liaison between the internal agency team and the client. Some of the responsibilities of a typical agency project manager would include meeting the clients, setting deadlines and estimated costs for the project as well as removing all bottlenecks while overseeing the project execution by their internal team.
Usually, an in-house marketing project manager works for a company or several companies to coordinate marketing projects. The in-house project manager’s goal is to help the company achieve its marketing goals.
An in-house marketing project manager serves as a link between the internal departments such as the design department, the copywriters, the social media department, partnerships, influencer marketing and so on.
Depending on the company goals, the marketing project manager can work on various marketing projects such as a product marketing campaign, an SEO audit, an influencer marketing campaign, a lifecycle marketing campaign etc.
A marketing program manager usually coordinates several marketing projects simultaneously and tracks the execution of them all. This person is also responsible for measuring the results of each marketing program they are involved in and making sure those meet the company’s goals which could range from sales growth to user retention, win back and more.
The marketing program manager apart from managing the marketing project also needs to have expertise in analytics tools and data visualization. This person’s goal is to make sure the company meets its target for a specific month or quarter.
A marketing program manager can work both in-house and in a marketing agency.
A marketing project manager needs technical skills to make sure their projects are initiated, planned, launched, and analyzed properly. However, there is a set of soft skills that a marketing project manager needs too.
These skills help a marketing project manager keep things organized across different projects, communicate better with both internal and external stakeholders, keep their teams motivated and efficient, and drive results for the company.
We’ve picked 5 essential soft skills for a marketing project manager to help them succeed.
Leadership encompasses various skills such as change management, communication skills, being able to delegate and more. Even if the marketing project manager is not the marketing team lead or the CMO, they need to possess strong leadership skills in order to persevere and achieve the goals they set for themselves and their team.
This one is not a soft skill however it should be among the top skills for a marketing project manager generally. Sometimes, marketing teams have their dedicated team leads who are experts of the subject matter and who drive the strategy. However, this doesn’t mean the marketing project manager should not understand marketing or be a marketer themselves.
Knowledge of marketing and previous experience in marketing are going to help the marketing project manager a lot.
Everyone in a marketing team needs to be able to manage their time successfully. A marketing project manager is the person who should assist the marketing team in this.
A marketing project manager especially if they are working in a marketing agency needs to negotiate with both their internal team and the client regarding the timelines and the deliverable. This person should be able to have strong conflict management and communication skills to get the buy-in of all the stakeholders and mitigate any issues that arise while executing the project.
Emotional intelligence is one of the skills that strong leaders possess. It goes hand in hand with communication skills and should not be overlooked. When we say communicate, we mean both in written form and verbally. The marketing project manager should be able to communicate their ideas clearly and provide constructive feedback even in the most frustrating situations.
There are several tools for software development project management that prove to help software development teams deliver projects successfully. Now, there are project management tools for marketing teams too.
Some of those are Dowork.ai, Asana, Wrike, and others. If you are already familiar with these tools, it’s great, and if not, you can check out these project management tools for marketing and creative agencies. They are also usable for in-house project management most of the time.
Depending on a specific role and company, the marketing project manager will need relevant experience in marketing. Most marketing agencies and companies will require a few years of experience as a marketing manager.
Employers value candidates who have a proven track record of growing from a junior-level marketing role to a more senior level position.
Apart from your subject matter expertise, they will also want to see how well you will be able to communicate with different stakeholders, what your negotiation skills look like, and how you can help with conflict resolution.
Marketing teams also need project management frameworks. These will help manage their projects successfully, not miss a deadline, plan and execute within the given budget.
In different companies and across various industries, different people take the role of a marketing project manager. In smaller companies, it’s usually the director of marketing, while bigger companies can have marketing team leads. These folks do marketing project management. However, while projects are getting bigger, marketing teams are seeing the need of having a dedicated marketing project manager. This person masters marketing project management tools and can help achieve goals painlessly.