As a marketer, you know how important projects are.
They’re your course to success. Your path to excellence. A plan of action.
You also know just how out of sorts projects can get. Without successful marketing project management, timelines may slide, quality may slip, standards may be missed, and the work experience may suffer.
So what causes marketing projects to stray off course?
Having managed many marketing projects for TopRank Marketing, I’ve come across my fair share of barriers and challenges and learned from my experience with them. Below, I’m sharing the most common barriers to marketing project management success and how to overcome them so you can, too. And to help illustrate my points, I tapped the help of Schitt’s Creek — a show I only just started and can’t get enough of. I hope you’ll excuse how late to the party I am on that show, it’s a gem.
Barrier #1 – Lack of Clarity
Clarity is easily the number one barrier to marketing project management success. Whether it’s unclear goals, responsibilities, direction, deadlines, standards, etc. a lack of clarity permeates even the best planned marketing projects. It breeds chaos, frustration, confusion, and disorganization, all problems or barriers in their own right.
So how does it happen?
Most often, a lack of clarity comes from a lack of communication. From being vague to contradictions to outright withholding information, communication blunders lead to unclear directives and actions. And when the team is unclear, the work often stops until more clarity is added.
How to Overcome: Over communicate with your team. If it seems like a needless detail, include it anyways. Always include links to resources. Have regular briefings.“Over communicate with your team. If it seems like a needless detail, include it anyways. Always include links to resources. Have regular briefings.” — Anne Leuman @annieleuman Click To Tweet
Barrier #2 – Lack of Resources
Project resources are anything required to get the work done — they could be anything from people to tools to materials to equipment. As requirements for work, they’re a pivotal piece of any marketing project and you need an ample supply of both to keep projects on track and lead to a successful result.
For marketing projects, resources are most often tools and people. Your digital advertising strategist doesn’t have access to the right Google Analytics account? That’s a problem. One of your marketing copywriters is taking a two-week vacation right before a campaign launches? That’s a problem, too. Both examples are a lack of resources, and both examples require foresight to catch those instances before they happen so the project doesn’t suffer.
How to Overcome: Plan ahead. Evaluate resources (people, tools, materials, time, etc.) for the entire project’s lifecycle. Look for gaps. Fill them proactively.“Plan ahead. Evaluate resources (people, tools, materials, time, etc.) for the entire project’s lifecycle. Look for gaps. Fill them proactively.” — Anne Leuman @annieleuman Click To Tweet
Barrier #3 – Lack of Time
There is another type of resource for a project — time. Projects require time to finish. And when you and your team are juggling several marketing projects at once, it becomes clear that time isn’t infinite.
Marketing projects also have deadlines, making time management crucial for any marketing project manager. Fast approaching deadlines reduce the maximum available time we have to complete a task or project. Overlapping projects with conflicting deadlines slash the amount of available time even greater. Keeping a close eye on your team’s available time, the time investment required, and time remaining on a project or task are all critical for success.
How to Overcome: Assess the time investment for every task of your projects. Ensure your resources can match that time investment. Check for overlapping projects and deadlines. Pad your deadlines just in case.“Assess the time investment for every task of your projects. Ensure your resources can match that time investment. Check for overlapping projects and deadlines. Pad your deadlines just in case.” — Anne Leuman @annieleuman Click To Tweet
Barrier #4 – Lack of Change
Throughout a marketing project’s lifecycle, you’re learning what works and doesn’t work. From kick off to completion, you’re identifying the processes and workflows that need to change or stay for the next project to be a success. For example, you might find that your workflow for launching a new marketing campaign only has a one-step approval process — a two-step approval process would help ensure quality across each of the campaign’s components. To help initiate that change, you document the new process and role it out to the team. But that’s easier said than done.
Enter: resistance to change, our fourth barrier to marketing project management. As projects progress, whether they were a success, a failure, or a neutral result, it’s common for potential improvements for how we work to surface. The team, however, isn’t always receptive to that change. Behavior change is difficult, habits are hard to break. For your improvements to really stick and make a positive impact on your projects, you need your team’s buy-in and commitment to change.
How to Overcome: Carefully document new workflows and processes. Earn team buy-in and commitment early. Review work for process adherence. Remind team members of their commitment when process adherence slips to encourage accountability.“Carefully document new workflows and processes. Earn team buy-in and commitment early. Review work for process adherence. Remind team members of their commitment when process adherence slips to encourage accountability.” — @annieleuman Click To Tweet
Barrier #5 – Lack of Planning
Our fifth and last barrier may very well be the most important to overcome since a lack of planning can easily lead to lack of clarity, resources, time, and change. As the saying goes, “A failure to plan is planning to fail.”
It does happen, though. Sometimes marketing project managers aren’t afforded all of the information they need to thoroughly plan a project. Or, they plan for a best-case scenario and forget to cover their bases and create back-up plans. Be clear on your project requirements, plan around potential roadblocks, involve other stakeholders, and ensure your planning happens pre-kickoff.
How to Overcome: Don’t kick off a project until you are fully informed and planned. Request information that may be lacking. Create a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for your back-up plan.“Don’t kick off a project until you are fully informed and planned. Request information that may be lacking. Create a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for your back-up plan.” — Anne Leuman @annieleuman Click To Tweet
The Bigger the Barrier, the Greater the Glory
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” – Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (AKA Molière)
Obstacles. Barriers. Challenges. Hangups. Whatever you want to call them, they’re a fact of life and of work. No matter the path you’re on, you’re going to come up against them. Managing marketing projects nearly guarantees you’ll come across the five barriers above, and possibly others, too. But while they may seem like impossible mountains to climb, the tips above should help you find a hidden bypass or shortcut to the peak, where the view is well worth the work. As Molière said, it’s glorious.
In need of more tips on how to create effective processes and juggle several marketing projects? Read our guide on effective project management for marketers.