As anyone who’s watched Mad Men or worked in an ad agency will know, marketing is a hectic business. Whether you’re scheduling Tweets for a small organization or taking care of a global multi-million dollar campaign, there’s a lot of plate-spinning, people management, and results-tracking to do — all of which falls under the remit of the marketing project manager. So what exactly does this busy role involve? Let’s take a closer look.
What does a marketing project manager do?
A marketing project manager is responsible for managing marketing projects. This includes planning and managing campaigns while keeping everyone in the loop and juggling deadlines and budgets. It’s an exciting job with a lot of moving parts.
Here are some typical responsibilities you’ll see in this role:
- Leading projects from inception through to the finish line, including working out the project’s scope, setting deadlines, managing budgets, and assigning tasks
- Making sure everyone has everything they need to work effectively, including removing roadblocks that might slow people down
- Meeting clients to get to grips with their project goals and priorities
- Facilitating discussions between stakeholders and team members
- Hosting a project kickoff meeting and regular check-ins
- Monitoring progress throughout the project’s lifecycle
- Sending progress updates to stakeholders
- Delivering the final project
What skills do you need to become a marketing project manager?
From strong communication to out-of-this-world organization, being a marketing project manager is both a challenging and rewarding role to fill. If you don’t match all of these, then don’t worry — many you’ll learn or hone on the job.
1. Good communication
Project marketing managers are leaders. They bring groups of people together and facilitate discussions between them — not all of which will be easy. As such, they need to have strong interpersonal communication skills, both verbal and written. You also need to know how to talk to different types of people: from junior designers to planners, stakeholders, and creative directors.
2. Time management skills
You’ll need to schedule everyone else on the team, as well as manage your own busy demands efficiently.
3. Negotiation skills
When you’re dealing with creative ideas, clients, stakeholders, and team members, it’s not uncommon for disagreements to arise. It’s your job to listen, resolve conflicts, and find a solution that keeps the project moving along.
4. Leadership skills
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a leader before: You’ll have to step up and assume the role. There will be times when people turn to you for advice, and you’ll regularly be held accountable for various deliverables.
As marketing manager, you’ll need to know about project management, marketing, as well as about your clients and their industry.
Times, budgets, resources — marketing project managers juggle triple constraint. They’ll also need to know how to work out a project’s dependencies, helping the team develop workflows and defining what needs to be done at each step. They also need to be able to set deadlines, including building buffer time into things (so you can handle the unexpected).
7. Know your project management tools
From project management software to techniques that help you prioritize and plan tasks — the better you know your tools, the smoother your project will run. This is all the more important if you’re working as a remote marketing project manager: Without seeing everyone in person, you’ll need to keep track of progress, make sure you’re not running over budget, and hold regular check-ins to make sure everyone’s happy and working efficiently.
8. Have digital marketing skills
Most businesses are either run solely digitally or have a large digital element to their marketing strategies. As marketing project manager, you’ll need to get acquainted with things like driving website traffic, generating leads, SEO, and website conversion. You’ll also need to know how to monitor digital campaigns and analyze their results.
9. Problem-solving skills
Dealing with problems is just part of the day job. Get to know problem-solving techniques like the fishbone diagram, which can help you locate the root cause of a problem. As well as working out how to fix problems, you also need to be able to pick up on them quickly. This is where project management software can be a big help thanks to real-time diagrams and automatic alerts.
A day in the life of a marketing project manager
Every role is slightly different: Some marketing project managers are freelancers or contractors, others work full time at an agency. You might work with one big client or juggle two or three at once. Here’s what a typical day might look like:
1. Define the project or campaign.
You’ve spoken to clients and stakeholders, done your research, and gathered all the information you need for project kick-off. Your first step is to define the campaign. This could range from ‘we’re creating a TV ad to promote the launch of our client’s new car model’ to we need to create a series of banner ads and track their effectiveness over the course of a year.
2. Develop S.M.A.R.T goals
S.M.A.R.T goals help you define and prioritize tasks. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Every task you set should meet these criteria.
3. Write a project brief
Usually short and sweet, this document should contain a topline description of the project, along with the following:
- The main objective
- A list of deliverables (which will differ depending on who it’s for. e.g., copywriters will have different objectives from designers)
- A summary of processes and handoffs
- A list of who will be involved
- A list of resources needed
- A rough timeline and deadlines.
No need to make it fancy — a Word doc or PowerPoint should be enough here.
4. Host a briefing session
Gather everyone who’ll be working on the project together and talk them through it. Discuss availability and resources, and use these details to fine-tune your plan. During the meeting, run through —
- A brief explanation of why the project exists
- The steps each person will need to take (ask, as well as tell)
- How much time each person will need for each task and phase — not forgetting to add some buffer time to give flexibility
Once you’ve gathered all this information, you can put it into a timeline. Gantt charts are a popular choice here.
5. Map out tasks
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get into the details. This stage will include creating schedules and assigning tasks, working out which tools and platforms you’ll be using (Google Analytics, MailChimp, HootSuite, and so on). You’ll also start creating content calendars, marking up content types and dates.
Top tip: A Kanban board makes it easy for you to assign tasks, set up deadlines, and check off tasks — while the team can use the dashboard to view all their tasks in one place.
6. Hold daily standups
Marketing projects can change in the blink of an eye. Holding daily standup meetings is a good way to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. As manager, set aside 10 minutes each morning to ask the team what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today, and if there are any problems getting in the way of that. For remote teams, you can hold these meetings on your chat app or via video software, like Zoom.
7. Measure progress
The success of your project is down to you, and your success as a marketing project manager will be defined by how well your project does. That said, not every project works — but if you track it well and can answer for disappointing results, you’ll be in much better stead to argue your case.
Tracking metrics will help you prove that success. Project management tools can help you keep moving along and track your team’s productivity thanks to alerts, visual progress reports, and work tracking. Being able to see progress in real-time means that if deadlines are being missed or bottlenecks are forming, you can act quickly and have the necessary conversations to get things moving again.
The best marketing project managers are those that are detail-oriented and organized without micromanaging their team. This is where project management software can help. It allows you to keep track of everyone, every campaign, and every project — all from one place. You can make sure deadlines are being hit, budgets aren’t being blown, and monitor the small details, all while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Managing a marketing project is a big job, but if you set achievable goals, delegate work, and keep everyone collaborating and communicating effectively, you’ll be well on the road to success.