The Complete 16-Step Marketing Project Management Process

The Complete 16-Step Marketing Project Management Process That Will Get You Organized


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The best marketing management process

What if you could help your marketing team do more in less time?

It’s a simple question that leaves a lot to dream about:

  1. You’d be awesome. Like riding a unicorn over a rainbow kind of awesome.
  2. Your team and company would love you because you’d finally get everyone organized, on the same page, and focused on super meaningful work.
  3. You’d lead a happier, more fulfilled career while nailing every deadline and exceeding every goal.

Ah, the good life.

But, there are some challenges to overcome first.

For starters, project management can feel overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts that need to be accounted for, especially when managing multiple projects and team members.

Fortunately, you’re about to learn the secrets behind strategic marketing project management that will help you:

  • Work even faster and collaborate better than ever by managing your projects with an efficient process from the get-go.
  • Focus 100% of your resources on the right projects instead of “we’ve always done it that way” tasks that don’t add measurable growth to your bottom line.
  • Boost your productivity while getting organized and taking control of your entire process.

You can be a successful marketing project manager.

…but first:

Start Managing Marketing Projects With These Free Word And Excel Templates …

When you read this post, you’ll discover a need for project documentation. Download this free kit to grab your:

  1. Marketing project management template Word document to help you implement every step of this post for a real project you’re working through.
  2. Sprint backlog Excel spreadsheet to manage the entire scope and timeline of your project.

Go ahead and fill out these documents as you read through this post to make the most efficient use of your valuable time!

... Then Upgrade to the Kanban Project Dashboard in CoSchedule

Managing marketing teams is a multi-faceted. There are so many moving parts and dozens of tasks for each project and campaign.

So... keeping everyone and everything on track and hitting all your deadlines can be, well, tough.

That's why I'm inviting you to check out the Kanban Project Dashboard available in your favorite marketing project management platform.

When you manage your marketing team with CoSchedule, you'll:

  • Get a pulse on every project. Using the kanban-style view, you can quickly see the status of every project your team is working on.
  • Pinpoint bottlenecks in your workflow. Are team members getting stuck in particular areas on projects? Identify roadblocks quickly and keep tasks on track.
  • Holistically manage projects from start to finish. Give your entire team full visibility across every project and manage everything in one place.

Get CoSchedule and get organized! Schedule a demo today.

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What Is Marketing Project Management (For The Sake Of This Post)?

The traditional project management method is split into phases:

  1. Initiate: What is the scope of what you'll create?
  2. Plan: How will you create your content and with what resources?
  3. Execute: Create your content.
  4. Monitor and control: Identify and remove any roadblocks that are preventing you from executing.
  5. Close: Get approval, publish, and review.

That is the approach traditional project managers learn about as they get started.

However, there's a way to layer in another proven project management method to help you move through the phases even faster. It's called agile product management.

This process is how developers typically approach creating software (like your beloved CoSchedule project management platform). Agile product management helps developers complete lots of work in short bursts of time by providing intense focus and removing obstacles that might cause them to miss deadlines.

Agile Project Management for Marketing Teams

So, for the sake of this post, you're going to combine traditional project management and agile product management together to create marketing projects more efficiently than ever before.

Here's your definition:

Marketing project management is the efficient process that helps you organize, create, and publish your content as fast as possible.

The beautiful thing is that you can use this process for planning any type of content—and you should.

Let's get into the details:

Initiate Your Marketing Project By Defining The Purpose

Step 1: Choose The Highest Priority Project From Your Marketing Project Backlog

Part of the agile project management process involves creating and maintaining a product backlog. For your purposes, that's a fancy definition for a prioritized list of marketing projects.

Project management starts by strategically choosing to complete the highest priority project on your list. Since that's the case, we wrote an entire post to help you create your own marketing project backlog:

What you're reading right now assumes that you've chosen one project and that it's your highest priority for 10x growth.

Step 2: Explain The Project Background With A Creative Brief

You may already have detailed notes from your marketing project backlog to help you implement your biggest priority project. If not, there are a handful of things to get straight before you get too much deeper:

  1. Who will this project benefit the most? Pinpoint a subset within your audience.
  2. What do you need to create? Define the end deliverable.
  3. Why will this project benefit the audience you've specified? Write your value proposition that answers your audience's question, "What's in it for me?"
  4. What kind of resources might you need to complete the project? Estimate the time and tools involved.
  5. What does done look like? Help your team know what you'll accept as a successful final product.

Leah Dekrey Creative Brief Quote

The background will serve as the foundation for all of the remaining steps in your project management process.

As you write your creative brief to answer these questions, you'll immediately be able to spot areas of potential challenges that you can work to resolve now—before your team starts executing the project.

For example, if you need a developer's help to create a landing page or don't have a budget to complete the work, now is the time to solve the roadblock before slowing up your entire team as they take on the project.

Step 3: Define Your Project's Requirements To Fulfill The Business' Needs

Requirements are the standards your content needs to meet before you publish. Every marketing project may need different requirements, yet some examples to help you brainstorm your project's requirements should include:

  • Automation: Is this a way to automate a part of this project to prevent manual work during execution or afterward? Anything to cut out unnecessary, tedious manual work a robot could do will immediately boost your productivity.
  • Elimination: Can this project eliminate something else you're doing as a new and improved replacement? Removing work from your future to-do list will help you find time to execute even more projects from your backlog a whole lot faster.
  • Maintenance: How can you make this project as successful as possible now with the least amount of daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance? Think 10x growth now that continues to provide long-term results without having to touch it.

All of those may sound similar.

But let that advice soak in a bit more as you look at your project idea and break down what you want it to do to benefit your team and business. If you can create requirements based on those three fundamentals, you will save you and your team time during and after project execution.

And when you don't have time to spare, that matters a lot.

Another way to look at this is by defining a set of requirements your content must meet before you publish.

For example, we've analyzed data to help us define standards of performance for our content. These standards literally help us predict how successful the content we execute will be based on four requirements:

  • Topic: Is the topic similar to your other top-performing content? Is the angle something your audience deeply cares about?
  • Keyword: Does the main keyword have high search volume and low competition? Is there an opportunity to include latent semantic indexing to help even more of your audience naturally find this content through search engines?
  • Research: How can you include deep research in this content to publish something the internet has never seen before? How can you use research to factually back up your claims?
  • Comprehensiveness: How can you tell the most complete story on your topic on the internet?

You could apply this standard of performance to your project, or you may find your most successful content has different traits that make it awesome. The point is to really define what the project will look like before you start working.

In project management terminology, a set of requirements is called a specification. So, if you follow this guide, you will have two specifications (time-saving specification and content specification) with multiple requirements under each.

If you think of more requirements, you can plan even more specifications for your projects. These two specifications are just a minimum viable starting point to produce successful content.

Step 4: Write Your Stories To Focus The Project On An Audience-Valued Outcome

Stories are how you'll put yourself into your audience's shoes to focus on how the project will benefit their lives instead of just creating a deliverable.

Unlike traditional story-telling, these stories help define requirements of satisfaction. It's like asking yourself, "How will my audience benefit from this project?"

Here's the template of how to think about stories:

As an {audience type}, I want to {do something} so that {I get this value}.

For example, let's say the project you want to take on is a new e-book about content strategy that you'll publish on the Amazon store to reach a new audience. One story for your project may look like this:

As a marketer, I want to learn how to implement a better content strategy so that I can get more organized.

One project will likely have multiple stories to help you and your team understand your audience's needs. To continue the e-book example, a second story could help you write a specific chapter in the book:

As a marketer, I want to learn which types of content our team should create so that we can maximize lead generation from every campaign.

Since the e-book project example also requires you and your team to create additional content, you could also use stories to define your audience's needs for a deliverable like the landing page where you'll promote the e-book:

As a marketer, I want to be reassured that this e-book is worth my valuable time so that I can really reap the benefits it promises after I download the e-book.

Later, when you plan, you'll break down the stories into manageable tasks you can assign to individuals on your team.

Plan The Details Of Your Projects As Sprints

Step 5: Break Your Stories Into Manageable Tasks Your Marketing Team Members Will Execute

Stories are something a team works on together, while you assign tasks to your team members.

Tasks are important because they break down a large project—which may seem difficult to even know where to start—into manageable pieces. And tasks help you divvy up the work among your team to use your resources as efficiently as possible.

Let's look at an example story again for your e-book landing page:

As a marketer, I want to be reassured that this e-book is worth my valuable time so that I can really reap the benefits it promises after I download the e-book.

To build a landing page that fulfills this story, you'll simply list the tasks you need to complete in chronological order:

  1. Research landing page designs that convert.
  2. Write the landing page outline based on the research.
  3. Write the text.
  4. Design the wireframe.
  5. Design the landing page.
  6. Develop the landing page.
  7. Review the landing page.
  8. Publish the landing page.
  9. Promote the landing page.

You get the idea—the point is to break down a story into the step-by-step process you need to complete to check this story off your sprint backlog. Smaller tasks make it easier to estimate how much time it will take to complete the story (and subsequently, the project as a whole).

Step 6: Thrash Your Project Into An MVP (Minimal Viable Project)

It's time to take a critical look into your stories. You want to find where you might have frivolous uses of resources that could be used better for creating a minimum viable project rather than an extremely polished deliverable.

The real question here is this:

What stories or tasks could you cut to create a great project with the least amount of effort?

You probably want your project to be the most perfect thing in your niche, so this question might seem counterintuitive at first.

However, the idea behind a minimum viable project is to eliminate risk by helping you:

  1. Create and publish quickly
  2. Measure your success
  3. Learn to improve

Here's what the lean startup loop looks like

You can steal the idea of an MVP by cutting excess stories and tasks that don't negatively impact your specifications. This will save your team valuable time during execution while helping you complete your project faster.

Step 7: Estimate The Level Of Effort For Every Story

It's one thing to give your team a deadline to complete a project and another to know that the deadline is realistically achievable.

By understanding how much time each task takes to complete (and subsequently rolling that estimation into the story), you'll be able to further understand what stories or tasks you'd like to cut from your project to complete it quicker while also being able to set practical due dates.

To do this, you need to know two things first:

  1. Who will be accountable for completing each task. These are the team members who'll work together to complete the stories.
  2. The level of effort for each task. In other words, how much time will it take the person you'll assign the task to complete it?

For each task, write down who on your team you think is best suited to complete it the fastest. Then visit with each team member to ask how much time they'd estimate for every one of their tasks.

Step 8: Plan The Scope Of Your Project As A Sprint Backlog

Scope helps you define how much work you'll complete in a certain amount of time. It's the big picture of the project.

Your marketing project may have many specifications and stories, so you may need to break the scope into phases, which agile marketers call sprints. Sprints often occur in two-week bursts in which you prioritize a specific number of stories to be completed.

Since you estimated the level of effort for each story—and understand how much time each individual needs to contribute—you can realistically plan your sprints and subsequently know your deadline when the project will be 100% complete.

A great way to show your entire project scope to your team is with a project schedule—aka sprint backlog.

Step 9: Demand That You Ship On Time

You know that your project will fulfill the specifications and stories. You also know your deadline is realistically achievable.

So make sure you publish on time by preventing project thrashing—otherwise known as scope creep and last-minute changes—before you begin executing.

Seth Godin has the best advice I've ever seen on this topic. Read Linch Pin to get the full scoop—and for your marketing project management, start here:

  1. Set the date when you'll publish. This is when you'll launch your project no matter what.
  2. Involve others in your initiation and planning process and write everyone's ideas down. This is important for your big wigs because, as Seth says, "This is their big chance."
  3. Show what you plan to do. Give them the opportunity to thrash your plan before you start executing. Changes now are alright, but once your team starts executing, this thrashing will dramatically impact your deadline.
  4. Give them an opportunity for one final review. Seth says, "Make sure everyone understands that this is the very last chance they have to make the project better."
  5. Revise the project blueprint into a final, comprehensive outline.
  6. Show your plan to the big wigs and ask, "If I deliver what you approved, on budget and on time, will you ship it?"
  7. Only start executing once you get your yes. No maybes. Then deliver what you promised, thrash-free.

This simple process should prevent scope creep, last-minute modifications, and other nitpicking with small details because you've nailed the big picture.

Execute Your Marketing Project With A Clear Content Creation Process

Step 10: Assign Tasks For Your Upcoming Sprint To Your Team

It's finally time for your team to start creating content for your project! You just need to assign them the tasks to complete.

The best way to begin is by choosing a marketing project management tool that will help you:

  • Manage your entire team and easily assign them their specific tasks to complete.
  • Assign specific deadlines for tasks to be completed on specific calendar dates.
  • Automatically notify your team that you've assigned them a task to complete.
  • Automatically remind your team as a due date for a task approaches.

If you're planning a recurring project—like blog posts or social media campaigns—it's also helpful to find a tool that helps you create your ideal workflow and save it to reuse on similar projects.

Well, it just so happens that CoSchedule is a marketing project management tool designed to help you collaborate with all of those things. ;)

Agile product managers refer to this kind of functionality as a task board. Whether you use CoSchedule to efficiently manage your process or not, you're looking for a system to help you:

  • See which tasks are completed, which should be in progress, and which are coming up.
  • Understand which tasks are overdue that may cause you to miss your deadlines.

Step 11: Communicate With A Tool That Keeps Collaboration In One Place

While emails serve nicely as notifications and reminders to help your team get into the system where you manage your projects, they're not so great for managing project communication.

That's where it's nice to manage your team communication around the project in the collaboration tool where you manage everything else. There are a few qualifications to make this work for your project:

  1. Avoid email to manage your project communication. Email forwards and strings can miss some replies to sender only, which can cause team members to miss critical information on your projects.
  2. Agree as a team to communicate consistently with the same tools for your specific purpose. This will help you maintain one version of the truth for all project communication to help the team collaborate more efficiently.
  3. Keep your comments, notes, and progress reports in the same tool where you manage your task board or workflow. This is especially important if you manage multiple projects at once.

You can rock that advice with nearly any project management tool, but there's one designed to help marketers like you manage their projects better. It's *ah hem* CoSchedule.

Monitor And Control Your Project To Meet Your Deadlines

Monitoring and controlling happens at the same time as your team executes the project.

Step 12: Hold Daily Scrum Meetings To Monitor Your Progress

Scrum is a daily meeting everyone working in a current sprint attends. These informal touch points are most effective with small teams who are collaborating on completing a story together.

You'll lead the touch point with a simple itinerary with everyone sharing:

  • What they did yesterday to make progress on your sprint.
  • What they're going to do today for your sprint.
  • Any roadblocks that may prevent them from executing.

This helps your team stay accountable while giving them the chance to ask for help as needed.

As the project manager, it's your job to proactively prevent those roadblocks from happening if you can. Otherwise, it's now your job to react and remove the obstacles from your team's ability to execute.

At each daily scrum, end the touch point by asking, "Who has roadblocks that are already or might prevent you from executing?" Sometimes, this is when someone will speak up, even after they've already shared their progress reports.

Step 13: Manage Your Burn Chart To Estimate How Much Work Is Left In Your Project

Your project burn chart is a graph that compares your completed work to how many sprints are remaining in the project's scope.

marketing project burn chart

Another way to visualize this is to analyze your percentage of tasks completed. Your CoSchedule marketing calendar shows a handy percentage completion rate for your project:

This practice—combined with reviewing which tasks should have been completed in the past but have not been checked off your task board—will help you keep team members accountable for completing their work and will keep your project on tack to hit your deadline.

Agile product management processes often suggest that you spell out the definition of done for your project to help the entire team understand when the project is complete.

The percentage completion rate is an excellent way to explain this to your team:

  • A story is done when you complete 100% of your tasks.
  • A sprint is done when you complete 100% of the tasks for the stories that make up the sprint.
  • And a project is done when you complete 100% of the tasks for all of the stories within the sprints that make up the project.

Step 14: Fail Fast To Get Back On Track ASAP

Even the best project managers hit snags that take their team's focus away from the tasks and stories that will fulfill their project's specifications.

Those are moments when you, as a project manager, need to step in immediately to get your project back on track. You can do that by identifying whom on your team needs a guiding hand, and asking them four simple questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why did this happen?
  3. How can we make sure this doesn't happen again?
  4. How can we get this project back on track?

These questions help your team member identify the issue and the method to solve the problem now and in the future. You just helped them self-correct!

Step 15: Host Sprint Reviews To Celebrate Your Accomplishments Toward Project Close-Out

While you took Seth Godin's advice on getting approval to ship your project on time no matter what, your stakeholders probably want to see the progress you're making as the project continues.

That's exactly what sprint reviews are for.

Schedule a half hour touch point at the end of every sprint to review the stories you've completed. Gather feedback from those who need to know what's going on.

Just remember that you're employing Eric Ries' theory on the minimum viable project.

That means you should document what your big wigs are saying, but that will not impact your upcoming sprints or modify your deadlines because they've already signed off for approval.

Later, you can plan the notes you take in this meeting as a post-project sprint to button up the outstanding items after you publish if necessary. However, these modifications aren't in scope for your project now, so you should not change your direction.

Make this review fun for everyone—it's a celebration of accumulated hard work with 100% of your tasks done for an entire sprint!

Close Your Marketing Project And Move On To The Next

Step 16: Host A Retro To Learn From Your Success

Your project is done when 100% of the tasks within the stories that make up your sprints are complete. Ship it now!

There's just one thing left to do... and that's to learn how to improve your marketing project management process before you initiate your next project.

Traditional project management often calls for a post implementation review. It's a meeting where you invite your team to ask them three simple questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What could we improve for the next project?

Agile product management follows a similar approach, calling their post-project touch point a retrospective. The goal is the same——but the questions you ask in the meeting vary slightly:

  1. What should we start doing?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What should we continue doing?

Combine those two sets of questions together for a 30-minute meeting, and you'll leave with dozens of lessons learned that will help you improve your marketing project management process next time.

How Do You Manage Your Marketing Projects?

Whether you use as robust of a marketing project management process as this or not, I know you've found at least a few helpful takeaways from this post.

If you're ready to manage the execution and monitoring phases better than ever, try CoSchedule! It's your marketing project management software designed to get you organized.

This post was originally published on June 29, 2016. It was most recently updated and republished on Jan. 14, 2019.

About the Author

Demand generation enthusiast, content marketing advocate, and team player. I love new ideas, strategy, and efficiency.