Project Prioritization Matrix: How Marketers Can Focus on What Matters Most (Template)
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Feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) as a marketer isn’t very fun, and it happens a lot. Ideas come to you often; new channels and tactics are trending all the time.
There’s only so much you and your team can focus on. Your marketing projects need to get results, which means you have to prioritize the right ones.
How do you know which marketing projects to focus on when there’s so much you could be doing?
The answer is called the marketing project prioritization matrix. It will help you:
- Confidently say “yes” and “no” to new marketing ideas based on four simple questions.
- Align your marketing calendar with the needs of your audience, your launches, and other important events for your company.
- Outperform your competitors with content that is exceptionally valuable to the largest target audience.
Be sure to download the marketing project prioritization template and matrix, so you can apply the steps from this guide right away.
Make Project Prioritization Simple With This Easy-to-Use Template
Put this advice into practice using this Excel template to prioritize every project your marketing team works on:
What Is a Project Prioritization Matrix?
If everything seems important, nothing is. That’s why you need a way to decide what’s the most important strategy, channel, and piece of content to focus on at any point in time.
Project prioritization is the process that helps you take on the work that will influence your marketing goals most effectively.
You don’t just have many marketing ideas to work with, but they also come from many sources.
Here are some examples:
- Your regular content marketing brainstorming process
- Notes from customer support and sales teams
- Trending or up-and-coming topics and audience challenges
- Competitor’s content (or gaps in their content)
Chances are, you have a new idea in your head, inbox, or whiteboard more often than you can handle. This is where a project prioritization matrix comes in.
A project prioritization matrix is a decision-making tool that can be used in any type of project management.
With a project prioritization matrix, you have a rinse-and-repeat tool that removes confusion from what to work on next.
The downside? If you’ve ever tried to research and implement a project prioritization matrix, you realized there are many ways to go about it with different criteria you can use:
- Urgency/importance (also known as the Eisenhower matrix)
- Strategic fit/feasibility
The list goes on.
As a marketer, you may have struggled to put any of these to use.
There’s a simple explanation. None of these options take into account your marketing goals, or the specifics of your target audience.
This is why you’ll love this option, created with you in mind: the marketing project prioritization matrix.
Introducing the Marketing Project Prioritization Matrix
The marketing project prioritization matrix helps you focus on projects that will bring the most value to the largest amount of your target audience.
Plotted out on a simple X/Y chart, it looks like this:
The goal of the marketing project prioritization matrix is to identify projects that lie in the upper-right part of the matrix. These projects are also known as 10x projects at CoSchedule.
With the help of the matrix, these 10x projects will provide you with long-term and repeatable growth and help you reach your marketing goals ten times faster.
Instead of focusing on as much as possible at once and hoping that something sticks, you’ll find the few powerful areas that will both serve your audience and help you hit your marketing and business goals.
In fact, the word "priority" didn’t always mean what it does today. In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown explains that although the word came into the English language in the 1400s, it wasn’t until the 1900s that we pluralized the term and started talking about priorities.
“Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple 'first' things.
People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of this experience in a company that talked of 'Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.' This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was.“ – Greg McKeown, Essentialism
The marketing project prioritization matrix will help you find the true priority for everyone in your team — at any given time.
The Real-Life Benefits of a Marketing Project Prioritization Matrix
This matrix is a lot more than just a fun chart to draw on a whiteboard and show your team.
Here are two tangible benefits you’ll get by implementing it.
You’ll Remove Decision Fatigue From Your Work
Marketing teams, especially their managers, have a lot on their plate at all times.
There are blog posts, videos, tweets, and Facebook posts to be published, drafts to be edited, graphics to be created, emails to be sent, and reports to be run. There’s never not something waiting to be done.
When it’s time to make an important decision — like what marketing project to focus on next — you feel depleted and go for the easiest one. You go for the quick win.
You choose the 10% growth opportunity instead of the 10x project.
You want to tackle the 10x idea — the one that feels bigger than anything you’ve ever done. It’s the one that could multiply your results and blow your competition out of the water.
However, you don’t have any willpower left, so you settle for a 10% idea — a smaller project that will bring you 10% better results.
This phenomenon is called decision fatigue. It happens when you run out of willpower after a day packed with marketing tasks and decisions (no matter how small). When this happens, you often default to decisions that feel easy and safe.
With the marketing project prioritization matrix, decision fatigue will no longer be an issue because you will:
- Set up your criteria for 10x projects ahead of time
- Visualize these 10x projects on the matrix
- Already have the timeline and process for these projects in place
You’ll Develop and Stick to a Marketing Roadmap
One of the challenges of having an ambitious, creative marketing team is wanting to do everything at once. When there are dozens of ideas floating around the team at any given moment, it’s easy to jump from one project to another.
This shiny-object-syndrome can make even the most talented, hard-working teams miss deadlines and goals.
This is where a marketing roadmap will help.
It’s made of three parts:
- Four weeks: the very next projects you’ll focus on
- Six months: the concrete plan towards your vision for the year
- One year: long-term vision; the answer to the question, “How will the world have changed because of what we did?”
As you work through the marketing project prioritization matrix (we’ll show you how in the next section), you’ll identify the projects to work on right now.
Here’s the kicker: you’ll confidently say "no" to all the other 10x projects, knowing you’ll get to them later in the upcoming six months or one year. You won’t feel like you must get to them now or lose the opportunity forever.
5 Steps to Building and Using Your Marketing Project Prioritization Matrix
Let’s build out your project prioritization matrix and apply it to your marketing projects. Remember to download your matrix template, so you can follow along if you don’t want to build your own matrix from scratch!
Step 1: Define the Criteria For Value and Target Audience
Earlier, we told you this matrix will help you focus on projects that will bring the most value to the largest amount of your target audience. On the matrix, the target audience is the horizontal axis, and value is the vertical axis.
Content that falls closest to the intersection is one that brings the least value to the smallest segment of your target audience. To know where each marketing project belongs on the matrix, you need to define the criteria for both target audience and value.
You can do this by defining the questions to use when scoring each marketing project on a 1-3 scale, with 3 being best and 1 being worst.
Here are our recommended questions:
Question 1: How much of our target audience is experiencing the problem we’re solving?
- Score 3: Most
- Score 2: About half
- Score 1: A small segment
Question 2: Is this focused on our target audience’s needs over our selling needs (benefits over features)?
- Score 3: Yes
- Score 2: Equal focus on audience needs and selling needs
- Score 1: No, mostly selling
Question 1: Is this evergreen (i.e. we will see long-term results with little ongoing effort to maintain it)?
- Score 3: Yes
- Score 2: It will need to be updated within a year
- Score 1: It will be outdated fast
Question 2: Is this actionable, practical advice?
- Score 3: Yes
- Score 2: It’s about 50:50, some parts are actionable
- Score 1: It’s mostly theoretical/unactionable
Side note: actionable advice means different things for different audiences.
For some, it’s a step-by-step process you can immediately implement (like in this blog post). For others, taking action might mean sharing a guide with their team or using that guide to create a learning program in their company (instead of following the guide word by word).
Whatever the case is with your audience, focusing on publishing practical tips will help you create content that makes a difference in their lives.
Step 2: Create a Scoring Spreadsheet
You now need a place to track all of your marketing project ideas and score them based on the questions from the previous step.
In a blank spreadsheet, add the following columns:
- Project title
- Project description
- Target audience question 1
- Target audience question 2
- Total score for target audience
- Value question 1
- Value question 2
- Total score for value
You’ll end up with a layout like this:
As you enter each project, you can score it based on each question and sum up the scores.
For example, you might end up with a score such as 6/5, in which 6 is for target audience and 5 for value. The next step will show you how to interpret that score.
Step 3: Map Your Score on the Matrix
A quick reminder: we’re looking for 10x opportunities, which lie at the upper-right part of the matrix:
To find which of our projects lie in that section, we need to plot out all potential combinations of target audience/value scores on this matrix.
This is what it looks like:
In this matrix, the first number represents the target audience score, and the second is the value score.
Here are the scores that fall into the upper-right part of the matrix — the 10x opportunities:
If we look at our earlier example with a 6/5 score, it falls into the green section, and it’s a great marketing project to prioritize.
Bonus tip: add two extra columns to your spreadsheet — total sum and score for the matrix. This will help you quickly identify the best projects to work on and find their spot on the matrix.
Step 4: Add Projects With Highest Scores to Your Marketing Calendar
The whole purpose of this process was to find marketing projects to prioritize — that’s what this step is for.
Based on your prioritization matrix, find marketing projects that either:
- Have a total score of 10 or more
- Have both the target audience and value score of 4 or more (e.g. 4/4, 4/5, 5/4)
With a tool like CoSchedule’s Marketing Calendar, you can do a lot more than just see when a piece of content should go live. You can also automatically map out and schedule all tasks that lead to it.
This way, you’ll make sure that your most impactful marketing projects actually get done.
Step 5: Review and Tweak Projects That Didn’t Score Well
What about those projects you didn’t choose to prioritize based on their scores?
First, there’s the lower-left part of the matrix — projects with a total score of 4 or less. These are projects that provide the least value to the smallest amount of your target audience.
Chances are, they are what CoSchedule has labeled as 10% ideas.
Fixing typos or writing superficial blog posts that only scratch the surface of a topic are projects you’ll find here most often. You can confidently scratch these projects from your plan.
However, there are two other sections of the matrix you shouldn’t immediately drop.
These projects haven’t hit the mark on either the value they provide or the size of your target audience they provide it for... yet.
If your project is on the upper-left portion of the matrix — meaning it’s high in value but low in the target audience size it helps — here are some questions you can use to make these projects more valuable:
- Is this too focused on selling/features instead of benefits/audience needs?
- Can we make this topic more benefits-focused to make it useful to more people?
- If this project serves a small, but relevant segment of our audience, can we add it to a backlog of ideas for a specific launch/update of a product/feature that specifically targets that segment?
If your project is on the lower-right portion of the matrix, it’s aimed at a large portion of your target audience but low on the value it brings them.
Here are some questions to tackle in this case:
- How can we turn this into a more evergreen piece of content?
- For example, refocus from a 2020-specific guide to tips that won’t become outdated in 2021.
- What examples, expert quotes, and supporting resources could we add?
- For example, screenshots, videos, etc.
- What action could we encourage from the target audience with this piece of content?
- How can we tweak the topic to achieve that?
Put Your Matrix Into Action Now
If you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll end up with a simple — yet powerful — rinse-and-repeat process for vetting all your marketing projects and ideas.
When you think of an idea yourself, run a brainstorming session with your team, or a trending topic comes up, all you need to do is add it to your prioritization matrix and score it based on four questions.
If you want a done-for-you template with a matrix you can easily reference, you can download it here.
I can’t wait to see all the high-impact marketing projects you’ll focus on as a result of it!
May 13, 2020