When it comes to marketing projects, each hour invested has a bottom-line cost. This reality is particularly true when partnering with an agency. Working swiftly is one way to control costs. But it’s not the best way. It’s more useful to work efficiently. Doing so keeps costs even lower and ROI higher.
You can accomplish this by optimizing the process and removing potential obstacles. Using pre-planning can minimize expenditures and project timelines.
Some things will always be outside of your control, for example, an agency’s work capacity or internal processes. That’s okay. Historically, the majority of budget and time losses come from an organization’s internal delays involving:
All of these are variables within your control. Read on for more tips from Olive & Company about identifying the most common marketing project pitfalls and how to avoid them when working with an agency partner.
The first step in keeping a project efficient is defining the scope and sharing the objective with all invested stakeholders. Building consensus around the effort is a crucial aspect of smart marketing project management.
It’s astounding how many times a marketing project has come to a screeching halt—and then forced to start all over—because the person leading the project was working toward one goal, while the person approving the work had a different objective in mind.
The first step in keeping a project efficient is defining the scope and sharing the objective with all invested stakeholders.
Organizations can avoid this mistake with clear and transparent communication before any work begins. In fact, if possible, the goals should be agreed upon before reaching out to an agency partner. This said it’s not unusual for Olive to help clients tighten their objectives and clarify definitions, making them concise and attainable.
Also, when declaring a project’s goal, be specific about how success will be measured.
A goal is not the type of project, for example, creating a digital ad campaign. The goal is what that digital ad campaign is achieving. Is it generating leads? It could be building brand awareness. It might be announcing a new feature. Maybe it’s all of these things. Make sure the goals are documented, shared, and agreed to upfront.
Assigning and identifying key internal stakeholders upfront will solve many issues downstream. Unsure how to go about assigning team members? Here again, an agency partner can be an invaluable resource. They know what roles, authority levels, and expertise will be required for specific marketing projects. These insights can help you identify the right people within your team.
How can building the right team of stakeholders make a difference? In some organizations, a director of marketing may make all the decisions. Great. In others, multiple department leaders will be involved in the process. For example, if a department head has a say in how a product is marketed, they need to be involved at the beginning of the project, and not only at the final approval stage.
Stakeholder involvement isn’t only vital for approval; it’s required for intake meetings. Stakeholder involvement is especially essential when it comes to large, far-reaching projects such as a website redesign.
As the subject matter experts, department heads often know more about the product, service, and audience’s intricate details than a marketing leader. It’s wise to tap into this knowledge. Have them participate in shaping the content and strategy. If possible, insist on their input. The earlier, the better. Accurate information upfront reduces the chance of significant changes later on.
Information is the fuel of a project. Make sure it’s ready upfront to propel everything forward.
When it comes time for the intake meeting, a great deal of information is delivered to the agency verbally or via notes. It’s also common to ask an agency to refer to additional assets for context or information. These assets can take many forms, including videos, sales sheets, brochures, slide presentations, and more. Often, the assets are legacy pieces, meaning they are not readily available and require an organization to dig through archives to collect. This process usually takes more time than expected.
To create a more efficient process for your marketing project, gather all assets before the initial kickoff meeting. This avoids a significant gap between a kickoff meeting and the delivery of assets to the agency. Whenever there is a gap or delay, momentum slows, and understanding of details can fade. Do not let this happen. Information is the fuel of a project. Make sure it’s ready upfront to propel everything forward.
A good marketing partner will provide organizations with a timeline of what to expect and when to expect it. If your partner does not provide a marketing project timeline detailed with dates (not just steps), insist they do.
If you need a project by Wednesday at noon, then state you need it Wednesday at noon.
A detailed timeline should include milestones. These are checkpoints that track and guide progress. Missing a milestone can throw an entire timeline off. An agency will do its best to build in “cushion time” to compensate for missed milestones. However, it’s not always possible. Some projects are tightly scheduled and need every milestone completed on-time to deliver the marketing project as planned. It’s smart to ask how much, if any, cushion time there is in the marketing project schedule.
Also, never assume your interpretation of “as-soon-as-possible” matches an agency partner’s definition of “as-soon-as-possible.”
If you request something right away, you may think that means the end of the day or early the next day. The agency partner may think right away is the end of the week. Who is right? Maybe both because the request was subjective.
If you need a project by Wednesday at noon, then state you need it Wednesday at noon. Then remove other ambiguity by explaining what that means in terms of the deliverable. Is Wednesday the day it needs to go live online, or the day it ships to a printer, or the day of an internal review meeting? All of these should be spelled out and explained to keep expectations aligned with deliverables.
Surprisingly, the person who provides the agency with approval is not always the person with the authority to decide.
Time and time again, projects get approved only to be unapproved days or weeks later. Why? In most cases, it’s not a change of heart; it’s a chain of command issue.
The person who decided to approve a project didn’t have the full authority to make a choice. This is common among projects that impact an entire organization, like a new logo, for example. Never assume authority, even if you are the head of marketing. It’s always a good practice to check in with the owners, CEO, or other ranking officials.
How can an organization avoid this unexpected input from the C-suite? By anticipating the importance of a project from the start. Logos, brand platforms, websites, and other highly visible projects likely attract more feedback and input than, say, a blog post. Understand this and plan accordingly.
Notify key stakeholders that a logo project is in the planning stages and see if they want to be involved. If so, explain they need to be involved throughout the process. It doesn’t speed up the project when a veto comes in the last round. Be sure to gather their input at each step and sign off at the end.
Assume less and clarify more.
Starting a marketing project with an agreed-upon plan is the simplest way to move quickly, efficiently, and economically.
More than an internally agreed-upon plan, make sure it’s a plan built in partnership with the agency. Create a plan where each party understands the terminology, nuances, and expectations. For example, looking at the timeline, be clear if milestones are internal agency markers or delivery dates to your organization.
In short, assume less and clarify more.
When you follow this advice, your marketing projects will deliver better results and cost less money because of better information, involvement, and approvals.
If you’d like to find more ways to accelerate your marketing projects while minimizing wasted budget, reach out to Olive & Company. We’re here to help, answer questions, save you time, and save your money.
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