Intro to Marketing Project Structure

You’ve decided to explore project management for your marketing team, and it seems like a huge endeavor.  Let me put you at ease.  Like climbing Mt. Everest, you can ascend in phases and proceed once you and your team feel properly acclimated.

Project Management involves the entire organization.  Before reading this, you’ll want to review my previous posts, “Marketing Project Management Basics” and “Creating a Simple Project Request Template.”  While you’re laying this new foundation with your team and introducing a new submission process to the rest of the company, you can start building the framework for your projects.

Every Project has a Start Date and Due Date.  To me the start date is set when you receive the project request form.  The due date is often dictated by a product launch, trade show, sales presentation or other fixed deadline.  For this article, we’re going to skip the Interview and Scope Document steps and talk about project structure.

You’ll need to divide your project into manageable segments called Tasks.  You can create more specific structure later using a To-do list, but let’s focus on tasks for the moment.  The rule of thumb is that you should have only one person assigned to a task.  If more than one person is required, consider breaking your task structure down even further.  Tasks also have individual start dates and due dates.

Milestones are used to break a project into phases or segments.  Structure and schedule tasks so they end upon successfully reaching a milestone.  New tasks are then created to reach the next milestone in the project’s timeline.

Let’s stop and see an example of what’s been presented to this point.  In this example, we’ve received a request for a trade show display, interviewed the requestor to gather specific details and obtained sign off on a scope document.  We’ll even assume that the type of display has been chosen.

  • Project > Begin
    • Create three display design concepts – (assigned to) Designer #1
    • Present concepts to requestor – Creative Director
  • Milestone > Concept approved
    • Design display – Designer #1
    • Present draft to requestor – Creative Director
  • Milestone > Draft approved
    • Revisions – Designer #1
    • Artwork sign off by requestor – Project Manager
  • Milestone > Artwork approved
    • Order display pieces – Marketing Coordinator
    • Display delivered
    • Check display for accuracy and completeness – Marketing Coordinator
    • Train requestor on use of display – Marketing Coordinator
  • Project sign off – Project Manager
  • Milestone > Project completed

A couple of key points to make about this example:

  1. Always meet with the requestor in person at each milestone.  Either the Creative Director or Project Manager needs to explain and defend the logic behind the work.  This can’t be accomplished properly through email.
  2. Schedule the project so you’re presenting one draft and making one revision.  Even then, the revision should only accommodate factual errors in the language or design elements.  Defend your team’s position as the experts in imagery and language.

Now that the project tasks are outlined, it’s time to set start dates and due dates.  (I’m going to give you some quick pointers in this blog post, but start exploring project management and Gantt chart tools to refine this process.)  The rule of thumb is to work backward from your deadline.

In our example, we’re designing a display for a trade show on June 15.

  • Trade show requires displays to arrive at the warehouse by June 8.
  • With five day shipping, the display needs to ship June 4.
  • Allow two weeks between receiving display and shipping, in case there are issues – receive May 21.
  • Vendor requires three weeks to order, print and deliver display to your office – order April 30.
  • Artwork needs final approval by April 27.
  • Give designer two days for revisions – begin April 25.
  • Present draft by April 24.
  • Give designer three days to design display – begin April 19.
  • Present concepts by April 18.
  • Give designer two days to create concepts – begin April 13.
  • Project begins April 13 or earlier.

You should now have a clear vision of how a structured schedule, with clearly documented and communicated milestones, is critical to the successful completion of a project.  It’s also a good idea to build in buffer time along the way since this is already a tight schedule that doesn’t take into consideration sick days, decision-makers traveling, or other unanticipated delays.

I’ll be honest, I’ve only scratched the surface on the art of scheduling projects and tasks, but these are the fundamentals. Web-based programs, like ProWorkflow, allow you to not only follow this structure but also see where your team is already allocated, so you can avoid double-booking resources as you input new projects.

In conclusion, review your current projects and see if this exposes any holes in your current process.  Start putting some of this in practice, even if only for your own benefit.  You can get a better sense of what functionality will help you the most as you explore software tools.  Don’t give up; it will pay dividends in the end.

Justin Phipps
President at Phippstastic Consulting