Giving Them What They Need, Not Want They Ask For

In my blogs, I’ve talked about taking the first steps into Marketing Project Management.  I’ve also talked about migrating marketing teams from a reactive position in the organization to that of a proactive leader.  Ideally, the marketing team drives projects.  In reality though, there will be times when a marketing piece is requested.  In this blog, I’d like to talk about the Interview step in the project request process.

Although accepting a project request may seem like a reactive activity, there is an opportunity early in the process to take a proactive position.  In the post, “Creating a Simple Project Request Template,” I discussed capturing initial details from the requestor.  To get the project off to a strong start, you’ll need to either interview the requestor to ensure clarity or, for larger projects, organize a Creative Meeting.

The interview is a small meeting with the Project Manager and requestor.  The interview might also be attended by the Creative Director and/or a key member of the client group if the requestor is not comfortable with their understanding of the content.  This interaction allows you to walk through the Project Request and make sure everyone is crystal clear on the deliverable(s).

For larger project requests, you will need to host a creative meeting and invite all of the relevant creative and client team members.  The goal here is not necessarily to discuss the points of the Project Request but to build a proactive marketing project:

  1. Put the Project Request in a folder and never open it again — it contains little useful information for this step.
  2. Determine what the requestor is hoping to achieve.
  3. Research everything you can about the circumstances.
  4. Explore every marketing tool – existing or innovative — that might be utilized to best achieve the goal.
  5. Brainstorm key message points and gain buy-in from stakeholders.
  6. Document the outcomes from the meeting to use as the foundation for your scope document.

If you’re completely confused by the guidelines I’ve just outlined, let’s walk through an example with which you might be familiar:

The sales team is attending a tradeshow and requests the creation of new fact sheets.  The Project Request contains some relevant details, including the date of the event and initial thoughts on the desired goal.  In the creative meeting — as the experts on presentation, engagement and communication — Marketing now uses finesse to take control of the objectives and deliverables.

  • Your team recognizes that fact sheets represent a traditional form of marketing and sales teams rely too heavily on these pieces to move prospects to the next stage in the funnel.
  • You obtain an attendee contact list from the event coordinator to send a pre-event mailer or emailer to draw attention to your booth.
  • Talking with the event coordinator about areas of thought leadership in your company, you discover they lost a pre-conference speaker and your CFO would be an excellent substitute.
  • You might propose drawing traffic to the booth with a very visual presentation on a large screen TV.
  • Rather than handing out collateral, you suggest a creative way to capture prospect’s information and interests in a database, allowing for easier follow-up immediately after the event.
  • While campaigns might be the domain of the sales team in your organization, it’s an area where marketing can play a vital role in maintaining continuity and creating a call-to-action.  I’ll discuss this more in a future blog.

Through higher profile engagement, you can break the cycle of the marketing team simply taking orders.  Use these opportunities to establish your expertise and desire to drive innovation.  This also allows you to build the case for becoming more engaged in strategic and budget planning for the organization.  It’s about getting the entire company thinking differently, planning further ahead and in greater detail and communicating those plans across departmental lines.

Marketing needs to hold a leadership position in the company, but just arguing that point will get you nowhere.  Actions speak louder than words, and this proactive approach will demonstrate your team’s commitment to quality, desire to take initiative and ability to deliver results.  This is your time to shine while also giving your marketing team a much higher level of job satisfaction.

Justin Phipps
President at Phippstastic Consulting