A skilled marketing project manager is a rare combination of event organizer, cheerleader, analyst and taskmaster; able to motivate and invigorate a diverse team of uniquely skilled, creatively talented folks, as well as to advise, assure and, at times, assuage clients who run the gamut from demanding to ambivalent. Synapsians Pam Denlinger, Director of Account Management, and Katia Byler, Senior Account Manager, shared some of their thoughts as to what they feel has helped them become successful project managers and offered some Best Practices for others in the position of managing large-scope marketing projects.
1. Planning and Preparation
Any project is made up of several key milestones along the way to the final destination. Content creation, creative design and so forth mark the path to a final goal, whether that is an email design or an entire website.
“The main reason a project seems to go off track is not meeting milestones on time,” warns Katia. “This can happen when there isn’t a clear line of communication and project timeline set up at the start of the build. To help avoid this, layout detailed timelines and expectations during the project planning stage.”
Such a timeline, agreed upon among team members and the client during a project kick-off meeting, let’s everyone know precisely when their contribution to the overall project is to be completed.
2. Know What the Final Goal Is
As projects move along, it’s important that both the client and the project team are aware of what is and isn’t included in the planned schedule and budget. Clients will change their mind about what they want, and developers and strategists will want to create a top-of-the-line product with all the latest bells and whistles. A well-documented Scope of Work is critical to the success of any project, as Pam underscored in her comments.
“Scope creep and revisions late in the game are two things that can all of a sudden get a project off course. We go back to communication and let the client know that a change like [what they are asking for] could cause delays in launch, etc. But other times we can be our own worst enemy and want to give them the world – but not be wary of our own time restraints. We AMs try and urge against those things, but we also want to give the best possible product to our clients we can.”
It’s a balancing act, but one that is far more easily accomplished if the rules are clear to begin with.
3. Communication, Communication, Communication!
When asked what they feel is the most important skill a project manager needs to develop, both Pam and Katia agreed that the ability to keep communication lines flowing is at the top of the list. Even with planning and documented scope, there are going to be changes and adaptations along the way, but good communication allows the flexibility to adjust to those plan alterations.
“Knowing everything about what’s going on with your projects is huge,” says Pam. “Make sure you are always communicating with your team and your clients so that they always know what the expectation is.”
Katia agrees: “I can tell you all the usual – time management, organization, planning – but I also think a big skill is always being prepared for your plans to change and knowing how to properly reorganize and move forward.”
4. Client Management
The client is your customer, of course, and your goal is always to provide them the best service and best end result. A wise project manager recognizes that the client is also part of the project team, and as such needs to be managed and scheduled just as much as any other team member.
Pam knows that projects can be thrown off by clients who “take their time getting us approvals, which can cause serious challenges with scheduling.”
Again, communication is key, and gently reminding a client that their project cannot move forward until they have done their part is often all it takes to get things going again.
5. Adapt, Adopt, Adjust
The old saying about “the best laid plans…” is just as true in project management as in anything. But being able to go with the flow at times and demonstrate adaptability and flexibility will not only make your current project go more smoothly, but will help you grow as a project manager for future assignments.
“Always be prepared for your day to go in a totally different direction than you had planned for,” laughs Katia. “It’s OK though; it makes every day different and exciting! This also teaches you to not put anything off until tomorrow. If you get into that habit, you will always be falling behind on your daily duties and client expectations. “
Pam concurs: “There are times where we have all felt extremely overwhelmed, but when a client is delivered a product that your whole team is proud of and they love, it makes it so worth it. There will be days that are long and times when you think nothing else can go wrong. It’s in those moments that you need to remember that you have a strong support staff who is there to help you, and anything can be worked out by getting together and coming up with a good game plan.”
If you would like to partner with a team who will help you come up with a good game plan for your marketing needs, start a conversation with Synapse today!