The Marketer’s Alter-Ego: The Project Manager

Modern Marketing


Behind every great marketer there is a…what? How would you answer that question? My answer isn’t the most glamorous, but it rings true: Behind every great marketer is a talented project manager.

Some of the skills any effective marketer needs are obvious, like the ability to understand and make good decisions based on marketing analytics. Last month on the blog, Jon Miller shared lessons he learned about marketing in the physics department of Harvard. This week, I’d like to share lessons I learned about marketing from my experience as a project manager.

Here’s why marketing and project management go hand-in-hand:

1. The Beauty of the Business Case

Most project management methodologies focus heavily on a business case – a set of information which captures a project’s essence, and is a statement of its value and viability. The exact mix of information in a business case can vary, but it generally includes sections on expected benefits/disadvantages, timescales, costs, and risk.

When it comes to marketing, the idea of assessing a project launch or continuance based on a consolidated set of information is powerful. Now that marketing activity is more measurable than ever before, there really is nowhere to hide your marketing spend – nor should there be! Whether you are running online or offline campaigns, you can build attribution models. These  allow you to gauge the impact of your campaigns on sales, and how effective those campaigns are.

Whenever you invest time or money in any marketing activity, you should be using marketing analytics to judge its value. In some cases, this might be as simple as knowing your ROI; in others it may require a more comprehensive set of information. Your business case doesn’t need to be a 100+ page document – in the ever-evolving marketing world, even a much simpler case can be a powerful tool.

2. The Sanctity of Stakeholders

Another fundamental principle of project management is to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. You should identify everyone who will be impacted by your project – before you start. As you’re developing your business case, different grades of stakeholders should be identified – for example, you might choose to rate them as critical, essential, or interested. Critical stakeholders are those who have the authority to stop or reject a project; essential stakeholders can impact project delivery but not actually stop it; interested parties are just that – those who have an interest in the project outcomes, but can’t impact the project.

So what does this mean for marketers? Let’s say you’re planning a large email campaign that offers free trials of your product. You have to remember the teams who are impacted when you carry out that sort of campaign – sales, customer service, and provisioning, to name a few. For every marketing action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. (Sorry Jon – bad Physics analogy!) Respect your stakeholders by communicating with clarity and transparency. This can make all the difference when trying to win their support and buy-in.

3. The Relevance of Related Projects

In project management, we believe that no project occurs in a vacuum. Whenever we plan a new project, lists of all related projects are identified and categorized based on the type of relationship that would exist – do they share resources, budget, data, or technology? A view of on-going and planned projects makes it easier to plan for potential conflicts, giving your project a much greater chance of success. If your project involves software, make sure the involved development has capacity when you need it. In project management, knowledge is power!

This kind of approach is also critical in marketing – no marketing activity can or should exist in a silo. Take a page from project management when planning  your significant campaigns, and remember that the people you need won’t always be waiting by their phone for your call.

So, what do you think? Have I convinced you that behind every great marketer is a talented project manager? Share your opinions in the comments below!