What Are Marketing Project Management Skills?
Marketing project management skills meld strategic and tactical, interpersonal, and organizational abilities. Managing these “macro” and “micro” aspects of projects is vital for delivering complex marketing projects on time and budget.
In the current fast-paced and deadline-driven marketing environment, detailed project planning is critical to making projects profitable. Scott Michelson, Owner of SDM Marketing, a brand strategy and design firm, describes the benefits of project management skills in marketing. "The marketing project manager's role is to use all their skills to increase productivity. Using team oversight by providing guidelines, breaking down the project into tasks, milestones, and deadlines, and overseeing each team member ensures an efficient and successful outcome that results in client satisfaction."
Without a formal process and the right management tools, marketing campaigns, product release promotions, brand launches, and content marketing tend to go sideways due to multiple moving parts. Learn more about the basics of project manager marketing skills and advanced best practices by reading our complete guide to marketing project management.
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Marketing Project Management Skills Roundup
Successful marketing project managers fill a demanding role that combines the skills of marketers and project managers. The job requires a delicate balance between team building and meticulous oversight, creative knowledge, and budgeting.
Marketing Project Skills Infographic
The skills that marketing project managers need to have or acquire fall into two categories: macro or micro. Macro skills are big-picture abilities, whereas micro skills are more task-oriented or focus on subject matter knowledge. They work in tandem to move projects closer to the goal.
Strategic or Macro Management Skills
Successful project managers maintain a focus on how any project contributes to the company. Strategy planning involves the following abilities:
- Strategic Orientation: As a manager, the ability to understand the company, its products, and its customer base is essential to creating effective campaigns. Using a strategic filter helps ensure that all marketing assets are on brand and in step with the company’s global business strategy.
Cari Jaquet, VP of Marketing for BigPanda, an IT systems management platform company, recommends keeping strategy in mind at every project stage. “Proceed with the strategy and the agreed-upon end product in mind. Ensure that everyone on the team aligns on what the end state will be when the project is over — what it looks like and key deliverables — and keep your eyes on that prize. At the same time, avoid the rigidity that can kill a great solution.”
- Goal Setting: Your project’s goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. When writing SMART goals, make sure they support a streamlined course for your efforts. At the project’s end, report results against your established metrics. One of the most important goals is client satisfaction, so include an option for feedback and time to perform analysis and confirm that you’ve met customer needs.
Use this marketing campaign brief template to set a course for a full campaign or project. There is room to include a detailed summary to clarify the project’s purpose, goals and objectives, resources, target audience, resources, budget, marketing channels, and main takeaway. Outlining this information prior to launching a campaign will help you set the direction for your team.
Download Marketing Campaign Brief Template
- Communication and Negotiation: The ability to communicate clearly with internal clients, external clients, and vendors, as well as provide instant feedback, are hallmarks of a well-rounded marketing project manager.
“Collaboration and negotiation competencies are essential for successful project managers to communicate with their team members,” says Caroline Mekhiel, Manager, Marketing and Communications for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute. “Even when you use project management software tools, real human-to-human communication is pivotal to project success. Communication with the team should lead project management efforts and not vice versa.” Negotiation is a form of communication that helps multiple parties find a mutually beneficial solution to a shared problem. Marketing project managers regularly negotiate as part of their job, from consulting with high-level stakeholders to setting timelines with team members or lowering vendor costs.
- Financial Savvy: Marketing project managers have a sense of fiscal responsibility and an eye to ROI. When you develop any project, base your budgets on realistic scoping and get a handle of the actual costs in time or hard costs charged by vendors. Be sure to continuously check and balance expenditures.
“Profitability is everything for senior management,” says Fiona Remley, Global Senior Manager of Worldwide Programs, Content and Creative Operations, Amazon Advertising.“ROI is all about quality scoping at the outset. Identify the tactics, tasks, skills, resources needed, and all associated costs. Do the math. Check costs against similar deliverables and get opinions from team members on the organization’s value and its goals versus cost. If your plan doesn't measure up, go back to the drawing board.”Marketing Campaign Budget and ROI TemplateStrategically managed marketing projects use profitability as a guideline. Use this template to organize your budget and project ROI. Input the incurred expense label, date of expenditure, units, and cost per unit by category. Enter what you are expecting in revenue, profitability, and hurdle rate. Then add expenses, expense variance, ROI, and the maximum amount you can spend to reach the ROI goal. Once the numbers are in, the template calculates those values automatically. You can also use this sheet to compare actual expenses to budgets.
- Risk Management Skills: Risk management may not immediately come to mind as a marketing project management skill, but this essential trait is of great importance to the C-suite, who is your ultimate client. As a manager, it’s your job to identify project failure or financial risk early. Once you identify them, implement a risk plan that assigns probability, cost, an owner, and mitigation strategies suitable to the risk and your client’s tolerance for peril. Examples of marketing project risks include brand risk, price risk, distribution risk, sales, or reputational risk.
- Market Analysis: The ability to conduct or oversee in-depth market research on a product or service and competitor analysis should be in your wheelhouse. Your analysis is a building block in the development of project strategies and tactics.
Marketing project managers don’t have much downtime, as Ivana Taylor, Principal of DIY Marketers, a small-business marketing expert, online publisher, and influencer knows. But when you do have open hours, Taylor explains how to make the most of them. “Downtimes are ideal for research. Do your homework. These days, customer feedback is scattered across media and channels. It’s important to keep your eye on the feedback and have a way to collect, gather, analyze, and act on information. That includes customer and competitor data.”
- Decision Making and Analytical Skills: Marketing project management is about making decisions, sometimes daily, and especially when a project develops a snag. Consult with team members to come up with a solution and use a tool like a decision matrix or fish-bone diagram to resolve the issue.
Fish-Bone Diagram Template
One of the benefits of using a fish-bone diagram is the visual layout, which makes it easy to compile and view the relationships between different elements. A fish-bone diagram helps teams brainstorm the causes of a particular event that creates a roadblock to project completion by asking why at each step until you reach a conclusion or solution.
- Leadership and Team Building: Marketing project managers master how to nurture and balance cross-functional teams, provide coaching, recognize talent, and recruit staff. Successful managers exhibit authority when introducing new tools and enforcing timelines, as well as ensure that everyone on their team works in concert toward the same goal.Every marketing project manager can expect to reach a point when a project melts down at the creative, budget, or delivery level. The solution to lead is by example and to stay calm. “As the leader, how you present yourself flows down to the team, and most managers are upbeat and optimistic at the outset,” notes SDM Marketing’s Michelson. “It sounds simple, but for some, in the middle of a project, as the intensity builds — and even though they know from experience that something will go wrong — calmness evaporates. Keep your head as others are losing theirs. A capable marketing project manager should make cool-headed decisions and be poised, so everyone continues to trust their thought process and consequent actions.”
“Being a leader, building a great team and a robust process relies on shared knowledge,” says Jon Davis, Principal at The Marketing Introvert. He also suggests the following tips:
- Collect all details and data in one place using a tool everyone prefers so everyone is on top of the project.
- Create short videos explaining the strategy or process as part of a playbook, which can be used as a knowledge transfer document during the project or afterward to use for modeling purposes.
- Use the preferred software tool to collect data to track in real time and for a post-mortem to assess the current project or inform future challenges.
- Collaboration and Relationship Building: For most marketing projects, you’ll collaborate with a graphics department for art requirements; writers and designers to produce content; or web developers to create new web pages. Collaborators are supportive and lead with humility and empathy for the team, while guiding colleagues to develop professionally.“Marketing project management and software tools eliminate process burdens and free up the team’s time and resources,” shares Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Mekhiel. “A clear and efficient process allows teams more time to be creative and think about strategy. It frees up mind-space.”
For additional downloadable resources, visit, "Free Marketing Project Plan Templates."
Process, Subject Matter, or Micro Skills
The multiple aspects of marketing project management can seem daunting, but it’s much easier to control when you follow best practices. To design and oversee your next project or significant campaign, take a look at the tips, templates, and tools in marketing project management guide.
- Process and Organizational Skills: Apart from coordinating the entire project, marketing project managers effectively manage themselves by minimizing distractions, focusing on work, and establishing a clear personal schedule. This particular skill set can be the foundation for the whole project. To master organization, you’ll want to use appropriate tools and templates to set a reliable roadmap, document workflows, and delegate tasks. If you’re a “Type A” personality, you may want to take on more work, but you’re far more effective when you figure out what’s important, prioritize tasks, and ensure everyone on the team is privy to the project schedule.
Sonia Schechter, Chief Marketing Officer for Marxent, a 3D commerce solution, is firm on her first rule: “Be clear on requirements. The reality is that constant communication, upfront documentation, and forcing clarity on requirements upfront is the best way to work with any stakeholder. This is particularly true when working with creatives, so you can end up with the product you need.”
Marketing Project Management Workflow and Schedule Template
This marketing project workflow template helps track each step of a marketing project. The spreadsheet captures oversight details to attend to; every activity, schedule, and assigned team member; the length of time it takes to complete the tasks; and a comment space. The Gantt chart visually documents the progress of every activity and phase. Use the template to simplify project post-mortems and share it with stakeholders.
Download Marketing Project Management Workflow and Schedule Template
Understanding marketing workflows and techniques for marshalling strategy-driven actions by every team member is an essential first step in any successful project. Take control of your project process with suggestions and templates from “The Complete Guide to Marketing Workflows: Templates, Tools, and Tips.”
- Time Management and Delegation: As a marketing project manager, you must be able to schedule, align, and manage the time demands for team members, vendors, and multiple tasks. Simultaneously, you’ll need to respond to project dynamics like delays, personnel choices, or requested changes from clients. It’s important to have a good knowledge of project tasks, estimated delivery time, and dependencies. You’ll want to direct the review and approval process to cut back on rounds and avoid costly mistakes."Designate a few project manager ambassadors from the team who will be the support system to onboard stakeholders,” recommends Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Mekhiel. “Encourage them to have a monthly task force meeting to assess pain points and problem-solve for the rest of the department."
- Knowing Project Management Methodologies: Project management methodologies like Waterfall and Agile (traditionally used in web development environments) are now a standard tool to streamline complicated marketing ventures.“Teams need to know what they are working on now, what comes next, and what has been completed. A Kanban board can help create a sense of achievement that teams need, especially in the middle slog of a project,” advises Amazon’s Remley.
Kanban Team Project Task Board
Use this online Kanban template to view and track tasks across your marketing project team. Visualize project tasks by team member, task status, or type of feature. Principal shareholders can view it online and identify gaps in resources to balance workloads or help delegate tasks.
- Know the Lingo: When working with various departments, from web developers to finance to designers, it’s important to try to understand and use their terminology. This skill will clear up communication and lower the potential for misunderstanding. Learn what’s important to them and make that the center of your communications.
- Understanding Digital and Data: It’s a digital world. Most marketing projects and campaigns have a digital component as part of the mix. That’s why having digital marketing project management skills in your toolbox is now a given. You’ll need to have internet marketing skills, such as search engine optimization (SEO), video, content marketing, and social media tactics. You’ll also need to interpret and analyze data so you can determine which tactics work well and which miss the mark. Then use that knowledge to create easy-to-understand reports for stakeholders.Despite the digital world’s appeal, don’t leave old channels behind, advises DIY Marketing’s Taylor. “Sometimes, face-to-face direct selling or paid advertising is exactly the approach your customers want and need to buy your product or service. The more we move to online methods, the more people crave personal experiences. Just because a strategy has been around for decades doesn't mean you should ignore it.”
- Creative Experience, Knowledge, and Control: Some of the best marketing project managers come from a creative background, so they understand the process and the time it takes to produce superior content. In many marketing departments, project managers write or edit copy. Even if they aren’t handling creative tasks themselves, their working knowledge of copywriting, editing, and design helps them provide informed critiques or reviews.
Content Marketing Calendar Template
Develop your content strategy with this content marketing calendar template. Use the customizable calendar to organize your efforts around buyer lifecycle state and type of asset. This template also helps you track the status for each piece of content, category type, marketing goals, and more.
Download Content Marketing Calendar Template
Familiarity with Project Management Tools: Know how to use content management systems (CMS) and project management software to streamline your workflow and ease communication. Whether you use one or five tracking and collaboration software tools, get you and your team the necessary training to best use all the capabilities and features.
Quick Guide: Use Your Marketing Project Management Skills to Take Control of Your Job Search
Your marketing project manager skills, like time management, communication, and negotiation, can drive a successful job hunt. According to Indeed.com, the opportunity is there, with salaries ranging from a median salary of $61,313 to the top end of $130,000.
“Think of yourself as the product you’re selling,” says Amazon’s Remley. “Use your project management skills to market yourself and organize your job campaign. It makes the entire process less stressful.”
Assess your strengths; focus your search; plan your strategy; track your application, résumé, and cover letter; and follow up using the same templates and software you use for other projects. Your professional network can be the best way to learn about opportunities, apply with references, and understand the state of your industry. Once you have an offer, use your negotiation skills to win the salary and benefits you deserve.
What do managers want in new hires? Amazon’s Remley says, “Of course, I look for marketing project managers who have the full list of strategic and tactical skills, but what I want above all is accountability for client relationships. The team is an extension of the client’s marketing team, or we are their team, and marketing project managers need to look at every decision and every milestone as if it were their own company.”
Who Needs Marketing Project Management Skills?
Many different professionals need the skills covered in this article to improve current job performance or help them get into their next position:
- Digital Marketing Project Managers (DPM): Digital marketing project manager skills help you manage projects that promote company services or products in the digital space. DPMs need these skills to enhance brand awareness, drive web traffic, and acquire leads and customers. In addition to standard capabilities, DPMs use web design technologies HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to build web pages. DPMs are also social media and SEO experts.
- Project Managers (PM): By learning the subject matter, language, and marketing specific skills they need in combination with their existing project manager skills, a PM can improve their marketability or help them shift laterally.
- Marketing Managers: A combination of marketing and project management skills are a natural fit for those in charge of marketing departments and running campaigns.
- Associate Project Marketing Managers: The desired skills of an associate marketing project manager are roughly the same as those of their more senior counterparts, but the associates usually have fewer years of experience. Since these individuals typically report to marketing managers who rely on them to execute on projects, associate project manager skills need to include the full list of abilities required to control tasks and budgets.
- Advertising Managers: Marketing and advertising project management skills are similar. Individuals in charge of advertising need the analytical, communication, decision-making, interpersonal, and organizational skills to execute projects and increase customer loyalty.
Marketing Project Management, Information, Certification, and Degree Resources
Most marketing project manager positions require a degree in business, communications, marketing, or journalism and two to five years of marketing-related work history reflecting positive project outcomes.
If you want to add to your expertise, look into these options:
- American Certification Institute (ACI): ACI offers certification for CMM (Certified Marketing Manager) and CMP (Certified Marketing Professional) designations and other executive training and accreditation programs.
- American Marketing Association (AMA): AMA is the largest professional organization for marketers. It offers certifications, seminars, and classes, news, books, and periodicals.
- Colleges and Universities: Many prestigious schools offer evening or online courses to expand your knowledge and resume. These include the University of Washington, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, Pace University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Chicago.
- Coursera: Provides an online pathway to coursework and certification from accredited institutions and major universities.
- TheDigitalProjectManager.com: If you’re looking to sharpen your chops as a digital manager, this site provides tricks and tips to manage digital content.
- ProjectManagement.com: Solid information for marketing project managers, marketing, and advertising managers.
- The Project Management Institute (PMI): PMI offers training and certification in all types of project management, books, periodicals, and online learning opportunities.
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