Congratulations! You are now a marketing automation administrator or power user. Now that you have the best tool for sending email and managing leads, where do you begin? Do you set up lead scoring first? Lead management? How do you get that webinar going before the 21st? Running a marketing automation platform is a big job and one you need to do well in order to generate revenue.

But where do you begin making sense of everything you need to do? There’s so much to create, schedule, validate, send, measure… It can be easy to lose perspective of everything that’s going on. But have you tried treating your work like a project? Marketing Automation projects, just like any other project, need to be properly managed and measured in order to be successful. You may not have a dedicated project manager with experience in marketing to save the day.

Frustration

So what can you do? How can you ensure that your work gets done on time, on budget and without a hitch?

Take a deep breath and read on. This is not as complicated as you might think.

As a Project Manager, I use a framework called the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), which defines five distinct and different phases to a project’s lifecycle:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Controlling
  • Closing

flickr-project-management-ivanwalsh

Over the years, I have noticed that these phases can be found in every project regardless of their nature, industry or type. In fact, you may even be able to apply these phases to different aspects of life in general such as negotiating a contract, buying a new car or even arguing with your spouse. This post, however, will discuss how these principles can be applied to Marketing Automation if you simply treat it as a project. It will also describe how properly identifying the tasks to be done in each phase can greatly increase the success rate of your efforts.

Initiating

Everything must have a beginning. In order to get started on the right foot, there are a few key components to identify when initiating any project.

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Who am I doing this for?
  • Who will be participating?

By answering these 3 questions you will find yourself with a scope, key stakeholders and a team. In marketing, the stakeholders will typically be your Marketing Director or VP and your team will most likely be the marketing department. But what are you trying to achieve exactly? This will vary from project to project, or in this case your work objectives. Be sure to know what your goal is and keep your eye on it. Losing sight or the main objective is usually one of the major reasons for project failure.

Planning

Ok, we know what we want to do and who will be working with us to do it. But how will we be doing this? We have a goal, and the road from A to B is long, and the paths are numerous. In any project it is very helpful to create a WBS: a “Work Breakdown Structure.” Identify the large tasks at hand first. For example, let’s say our main objective is to create a marketing plan for a webinar we’d like to hold. In this case, we would associate different activities to this plan such as a newsletter to promote interest in our company followed by an invitation to our webinar, holding this webinar and finally sending out a survey to those who attended. Once you’ve identified your main activities, break each one into smaller tasks. Who will create the newsletter? What message will be conveyed? What template will be used? Who will be our target audience and when will we send this out? Break this down into as many levels as needed. Once you are done breaking down every activity, you should have your project mapped into a tree-like structure with your main objective at the top, larger activities below which in turn will split down into smaller tasks. Each box should have a responsible team member and a target delivery date:

Work Breakdown Structure

Creating a WBS will ensure that you don’t forget a step along the way and enable you to track the progress of your project (or as it stands, your work) as the small work packages become completed. You should also include a plan to measure the success of your project during its lifecycle and post delivery. Consider measuring your initial base line (what to measure will be dependent on what you are trying to achieve) and comparing new results over a period of time (ex: 2 weeks later, 2 months later, 6 months later).

TIP: Make sure a few people (such a stakeholder and a team member) validate your WBS and overall plan. It’s easy to forget a step or to omit an important element that should figure in the plan.

Execute

Now that you have a solid idea of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How, it’s time to get the ball rolling! Schedule each small work package with the team members and make sure to follow the progression of each package. As a project manager it will be important to constantly keep your ear to the ground as some tasks handled by one team member could impact another. In the example above, the newsletter content will probably set the tone for your webinar. The invitation will be impacted by the event itself and the survey should aim to get the appropriate feedback. In other words, you will be the over seeing the entire WBS and let’s face it… In your line of work, you have to keep everything in focus.

Control

he work has started but is it going in the right direction? Does everyone understand the objectives and what their piece of the WBS entails? Are we on target? Are we respecting our budget? Control should be exercised throughout the entire lifecycle of your project. This will ensure that your reach your objectives over time and give you a chance to realign if you see you’re not on target. It is also important to keep the key stakeholders in the loop. After all, they are invested in this and will want to see results.

Once your execution phase is completed, you will have reached the end of your project and, hopefully, you will have successfully controlled it every step of the way.

Closing

Everything must come to an end. It’s time to wrap everything up in regards to the goal you wanted to achieve. Is everything you need in place? Has everyone completed their share of the work? Have you validated the results with the stakeholders in order to get their sign-off? If you answered yes to all these questions, then it would seem you have successfully managed a Marketing Automation project! You can move on to the next project on your to-do list.

These are 5 simple phases that could greatly increase your success rate. In fact, these steps can be applied to almost every aspect of your work. I encourage you to try using them to manage a portfolio, a program, a campaign or even your entire marketing plan. You will find that managing your marketing automation like a project could make your life a little easier and a lot more efficient.

Image Credit: 4BP and flickr and ivanwalsh