Top 5 Digital Marketing Project Mistakes

unnamedTessa, our Business Development Manager, sent this image out to the team this morning. While it’s hilarious, it’s actually pretty interesting. What would cause deadlines to whoosh by us? Let’s look at 5 reasons this could happen and how to prevent it.

You didn’t manage client expectations

Managing client expectations is a hard job. Usually, it’s the Account Manager’s job to keep the momentum moving on projects while making sure the client is happy and in-the-know throughout all of the digital marketing services and projects. Deadlines and Milestones are always optimistic, especially in the honeymoon phase of a client relationship. You want to impress the client with your speed and efficiency while ensuring a lasting relationship. As your marketing channels develop over time, you may find that a balance will naturally develop and deadlines become more predictable. However, if you’ve over-promised and under-delivered in the beginning the client perception will naturally be soured. So how to do you avoid this?

For Steelsmith Group, client communication and quantifying value is key. Being able to keep regular (weekly at least) communication with your clients while helping them understand what goes on in the background is critical. Also, show them the inherent value of the deliverable and the importance to the overall strategy. As Barbara, our Commercial Real Estate Lending client said, “how do the puzzle pieces fit together?”

You didn’t plan with the team in mind

Resource management is no joke. After 4 years of providing digital marketing services, we’re still learning. All of the gantt charts and spreadsheets in the world can’t replace task owner buy-in. When you’re planning out a project, there needs to be clear ownership in each step. The owner needs to be able to see his place in the process and understand the importance of his own deadline to the overall success of the project. Give them a step in the project approval process before you kick off the project so you can get a nod of approval.

Speaking of owners, the client owns multiple steps in the process from meetings to feedback and information gathering. They need to see and understand the entire process and be aware of their piece. Don’t be shy about giving your client a task and a hard deadline. They’ll appreciate the structure and control to move things forward.

Common mistakes with planning include doubling up their workload with another project for another client, or setting an unrealistic deadline. If you take the extra planning step of task owner buy-in, it gives everyone the chance to look at their own schedules to see if you’ve missed something.

You weren’t granular enough

Each project has multiple stages. Each stage has tasks and subtasks. This is where project management software really pays for itself. Every company should have a master checklist that is used as a living process document. This spells out the necessary tasks and estimated time needed to complete those tasks. If your team is really kicking butt, you’ll be constantly tweaking this document as you learn the most effective plan for each stage.

When you plug these checklists into your project management software, the tasks and dates will already be planned out and optimal. As you dive into the project, each task owner should be providing feedback to the project manager on how to improve the process. If they REALLY own their task, they’ll have a vested interest in improving the checklist to make them look good.

You didn’t plan for the unplanned

For Steelsmith Group (and any firm for that matter), a digital marketing project can go sideways easily. Even with the most efficient teams, clients and resources can throw a project off of it’s intended course into project oblivion. We like to add 25-50% to the time no matter what. How do you do this? If you think you need 1 round of revisions, plan for 3. If you need client feedback, set a due-date but give 2-3 extra business days just in case. This builds a natural buffer that will be well received especially if your clients are very active and responsive.

Speaking of feedback, be crystal clear with your clients on how to provide feedback and when. Set up a screen share with your clients to present a deliverable at a pre planned time. You’ll get some valuable feedback right away and can set up a deadline for the rest of the feedback as well as a date for your next meeting.

Common issues we’ve faced are unexpected communication blackouts with clients, unexpected additional revision requests, going over the project budget and overloaded resources. Most of these can be avoided by following the advice from this article, but we’ll tackle the budget part in the next article.

You didn’t learn from your previous projects

This one is tough. What happens after a project is completed? Do you go out and drink? Hit the beach? You should, you deserve it.

BUT, get a post mortem report together first. Find out your actuals and get some feedback from the team and your clients. Use this to adjust your master checklist to avoid making the same mistakes.

Stay tuned for more tips including the tools we use.


Andrew Steelsmith

Andrew Steelsmith

Founder & CEO

Andrew is the Founder & CEO of Steelsmith Group and regularly contributes posts to our internet marketing blog. He lives in Seattle and is regularly found wandering the west coast visiting clients and attending digital marketing events.