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What To Do When Your Team Has (Accidentally) Veered From the Marketing Strategy

I once worked on a website redesign project with an extremely tight beginning-to-end deadline and no room for error. Alignment across the production teams and executives was essential. However, a key stakeholder unexpectedly became a project blocker, wanting us to reprioritize information we’d deemed of secondary importance. His desire for a new focus would require a timeline-derailing change of scope, putting the entire project at risk. This new focus on a different persona would require new copy and new designs, rendering its impact unpredictable.

Particularly in marketing projects, staying on top of a campaign’s strategy, messaging, and intent must be a priority for all project managers. Too often, brands’ campaigns start to take on lives of their own outside their early parameters. By launch, they might be practically unrecognizable, which doesn’t exactly result in fun and games.

Recognizing Hindrances to Streamlined Marketing Campaigns

It’s hardly surprising that marketing campaigns can veer off-strategy. To stop this type of diversion from submarining projects, marketers must anticipate some of the top reasons priorities shift. 

The first is a key stakeholder whose opinions, valid or not, make everyone question the efficacy of the project. From the stakeholder’s point of view, asking for small changes is appropriate. But even minor switches can eat up resources because they’re not part of the documented plan. Typically, heightened upfront communication can set expectations and avoid questions about making midstream changes without going through an agreed-upon process.

Another reason for a marketing strategy to drift is funding cuts. Slow sales might not be caused by marketing, but they can easily affect marketing campaigns. In 2009, American companies dropped their advertising spending by 10% in response to the economic depression. Marketers were then forced to try to do more with less, which isn’t always possible when a project is in full swing. Lowered budgets require immediate restructuring, leading to an output that looks very different from what was predicted.

 A final cause for misguided marketing campaigns is time constraints. For instance, some team members might be over-committed and unable to complete their tasks. Or a project timeline might be moved up without warning. Similarly, the department might lack production resources they thought were available. Without the space to do the work, teams often have to rescope campaigns in order to meet deadlines. 

Getting Marketing Campaigns Back on Track Before Release

The good news is that marketing campaigns can be re-tracked midstream. Below are methods to rein in a project before it runs amok: 

1. Schedule a team meeting.

Regrouping the team offers a chance to reset. Remember, you don’t need to wait until launch to have a retrospective. If the plan isn’t coming together, have a discussion immediately. Figure out why it isn’t aligned with the original expectations, highlight what’s working, and adjust your collective approach to ensure success.

2. Break down complicated tasks.

Is a to-do item taking too long to complete? Are feedback loops happening slower than expected? The answer could be that some tasks are too large to digest. Breaking them into smaller components can often speed up their finish and get everything running as expected. 

3. Evaluate your resources.

As you dissect your campaign, examine places where someone with a unique skill set, such as a copywriter or designer, might come in handy. Maybe your budget isn’t working out. Perhaps pulling in a subject-matter expert to expand your team’s understanding of a product or target audience makes sense. Uncover the resource-related stumbling blocks, and then plan to plug in holes.

4. Ensure everyone’s working from the same playbook.

Every project should run from a source of truth that all team members know. In fact, every player should have access to strategic materials and project plans. When all teammates understand how their contributions fit in with the overarching campaign, they tend to better prioritize work. If plans change, communicate and document adjustments immediately. 

Closing Out a Marketing Project That Meets Expectations 

I want to circle back to the project I mentioned earlier, where our team was being asked to stray from the original strategy. To avoid further issues, we decided to make some compromises that didn’t affect the integrity of the campaign's timeline. Rather than reworking the entire homepage as requested, we replaced a section on the homepage with new content. Highlighting key talking points satisfied the concerned stakeholder without hurting project flow. 

If your marketing team struggles to keep campaigns from morphing, you’ll constantly feel stressed. Additionally, your production plan might not fit your budget, forcing you to cancel new programs as key stakeholders become impatient. Instead of falling into that trap, establish a system that wards off scope creep through proactive decision-making and consistent communication.

Topics Agencies, Agency Partners, Website Launch

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