“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”
^ That famous quote is from Peter Drucker.
Pretty smart guy, right?
Let me explain.
Solid organization helps you produce content that produces results.
Publishing that content on time—every time—keeps your team producing even more results.
So getting organized, at its core, helps you produce effective work efficiently.
And a marketing project management calendar template will help you get organized.
Download Your Free Marketing Project Management Calendar Template
Have you been looking for a marketing plan timeline template you can manage in Excel?
What about a template that just makes it easier to prioritize + manage your marketing project process?
Download this template fo’ free. Then use it to implement all of the advice from the rest of this blog post.
It's kinda like a marketing action plan template you can manage with Excel.
Get it and get organized now.
Prioritize Your Marketing Projects Backlog
You have a ton of projects you could do. Figuring out what you should do is a different story.
That's where prioritization comes into play. Because when you prioritize the projects that will have the greatest impact on your goals, you will naturally take on effective work.
In your marketing project management calendar template Excel spreadsheet, the first tab is labeled "Marketing Projects Backlog".
Literally write down every project you've ever thought about creating in column A.
Then involve the team to add more ideas to your list. Set up an hourlong meeting with a clearly defined agenda:
10 Minutes: Ice Breaker
You need your team to be thinking creatively. Outside the box. You need ideas that will dramatically grow your business, ideas that will boost your results by 10x instead of just 10%.
An ice breaker, as nerdy as you think it may be, helps your team expand from the norms of limitations.
^ That's exactly what you need.
So start with an ice breaker.
Begin by breaking a larger team into sub-teams of 2-3 people. Then ask:
- Holding papers together!
- Picking a lock!
- Hanging up clothes!
Then the innovative ideas will follow. Your team will expand their minds with a simple exercise which will help them brainstorm actual project ideas.
30 Minutes: Individual Brainstorm
Individual brainstorm might sound like an oxymoron. I assure you, it's not. ;)
Give every member of your team a stack of Post-It Notes and a Sharpie. Then ask:
Everyone in the room will write down their ideas, one per sticky note. (At this point, you write down all of your ideas from column A in your Marketing Projects Backlog on the Post-It Notes, too.)
Just like the ice breaker, the very obvious ideas will come first. After 10 minutes, though, you will see the writing slow.
^ That's a good thing.
This is when the innovative thoughts will come out.
As this happens, reassure everyone:
There are no bad ideas. We need all of your thoughts right now. Write everything down.
Do not rush this exercise.
20 Minutes: Optimization
You'll notice in your Marketing Projects Backlog template, column C is labeled 10x.
At this point, you and your team will quickly run through every idea to answer one simple question:
- 10x growth projects provide repeatable, measurable results that will help you reach your goals most effectively. These often provide great value for a large number of people within your audience.
- 10% improvements provide a little benefit to a few members of your audience. These are often slight improvements that don't generate huge return.
An example of a 10x idea may be launching a free tool to help you attract more of the right audience to your business. The headline analyzer from CoSchedule is an example of a 10x project.
A 10% improvement example could be increasing your word count within blog posts. Word count is often not the issue with content performance, but rather, comprehensiveness of the topic covered.
As you and your team score your ideas for 10x growth, it's important for everyone to have their voices heard.
It takes some grace to make that happen, or else the loudest person in the room will always win. This is due to the psychological principle of conformity:
To overcome that snag:
- Gather all of the Post-It Notes.
- Ask everyone to open up an instant message tool like Slack, HipChat, or Lync.
- Read one idea aloud at a time.
- Ask the team to message you 10x or 10% for their vote.
- The most votes wins (for example, an idea with 3 10x votes and 2 10% vote is a 10x idea).
From here, write the idea in column A in your Marketing Projects Backlog. You can also write a Description in column B to help you remember notes or ideas on the project.
You can add the 10x or 10% information in column C. Now, this column is not as black and white as 10x or 10%. You need to enter a number here, from 1-5, with 5 being the absolute best for 10x growth and 1 being 10% without question.
This pointing system is somewhat subjective at this point.
If you have five people participating in your brainstorm meeting, you can give each person a point for their vote. For example, an idea with 3 10x votes and 2 10% votes gets a point of 3. You get the idea.
Recommended Reading: This is the Best 30-Minute Content Marketing Brainstorming Process
Why Involve Your Team In Marketing Project Prioritization?
You might be tempted to skip past everything I just wrote about team brainstorming.
That would be foolish.
This is a matter of culture. Steve Jobs said:
There is no better way to get buy-in from people who love what they dothan helping them set the course for the work they'll do.
In their book, Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems And Test New Ideas In Just Five Days, authors Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz suggest:
This process sets the foundation of an inclusive culture. Everyone will feel involved and know what's coming.
Plus. It's an extremely effective way to prioritize the projects that will most effectively help you reach your goals.
So What Are Those Other Columns In The Marketing Project Backlog Tab In This Excel Sheet?
These columns are all customizable for you. ;)
These are qualities that define a successful marketing project for your business.
I've provided several example qualities we actual use for prioritizing marketing projects at CoSchedule in your template spreadsheet. These may make sense for you, or you may want to add or remove some. Any way you do this is completely fine.
The qualities currently are:
- 10x: Is this project a 10x growth opportunity or 10% improvement?
- Effort: Will this project take lots of team time or require outside help?
- Maximize: Does this project maximize content we already have?
- Maintenance / Ongoing: Can we publish this project and reap lots of long-term benefits with little ongoing effort?
- Cred: Will this establish insane credit as a big player in our niche?
- Audience: Does this project target the right kind of prospects?
- Cost: Is this project cheap or expensive to create and maintain?
- Partnership Opportunities: Does this project give us an opportunity to connect with influencers?
- Expectation: Does our audience simply expect a company like us to do a project like this?
The main idea here is to point your ideas for the qualities with 5 being the best score and 1 being the lowest. Column L automatically counts your points for a project. So, if you do this right, the idea with the most points will be your highest priority project!
So after you point everything, you can sort your data by column L (the Score column) by selecting row 4-21 and columns A-L > Data > Sort > Custom Sort > Column L > Largest To Smallest.
Now your projects are prioritized from the most points to the least.
For one final check, I like to double check for the 10x ideas one more time (column C). Are these ideas at the top of your list? If not... you might just want to reprioritize them there, despite the other qualities that brought down the projects' scores.
10x is more important than anything else.
Recommended Reading: How to 10X Your Content Ideas With Sujan Patel from Web Profits
Plan Your Marketing Project/Campaign's Content + Promotion Checklist
Sprints help you break down a single large project into manageable pieces.
Since marketing campaigns often involve many different pieces of content, you can think of sprints as phases of content development. It's a plan to help your team work through a project together efficiently.
To plan sprints for a project, you'll first need a Content + Promotion Checklist for each project.
Here's how to do it:
The Team Decides What You'll Create For The Project
If you followed my advice on gathering team feedback on high-level ideas for your Marketing Project Backlog, this advice will come as no surprise...
Set up 15-30 minutes for an informal sync with your team before you kick off a project. The purpose of this meeting is to ask one simple question:
This touch point can be way more informal with multiple people suggesting ideas out loud throughout the room. I've found that other team members can often build upon others' ideas this way, enabling more collaboration (which is good).
If the team starts to get off track (or just talks too long about one concept), call 'em out on it, and ask the question again:
When I do this, I often direct the question at least once at every member of the team. This way, even our quietest folks participate.
As your team answers the question, do not jump in.
Withhold your opinions as the project manager. Right now, you're not the expert. You're pulling the expertise from your team.
Your job is to open Evernote or OneNote and write down all of the amazing content ideas your team is suggesting should be a part of this campaign or project.
Map The 10x Content Ideas In Your Content + Promotion Checklist
Afterward, open the second tab in your marketing project management calendar template labeled "Content + Promotion Checklist".
Often, campaigns have phases for pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. This tab reflects that idea and provides examples of the kinds of content that may work best for each of those phases of marketing campaign planning.
For example, if your marketing project is an event, you will have content to promote the event, content for the event itself, and follow-up content for after the event.
Now you can take all of the ideas from your team sync and map them in column A, labeled Project/Campaign Content.
It's up to you, as the project manager, to decide which ideas to take on and which to leave out at this point. The 10x versus 10% exercise is still helpful in this scenario.
- What suggestions are definitely great for growth? These are 10x.
- Which suggestions are merely slight improvements? These are 10%.
After you write down the ideas you will take on in column A, fill in the names of the team members who will be involved in creating each piece of content. Think about your strategists, writers, designers, coders, and promoters here—everyone who will need to do some task with that content to make it a successful component of your campaign.
Later, you will use the names here to help you map out a realistically achievable marketing plan timeline in the Sprint Backlog tab in your Excel template.
Use Your Content + Promotion Checklist During The Project For Sprint Reviews
As for the remaining columns in the Content + Promotion Checklist tab: You'll reference this sheet throughout your project. Essentially, this tab will become a sprint review framework for your team.
Sprint reviews help you understand which content within a campaign is 100% complete.
For your team, an easy way to host a sprint review is with a weekly close-out meeting you'll hold on Fridays. In this meeting, you can literally open the Content + Promotion Checklist, go through the list, and ask for progress updates.
For each piece on the checklist, you'll ask:
If it's complete, you check it off in column C. If not (but it is supposed to be complete), you ask:
- What went wrong?
- Why did this happen?
- How can we make sure something this doesn't happen again?
- How can we get this project back on track?
By asking these questions, you allow the team members involved in that project to come to a resolution themselves. They take the ownership in missed deadlines and how to prevent that sort of thing in the future.
You can add those notes in column D in your Content + Promotion Checklist.
But... you may be asking yourself, "How do I plan those deadlines so I can do these sprint reviews?"
Recommended Reading: The Best Content Marketing Checklist to Make You More Successful
Plan Your Marketing Project Sprint Backlog
Your Sprint Backlog is a marketing timeline template, in a way. It helps you understand when you will complete certain phases of your content development.
Consider your Sprint Backlog an exercise to help you, as the project manager, outline the content production for each of the ideas in your Content + Promotion Checklist for all of your projects.
Let's explore the details:
Plan Each Piece Of Content In High-Level Phases
You can break every piece of content you're planning to create throughout a project into phases of execution.
You may be tempted at this point to start thinking about tasks. Hold off on this for now.
At this point, you are planning the bird's-eye view of a single piece of content, which may align something like this:
- Code/Prep for publish
This framework helps you understand when a logical handoff may take place from one team member to the next.
^ For example, as you write a piece, could someone else be coding the landing page template? Or maybe as you design, could someone write the promotion pieces?
Map Multiple Pieces Of Content + Their Phases On Your Sprint Backlog
Now you can also use multiple rows to plan many pieces of content as sprints within your project.
This gives you the opportunity to understand which phases may be completed by different team members at the same time so you ship projects faster.
For an example of what this looks like, check out your marketing project calendar template, and open the Sprint Backlog tab.
Rows 4-6 show three pieces of content you'll create for a project. You'll note the phases are color-coded by the team member's name who is most responsible for completing that phase.
The columns represent weeks of production—your production timeline/project management calendar.
It's not a perfect science. But this view gives you the opportunity to understand the holistic opportunity you have per each team member to complete different phases of content production quickly.
Your template provided in this blog post is an improved version of what we really use at CoSchedule to manage high-level project sprints.
A sprint backlog like this is also helpful for understand the effort needed by each team member as you work through multiple projects.
For example, you may have several projects in progress at any time. Use multiple rows in your sprint backlog to manage those projects and the content development involved in each.
After you have a solid idea of what a plan will look like, your next step is to break down the content (your sprints) into tasks complete with deadlines and map out your publishing schedule on a marketing execution calendar.
Execute Your Marketing Projects
You've prioritized the most effective projects. You've planned how you will complete them efficiently.
Now it's time to turn your ideas into real content.
Based on your Sprint Backlog, map each piece of content within a project to a specific deadline when the piece will publish. From there, huddle with your team and commit to solid communication throughout the project lifecycle.
Here's how to do it:
Set Your Project's Specific Content Publish Dates On Your Marketing Execution Calendar
Your project (as a campaign) likely has multiple pieces publishing over time. Rarely is it so that you'll create multiple pieces and publish them on the exact day at the exact same time.
That's why your Content + Promotion Checklist has four parts to it: Project Prep, Pre-Promotion, Launch, and Post-Launch.
On your marketing calendar, map those specific dates when you'll publish each piece within a project.
The Marketing Campaigns feature in CoSchedule helps you create a project that spans multiple days. Simply add a new marketing campaign to your calendar on the day your campaign starts.
Then pick the end date of the campaign, who the owner is (likely you, as the marketing project manager), and color-code the project.
Afterward, add all of the pieces from your Content + Promotion Checklist as items within your marketing project's calendar.
These are the deadlines when you'll ship all of those things!
Delegate The Tasks For Each Piece Of Content
At this point, you, as the marketing project manager, tell your team these are the dates you'll ship the content.
Now they can help you break down each piece into the tasks they'll need to do to complete the work.
I suggest setting your ship dates before breaking each piece of content into tasks for a few reasons:
- It helps your team focus on the tasks that will 10x the project instead of only 10-percenting the project. Tight deadlines provide intense focus to ship what truly makes the biggest impact.
- Along with that, your team will cut the tasks that don't necessarily make huge improvements. You shoot for shipping here, not perfection.
- If your timeline seems drastically off to a specific team member, this is the chance for them to voice their opinion. After the deadlines are officially set in this meeting, you + your team commit to making them happen.
An easy exercise here is to add the people responsible for completing certain pieces as contributors to the specific content within CoSchedule.
From here, they can lay out the tasks they need to complete for the project in chronological order. The key here is for your team members to think of a couple things:
- Who will complete the task?
- When should the task be complete so the content will be complete by the publish date (taking into account all of the tasks that need to be completed)?
Afterward, you can review those tasks just to make sure everything will get done on time. But empowering the team to own the content within the project and how they will execute gives them ownership in the outcome. This eliminates micromanagement + teaches your team how to collaborate and complete their work together efficiently.
Part of solid project management involves notifying your team members that tasks have been assigned and reminding them before the due dates, just in case they missed something.
^ CoSchedule automates this for you to eliminate some manual busywork from your to-do list. So when your team assigns tasks to each other, they get emailed. And the day before a task is due, if it's not already complete, they'll receive a reminder email so the work gets done.
Recommended Reading: How to Structure Your Content Marketing Team to Get the Best Results
Execute + Communicate Efficiently
You've planned your work. Now it's time to work your plan.
The only thing left to do is follow through, nail your deadlines, and communicate efficiently throughout the process.
CoSchedule helps with this, too, to help you track how far along a project is with a nifty (and nerdy) burn chart.
Plus, you'll have one place to see everything + communicate.
If I were you, I'd try CoSchedule and the new Marketing Projects feature now! ;)
It's the #1 marketing calendar for everything you need organized. It's designed for marketers, not something that's built so broadly that you could use it for anything.
Good luck as you get started with your marketing project management calendar template and CoSchedule!