I’ll never forget when I first got started in SEO in 2008. I manufactured a lead by responding to an ad on Craigslist, went and had a meeting with him, and sold him on a $1,750/month SEO contract.
It was my first one ever. I thought I was going to be off to the races.
Though it didn’t quite happen as fast as I would have hoped, eventually, I was up to around 10 campaigns. I had another person helping me by then, but things were getting confusing.
We decided to adopt a spreadsheet to try and track and organize things. That worked for a little while, but then we added a contractor so I could focus more on growth.
Things were slipping through the cracks, and I was left with no idea what was getting done and what wasn’t getting done. It was basically on the team to remember.
We know how that goes. So we set out to find some “project” management tools.
I hate using the word “project” management because marketing campaigns are not logo design projects. They are ongoing. Most project management systems work really well for projects, not so much for recurring campaign management.
Unfortunately, until now, there haven’t been any tools specifically built for marketers in this way (more on this later).
But I digress. The importance of project management tools are sometimes lost in marketing firms, but unfortunately so is productivity.
Every business, regardless of industry, needs some way to stay organized. In the fast-paced office of an SEO manager, the tools need to be readily available to manage each campaign, client interaction, etc.
Not only will this help when it comes time to send those all-important client reports, but it will help develop a sense of unity and organization within your company.
First, let’s look at three main reasons you should be using project management software (if you aren’t already) and then we will get to some of the best tools out there.
- The best laid plans remain just that if action is never taken!
So you’ve landed a huge client, have an awesome brainstorming session with your team and as everyone files out of the board room, the feeling of imminent success is in the air! An SEO’s dream right?
You check back two weeks later to see what progress has been made and everyone shrugs and points a finger in a different direction.
This is what happens when great ideas are not properly documented or subsequently assigned to team members. Having all your initiatives and action items in one common location allows everyone to stay on top of what’s happening so nothing slips through the cracks.
There’s nothing less professional than trying to come up with excuses to explain this type of slip up to a client.
- You will be better able to build and maintain client relationships
Aside from organizing all your actionable items and tracking the campaign progress internally, project management software is also helpful for tracking client communications.
While this might seem like just a small factor, reflect back on any rocky campaign you’ve had in the past.
Was there some lack of communication within your team or with your client? This is a common reason things fall apart.
When you track all your interactions in one place, not only are you gaining a collection of results to show to clients, you're also tracking all communication along the way. While so many of us are used to shooting off quick emails or even IMing our teammates (who are in the next office over), picking up the phone and calling clients can be very helpful as well.
These interactions can also be documented in the communications area of your project management software.
- Organization within your company will be much easier
If your firm is a mix of freelance and in-house marketers, juggling everyone’s projects, deadlines and progress can become a back and forth stream of rapid fire emails, text messages and phone calls.
“Did I assign this SERP report to you?”
“Did you send me that blog?”
“Did I tell you about the changes the client wants made to their content marketing strategy?”
So much valuable time is taken away from being productive each day and is wasted on interactions like these. When all information is placed in one central location, the expectations are set, the deadlines are there and we are all on the same page.
If you work remotely or have those off-site freelancers working for you, this becomes more important than ever. Even if your team is in-house, never underestimate the value of organization.
Now that we know why we need project management, let’s look at some of the valuable tools out there at our disposal.
Basecamp is what comes to mind for most people in the digital space.
It is loved by many due to its affordability and ease of use. No matter the team size, you can invite as many or as few people as you would like to join.
With Basecamp you can cut out the need for private emails sent back and forth and use the software’s messaging options. Your conversation will be documented and it’s easy to find the team members you would like to include in the message by selecting their name from the drop down. By having all internal interactions documented in one place, everyone on your team has the chance to go back and review important updates, brainstorming sessions and all other campaign details.
When it comes to file sharing, Basecamp allows you to easily upload important documents and categorize them accordingly. There is also a great to-do list feature that allows you several different to-do lists for each project. Having this organized in one spot will help you either complete several items on the list or you can assign different to-do lists to different team members.
Other valuable Basecamp features include time tracking and milestones. Milestones in Basecamp are assigned to team members to help them keep on track of major deadlines. No more nagging emails or reminder emails. Having these milestones enacted will create a friendly reminder that it’s time to complete a certain aspect of the project. With time tracking, you can easily document your hours individually or as a team for each campaign or project.
The newest software on the scene is Workado. I personally founded this, due to my team’s need to be able to better manage ongoing marketing campaigns.
We utilized our own experiences with many of the tools out there to create an intuitive recurring campaign management system.
Essentially there are three main features to help organize campaigns.
The first is team organization. Workado lays out the needs for all campaigns, with the ability to assign each team member their part of the project. Within this, they will see their deadlines, monthly tasks and client communications. You can choose to just do this for the month at hand or several months ahead. Because marketing plans need to change to reflect changes in the industry, it’s great to be able to easily modify campaigns and assignments. This is easy to do with Workado’s intuitive layout.
The "quick glance" function is the second feature. This area shows a color coded progress bar behind a campaign’s name to show you progress. This makes it easy to simply log in, take a quick peek and know what campaigns are behind schedule and what is nearly completed.
The third great feature is the area for client communication. The software generates a detailed report of what was done for the month and this gets emailed to clients on a monthly basis. This is a great way to show the client where their money is going and showcases all the hard work that goes in to each campaign.
Trello has several really great features. The way Trello organizes different projects is with the use of kanban boards.
For each board you can create individual lists which many break into groups for tasks to be done, in progress and those that are finished. This creates a visually appealing way to see everything that is in the works for the campaign.
You may choose to organize your boards by the traditional "to do, doing, and done" or by individual campaigns.
Then you can add further details with Trello’s card feature to add additional tasks to each list. Like Basecamp, you can track all internal and client conversations and track progress easily as well.
For marketers who can’t get enough of the social media type platforms, Podio is ideal. That’s because it’s essentially set up like a social network that allows you to interact and have relationships with not just your teammates and other users, but within each project as well.
Podio also features a variety of pre-built apps that allow you to add things like a bug report, expense report and other helpful organizational tools. If your company prefers to build their own custom apps, that’s an option as well with the app building kit.
Using some of their apps allows you to turn Podio into a full-fledged CRM on top of just a project management system. Very handy if you’re interested in having your sales team involved post sale.
Marketers who work best by having tasks distributed will find Wrike ideal. Especially for projects that require fewer tasks, or tasks that will be completed over a longer period of time.
In addition to having the standard collaboration tools that most software includes, the notification system in Wrike is something many people prefer. The moment that edits are made in a task, a pop-up message in the desktop corner alerts the other users of the update. For those who are bombarded with emails daily, this pop-up is a break from the norm and assures you won’t miss any valuable updates.
Wrike also allows you to direct your messages using the @ symbol to any specific members of the team. This further helps avoid having any updates lost in the mix. You can also upload all your files in a common place so team members have access to all documents no matter their location, whenever they are logged in.
Having a system in place to keep your firm organized and more efficient, allows you to increase profit margins. This, in turn, helps you grow your firm without needing to simultaneously hire addition help.
For remote teams, a system is just flat-out required.
What systems do you use in your firm?
Image credit: Canva & Pixabay