I’ve been in project management for more than 10 years, and I’ve witnessed projects get stalled on the tracks or come close to careening off the rails for a variety of reasons. I’ve noticed, however, that those reasons typically fall into three buckets: bad data, miscommunication, and a lack of confidence.
All three can undercut a project’s success, so it’s important to identify them — and head them off at the pass whenever you can — and take appropriate action to keep your project moving forward.
Downfall #1: Bad or insufficient data
Nine times out of ten, when we start a project with a client we uncover an issue with their data. Sometimes they’re already aware of it (but haven’t had the time or resources to address it), and sometimes they’re not. Some of the more common issues we’ve come across include:
- They don’t have a database
- Not enough leads
- Leads aren’t setup properly
- CRM isn’t synched properly with Marketo or Eloqua
- No process in place for updates or changes
Implementing a release schedule for data and process modifications lets you address problems before they occur, instead of constantly operating in a reactive manner.
If you don’t have a process around how you upload data, for example, you may have to take a step back to fix duplicate contacts and data normalization issues. As a result, a whole new project has snuck in, and everything else has to go on hold until it’s fixed.
Along those same lines, if you want to create anything that relies on having accurate data — whether it’s a campaign, demand generation framework, or reporting — but you don’t have the necessary data to support it, you’re not going to achieve the results you’re looking for.
It’s truly a domino effect. If you don’t have sound data to pull from, it’s really difficult to segment your client data for targeted campaigns, which will negatively impact your results. And if you can’t run accurate reporting, you can’t demonstrate true ROI.
Issues with your data inevitably cause delays and dreaded scope creep because a number of things have to be put on the back burner until they’ve been addressed. I’ve run into this in almost every project. Depending on the client’s database size and the degree of data challenges, I’ve seen this take from a couple weeks up to six months. And if these issues aren’t addressed, you won’t have enough information to demonstrate progress to your project stakeholders.
Downfall #2: Miscommunication
Miscommunication and misunderstandings are rampant in a field where people use similar terminology for different things. For example, when I say “program,” someone else assumes I’m talking about a single campaign when I’m really talking about a larger initiative that goes beyond email.
Marketing has a dizzying number of terms and acronyms that can cause a great deal of confusion, both within the same company and outside of it. What you think is obvious may obviously be something else to someone sitting even two desks away from you.
That’s why it’s so important to create a common language, or taxonomy, for everyone involved with an organization’s demand generation process.
First, put together a data dictionary so everyone is using the same terminology and speaking the same language. Then, put that terminology to work in your CRM by implementing data mapping policies so your fields and data values are consistent (e.g., title vs. position, CEO vs. Chief Executive Officer).
Once you’re on the same page internally, you can present a united front to your marketing clients and partners while making sure nothing is getting lost in translation. For example, a client told us they were having a problem with progressive profiling, but when we went to their website we couldn’t find any instances of progressive profiling in place. When we took a look behind the curtain, we were able to confirm that progressive profiling hadn’t even been implemented. After digging a little deeper, it turned out the client was interested in web personalization and automatically displaying certain content when a user visited their website.
Until you’ve fully established a common marketing language, it’s always best to use the full terms when communicating with one another rather than taking shortcuts with acronyms. It’s not the same with every organization. I worked at Disney World for five years, and they were very heavy on the acronyms. In fact, if you didn’t use the acronym, you’d get plenty of strange looks. An organization’s taxonomy is cultural, so make sure you use the right terminology with the right audience.
Downfall #3: Lack of experience and buy-in
Sometimes, clients are hesitant to move forward because they haven’t worked on a particular type of project before. They may not know enough about the subject themselves, or they may be concerned with introducing change management within their organization.
One client had to pitch projects to their executive panel for approval. They initially pitched the project themselves, but they didn’t yet know enough about the project, how it would impact marketing and the broader organization, what that journey would look like, and how the new solution would help achieve the client’s broader business objectives.
We offered to assist and pitch the project directly to the executive panel after the internal project owners kicked things off. As a result, the executive panel understood how we could help them on their journey and how we would measure ROI. They then had the confidence to approve the project.
Leading a project that’s new to both you and your organization can be daunting. Some clients think they have to be the subject matter expert, but that’s exactly why they reached out to us. No one expects these projects to be a one-man or one-woman show, which is why budget was allocated to a partner in the first place. Rely on your partner to educate key stakeholders and decision-makers within your organization.
Move your projects forward with confidence
DemandGen’s mission is to make marketing heroes. We’re here to make you shine, not steal the spotlight. From data services and MarTech integration and deployment to fine-tuning your demand strategy and improving conversion rates, our services are designed to keep your demand generation engine running smoothly and on time.
Stephanie Hargrave is a seasoned Project Manager with more than 10 years of experience. Known for her strong organizational skills, creative problem-solving, and unwavering focus on execution and results, she pushes to exceed overall expectations. A certified scrum master, Stephanie is quick to listen and ask questions in order to bring the right resources to the table, anticipate potential risk, and provide dynamic solutions for project completion.