Early in my career, when I was a Business Analyst leading software implementation projects, a manager told me: “Start with the end in mind.”
What she meant was, think about how you want the system to behave, then define the steps and system requirements for the developers to execute. As I settled into my marketing career, I’ve applied this advice to all my projects, and it has proven to be invaluable.
Set clear objectives
As you gather your project team, communicate clearly what you’re trying to achieve. Make sure you have buy-in from the team and major stakeholders. This isn’t CYA, it’s establishing the project’s charter in order to be sure everyone is rowing the same direction.
Define success metrics
You’ll never be able to determine the success of a project, campaign, or initiative if you haven’t measured it. And you’ll never be able to measure it if you haven’t collected the data. Set up your campaign in a way that you can clearly and accurately measure that response. Note that the response mechanism must flow-through to the creative design, so this is a critical early step.
And make sure everyone knows why the metrics are important. For example, tell your sales team they’ve got to document X good leads that result from a trade show or else there’s no way you’ll sign-up to exhibit next year.
Write a kick-butt creative brief
I’ve got a creative eye, but not a creative hand. I generally know how I want materials to look before handing off a project to a designer, so I’ve learned how to communicate in the designer’s terms what we’re trying to achieve without getting in the way of the creative process.
Be clear about ‘execution mandates’ – those things that must be included in the design, as well as the No-Nos. This reduces review / revision cycles, and ultimately saves billable hours from your agency!
Taking the time at this stage to fully define your messaging will enable your entire team to internalize your message. It makes it easy for new team members to come up to speed with your project, or quickly to respond to any new opportunities that arise along the way.
Caveat: Leave room for creativity
As a leader, you must set the project’s parameters but allow your team to riff on your theme. Just like the best musicians are the ones who allow others to take the spotlight for a screaming solo, it makes the entire band better.
Otherwise, you’re just being a stifling jerk, and nobody will want to play in your band!