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At first glance, marketing and project management may not be an obvious pair. Predictability, guidelines, and repeatable processes are the backbone of project management methodologies. Their rigid nature is often at odds with the fast-paced, creative world of marketing.
Despite their contrast, marketing organizations are rapidly adopting project management principles and using software tools to increase efficiency and better serve their clients.
But not every PM software meets the unique needs of marketers:
- Marketing environments are fast-paced and ever-changing; firms need a system that can paint a full picture across a spectrum of projects and shifting priorities.
- Marketing teams are comprised of writers, designers, videographers, podcasters, and more. They need a platform that not only stores and organizes multimedia such as graphics, videos, and audio, but provides mobile access as well.
- Project management software for marketing must be flexible and collaborative since firms need to discuss issues outside of email inboxes — where details and project requirements are often buried.
- Marketing managers need to sort tasks in a variety of ways: by project, department, responsible team member, or client in order to ensure deadlines and projects don’t clash.
- Dispersed marketing teams can be working from around the world, so it’s important to unify tasks, documents, and people in a single system. Departments need technology that helps teams plan, create, delegate, monitor, and discuss tasks as if they’re sitting in one office.
Enter marketing project management software. This technology convergence was fueled by the gaps that many marketing teams experience with traditional project management software. Marketing teams are just one of many groups benefiting from the growth in popularity of project management software. A survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon found that when organizations become better at project management, key performance metrics significantly increase.1 Scheduling adherence rises 50 percent. Productivity can improve by over 60 percent. Numbers like these helped the global project and portfolio management market grow to $3.9 billion in 2013, and its predicted to reach $5.7 billion by 2018.2 At that time, the much larger marketing software sector is expected to reach $32.4 billion.3
Together, marketing project management software may be a mouthful, but it has the potential to meet the nuanced needs of marketing professionals and drive measurable business performance.
Comparing Marketing Project Management Software
If you don’t know what to look for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you compare__ marketing project management software. All systems are essentially designed to do the same job, so differentiating between platforms is a challenge.
Many vendors will claim to provide the best project management software for marketing, but the best software for your business depends on the functionality your team needs. So how do you know what functions are critical? At a broad level, you need a system to manage your marketing projects end-to-end. More granularly, you need a system that fits your company’s strategic goals.
Pinpoint where your processes need improvement, and use those pain points to help identify the specific, must-have features in your new system. Identify your biggest priorities first:
- Do you need to collaborate with clients through an external portal?
- Do you have a complex process for approving creative briefs or design work?
- Does your team need to track time in order to charge for work?
- Do you need a web-based platform that team members can access on any device, from anywhere?
Once you know the problems you’re solving, you can truly identify and select the best marketing project management software for your business. Functionality varies from vendor to vendor, but a good marketing project management solution should provide the following features:
- Scheduling and task management: Ability to create goals, tasks, subtasks, and set deadlines, with permission settings that determine who can view, edit, or change tasks. A robust system will allow you to set up dependencies for interconnected tasks or assignments and assign different responsibilities to various members of the project team. Systems should notify users when deadlines are approaching or tasks are not completed so teams are notified when they should begin work.
- File and document sharing: the ability to store, share, and comment on multimedia files. Advanced systems will have a live editor, version control, and threaded comments so discussion can happen all in one place.
- Pages or Wikis: a content repository that all team members can access. It can house any piece of knowledge related to the company (best practices, style guides, sales documents), or it can be used as a database for project specific details.
- Discussions and message boards: A public forum where teams can discuss projects collaboratively rather than emailing back and forth.
- Internal messaging: An instant chat system for one-on-one or group discussions.
- Calendar: A public way to manage key events and see team member’s availability.
- Visual timelines: Kanban boards or gantt charts that provide an overall picture of projects.
- Time tracking and invoicing for billing client work.
- Analytics and reports: metrics that are easy to digest and track key initiatives or campaigns with dashboards. Workload reports help show who has bandwidth for the next projects or who is overloaded.
- Interactive timelines: A social media type “newsfeed” that updates when one team member starts working on a task, so the rest of the team can see it in an activity stream and stay up to date.
- White-label solution: The ability to brand your software in accordance with your business or your clients.
- Client Portal: An external portal that clients can access to request changes or view project progress.
- Project templates: The ability to duplicate a similar campaign or project
Custom workflows: Setup custom triggers so that proofing, review, and change order processes require approval before going to the next stage.
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Marketing project management tools can be used by a variety of businesses. Depending on your size and goals, your system priorities will vary. Below are a few additional points to consider depending on your intended use.
Big businesses and global brands must keep track of myriad activities across the organization. For enterprises, choosing marketing software that provides a view of multiple projects is critical, as is integration with existing ERP systems. Additionally, large companies must ensure that mobile and remote workers can easily access the system, as well as collaborate from around the world.
Marketing and advertising agencies must manage initiatives for multiple clients. To do this, marketing project management tools must consolidate all client projects, communications, and files in one place. You’ll need strong project portfolio management tools alongside task management and other tools for managing projects individually. The best systems provide both. Agencies usually also require a vendor that allows collaborator seats, so that clients can login and stay up-to-date on project progress. Features such as a client portal, time tracking to bill per hour, and project templates are paramount at this type of business.
Small and medium-sized businesses require two things from a marketing project management system: consolidation and scalability. As businesses grow, it’s common to adopt standalone solutions as singular issues arise. For example, you may have separate applications for tracking time, sharing files, and delegating deadlines. A good project management system will streamline these separate operations into one platform. And since you’re growing, you need an easy way to add users. A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or cloud-based marketing project management solution, will grow with your team.
Marketing freelancers or owners of a very small business need the right tools to successfully manage clients and juggle multiple projects. At this size, client portals are very important, especially if you spend a lot of time emailing back and forth with clients. Time tracking and invoicing features are also valuable tools to have on one platform. Lastly, mobile access should be available so you can manage projects on the go.
How to Create Executive Buy-In
Gaining buy-in from executives is a critical success factor for software approval and implementation. Sure, getting projects completed is important, but that alone is not enough to sway the C-suite. For these stakeholders, transparency is necessary. An application with a powerful dashboard and a range of metrics to track project completion is necessary.
In order to get your software purchase approved, you’ll need to include data in the decision-making process. Be sure to present industry research and relevant case studies, like the one below, when presenting your case. Additionally, consider tailoring your appeal to address the concerns of each member of the C-suite. Here some talking points to get you started.
Your IT department is there to ensure the technology needs of the organizations are met. It’s important to consult your chief technology officer early in the buying process so they can share their expertise and help you make an informed decision. IT professionals will be most concerned with the decision to build or buy a project management solution. The decision ultimately relies on your organization’s needs, but since IT is constantly changing, there are many advantages to buying. Aside from saving costs on infrastructure, buying software will also reduce burden on IT resources. Since the vendor maintains the updates and codes, bugs, feature requests, and integrations are usually their responsibility. Additionally, software designed with marketing project management in mind will have best practices built into the system. Lastly, the IT department will be concerned with any hidden costs (such as customer service costs) and security. Consulting IT early will ensure you have the support you need and a contender list that meets their rigorous requirements.
The leader of your organization sets the strategic goals and understands how projects align with those goals. Marketing project management software can give them a data-driven way to assess project success, which helps your company identify what’s working and what’s not. It also provides an overview of your entire portfolio of projects, so leadership doesn’t have to wait for a report to know where everything stands. Most importantly, project management software can help CEOs see what is actually happening in the organization, as opposed to what appears to be happening. With modern technology, management can track how progress is made against original plans, and if desired, they can drill down to see what teams or individuals are working on on a daily basis.
Your chief financial officer ensures resources that are allocated to projects align with the organization’s priorities. Since projects are often a large capital investment and sometimes uncertain, CFOs understand the importance of project success. They will want to know the funding requirements for a new technology investment, and how it will generate revenue. Be sure to highlight the gained efficiency on numerous projects will improve productivity and increase profits across many initiatives. Again, software case studies that feature companies similar to yours can help CFOs understand the financial benefits of investing in this technology.
Marketing Project Management Software Case Study
Company: ROI Revolution4
ROI Revolution is a retail-focused online marketing and advertising agency based in Raleigh, N.C.. The company manages millions of dollars in monthly ad spend for over 240 clients spread throughout seven countries.
ROI Revolution started with a team of five employees, and it was easy for the founder to delegate tasks and monitor results informally. As the the team grew, so did the increasing pressure of multitasking. As the team approached 30 team members, it was more difficult to get real-time task updates, which jammed the development process.
They needed a management tool. The company tried to use email and Outlook Tasks for this purpose, but rapidly outgrew both.
According to CEO Timothy Seward, the problem with these tools was:
- No visibility into project progress
- Lack of collaboration
- No easy way to update, unassign, or reassign tasks
Once there were more than 30 people on the team, Seward realized their task management had become clumsy. ROI Revolution needed a robust marketing project management system to get things done more efficiently and on time. The company chose Wrike to provide a simple way to organize their workflow, structure tasks into hierarchies, and break work down into smaller, easy-to-tackle items.
Results and competitive advantages:
- Fully productive after implementation within the first two weeks.
- Simple and seamless task management provided visibility on important tasks and cut meetings down by 50 percent.
- Eliminated the stress of multitasking and prioritizing. There’s no longer a need to remember a large number of tasks and juggle them, team members can fully focus on getting work done.
- No valuable information is buried in the CEO’s inbox, since he can forward relevant emails into the system to create a brand new task, or add the information to existing tasks.
- Friendly social interface naturally encourages team members to collaborate on task discussions, creating a friendly, collaborative environment.
- After the company saw the benefits, they rolled Wrike out to the accounting and administrative teams, and then the whole company.
Other Market-Leading Options
Wrike is one of the top project management solutions on the market and can be customized to meet the needs of marketing departments and agencies. It was the right choice for ROI Revolution, but depending on your unique goals and workflows, it may not be the best software for your business. To compare more marketing project management options, check out the leading solutions below, or browse and filter vendors with our Product Selection Tool.
Choosing the Best Marketing Project Management Software
At TechnologyAdvice, our goal is to help businesses connect with the technology that best meets their needs. We’ve compiled product information, reviews, case studies, features lists, video walkthroughs, and research articles on hundreds of leading IT solutions, all to make the buying process more straightforward for decision makers like you.
If you’re curious about any of the marketing project management products or features listed in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our in-house specialists for a free consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool on our website to get a personalized recommendation.
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- Balfour, Adrian. “How to Sell Project Management to Senior Executives Who Don’t Want It.” Pcubed. Accessed May 6, 2015. http://www.pcubed.com/bulletins/how-sell-project-management-senior-executives-who-dont-want-it#sthash.HNCqMoZV.dpuf
- Ballou, Melinda-Carol. “Worldwide Project and Portfolio Management 2014–2018 Forecast and 2013 Vendor Shares: Ongoing Growth Driven by Demand.” IDC. September 2014. http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=250602
- Brinker, Scott. “$20 billion global market for marketing software today.” Chief Marketing Technologist Blog. October 21, 2014. http://chiefmartec.com/2014/10/global-market-marketing-software-20-2-billion/
- “ROI Revolution Success Story.” Wrike. Accessed May 6, 2015. https://www.wrike.com/customers/roi-revolution/