Creating a marketing project timeline

Kyle M. Gregory

Like any internal project development, the process to fulfill small- to large-scale marketing projects can be challenging.

In some cases, the immense detail of the steps and the outlining of prerequisites, from inception to launch, can be cumbersome and can lead to delays.

The cross-functional nature of marketing initiatives typically involve several people, such as the organization’s program managers, communication specialists, directors and even outside marketing specialists.

That can create many different working parts. Therefore, proper organization is key to developing and launching your marketing efforts.

Developing a marketing project timeline can help.

These are seven steps you can take to make your organizations’ marketing implementations more efficient and easier, whether working with an internal staff, board members or volunteer committee:

Define a ball park estimate for when the new marketing project needs to launch. Do not get caught up in specific target dates yet, unless there already is a strict drop-dead date for launch. Target a timeframe of about three months, if easier, and then work backward to find a start date. This will determine how much time you have. Then evaluate whether the total timeframe is realistic for all members involved.

Have an initial team meeting to review the project objectives. Make the process democratic. Discuss ideas, issues and collect all group input or meeting notes. Ultimately, this input will aid in the development of team-member responsibilities, which should be recorded in the master timeline.

Watch out for confidence issues and/or apathy. When a project is in the inception stage, it tends to be in a disorganized state. This phase will be daunting for some and can create a natural tendency for team members to overestimate deliverables and timeframes. However, once the master timeline is organized, the process will become less daunting and easier to work with as a team.

Develop a timeline format. There are many project management software choices on the market, but be sure to assess whether you really have the time to learn how to use one. Most marketing projects require only a custom organizational tool to outline every step, every prerequisite and every due date. Microsoft Word and Excel are the easiest options to work with. In either format, make a table with the simple categories of “Project Description, Owner (manager of a project or step), Status/Issues, Estimated Completion Date across the top.” Each project will have a set of steps that needs to be recorded. Below these categories, outline everything you know step-by-step.

When you have filled in all the required steps, determine milestones and completion dates for each project step and a final project launch date. Allow all team players to review, edit and sign off on each of their steps and due dates.

Exercise good communication. Distribute an updated timeline to all team members at least once a week. Allow owners to make status updates within the timeline, or select a person to collect status updates from team members. Meet weekly or as needed to discuss issues and status updates.

Be flexible and reasonable. There are times when people drop the ball and delay the project as a whole. There are other times when unforeseen delays occur. Be reasonable, adjust the timeline and move forward with a positive approach.

Kyle Gregory is chief of operations and client strategy for Shoestring Creative Group, “the nonprofit’s agency.” Kyle can be reached at or 888.835.6236.

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