It doesn't matter whether you are agency side or in-house when it comes to online marketing campaigns. You cant get away from a simple truth; online marketing is now a complicated beast.
At any one time you are likely to be working on technical SEO, content marketing, link building, outreach, social media, PPC, CRO, paid social and a number of other projects. These tasks and projects are also likely to involve a number of people; many of whom may be working on the same project at the same time.
As Boom Online grew, it became obvious that we needed to be able to track, in detail, the following:
- Client budgets
- Team workload
- Project intricacies
- Content production and promotion
- Link building, outreach and success
Alongside being able to report quickly and accurately, research in a flash, track rankings and a whole host of other things.
In todays post I am going to run through some of the ways that we organise ourselves at Boom, and cover how we execute planning, content organisation, and outreach using a variety of different tools and pieces of software.
Liquid Planner (http://www.liquidplanner.com/)
A year ago, we were planning and tracking projects in a Basecamp/Harvest combination which worked well when there was only a few of us. As we grew it became obvious that we were going to need something a little more structured and industrial in strength to be able to keep an accurate track of the various teams, projects and tasks. It also needed to be fairly simple to use, show us the information we need in a concise manner, and be able to deal with the demands of multiple users.
After a lot of investigation and testing, we settled on Liquid Planner, which isn't the cheapest option by a long way, but serves the purpose.
At the end of any given month we sit and plan out the next months activity (some projects are planned out over several months to incorporate planning, creation, execution and outreach). Liquid Planner takes away all the manual work that our old system left us with such as physically adding up the man-hours required for tasks, and calculating what this added up to in terms of budget.
Liquid Planner can be quite daunting at first but once you get the hang of it, it is incredibly versatile and cuts down on hours and hours of project management time that was being wasted every month.
It would be foolish of me to try and go into detail of the features of the tool in this post, but I can give you a list of the features that allow us to spend less time planning and more time creating and doing:
- It allows us to add tasks at the granularity that you need to make your projects successful.
- Folders can be set up in the way that you see fit " most seem to have them set up by projects but we set them up in months.
- It allows you to separate up the different parts of projects by what you define (we go for SEO, CRO, Social Media and so on) allowing you to see project budgets for different departments.
- All money and hours can be tracked and reported on allowing you to see whether you went over or under, adjust accordingly and plan better in the future.
- Each team member gets their own to-do list based on tasks assigned to them " they can then track the time that they spend on each task and the account manager can adjust time frames accordingly.
- Almost everything in the system is filterable " you can find and fix any issues that you have, from team members who are obviously having difficulty with specific tasks to projects that you have been quoting disastrously under for!
- You can pull reports on specific clients or specific departments, all in a few seconds. It allows you to quickly identify problem areas.
- If you charge for time it allows you set individual workloads and billable rates. You can make sure that all work is shared out fairly and that no-one is ever overloading with work.
If you have more than a dozen people working on multiple projects I cant recommend Liquid Planner enough. I have done the sums and even though it appears costly the amount of hours that it saves me each month (and others), it pays for itself several times over.
Trello has been written about a number of times in the online marketing community " and rightly so. It is versatile enough for you to use it as everything from a personal to do list to a small project management software tool and much more.
At Boom we use it internally as a way to organise content plans, from inception to outreach. Whilst Liquid Planner takes care of the top level stuff you need something that allows you to track things that you might not be able, or want, to make immediately. Trello also takes care of the visual aspect of seeing where you are in the content creation and promotion process.
We simply create a content board for each client as they come on board (organised by Content Ideas, Working On, In Production, Finished, Scheduled, Live and Outreach). When you have several people working on different aspects of content creation and promotion it gives you a quick, colourful and visual way of seeing the plan (Trello have recently added the long-missing calendar function).
At a glance here is what makes Trello worth it for tracking the content process:
- Its free J
- We can store ideas in the first column that different team members can comment on " only when they are deemed good enough to they get dragged and dropped into the working on section.
- All the team can collaborate " if they want to!
- Clients can get involved and ideas that are never going to be used can be nipped in the bud early on. It also takes out the need for long email chains that can be hard to find again in the future. The comments are there and they are contextually relevant to the piece of content in question.
- There is a certain satisfaction in dragging and dropping cards.
- You can also add links, pictures, videos and all sorts of relevant content to enrich the ideas.
Whilst we do use Trello for tracking things like progress made in internal training and checklists, its the content process that gets used the most.
Outreach and Link Building
Sometimes I feel like a bit of a Buzzstream fanboy. I have covered the tool in so many places now that it seems like I talk about nothing else. Its deserved though. Buzzstream is a link building and digital PR CRM. I have heard a few people that criticise the fact that it has so many features " but for me that is one of its greatest advantages.
Buzzstream allows Boom to:
- Collect and research more sites than we ever could do manually.
- Filter these in any way we see fit.
- Share the sites that we find with other team members in a centralised database " saving time, money and allowing us to work as quickly as possible.
- Make sure that we dont step on each others toes during outreach.
- Keep all emails on file for future reference (by the same team member or another).
- Pull metrics and find contact details without the need for additional tools.
- Reach out to people via the tool itself with all the pertinent details about said person in the same frame.
- Keep organised
- Stay on budget
- Make sure team members are not overworked
- Track time
- Save time
- Save money
- Work faster without losing quality
Successful project management relies on organisation, planning and preparation. You need to cut out tasks that can be performed by affordable (or free software) in order to leave you with the time that you need to execute tactics and strategies.
The less time that you have to spend on project management there more time is left to do the fun stuff!