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The Art and Science of Managing Digital Marketing Programs

  |  January 25, 2012   |  Comments

Five best practices for executing best-in-class digital marketing programs.

What's more important in business, the idea or the execution? Well when it comes to digital marketing, if ideas are currency then execution is the Federal Reserve.

Great execution is all about a having a strong vision, clear communication, a defined set of processes, and relentless attention to detail. The system falls down without the inherent trust that good ideas can and should be executed.

Here are a few best practices I have learned along the way that should help with executing best-in-class digital marketing programs:

Meeting preparation. To keep the proverbial trains running on time, priority number one is to ensure meetings, calls, and communications are buttoned up. Before a meeting the program manager should send out an agenda that includes a list of attendees and contact information, topics for discussion, pertinent background information, and key action items with owners assigned. This simple step will save wasted time bringing folks up to speed, and will establish a record of meetings and follow-up communications (note - keep it on one email thread and keep it concise).

Running meetings. As the program manager, it is important to outline goals needing to be accomplished prior to a meeting, and it is critical that you leave the meeting with those goals accomplished, clear next steps identified, and a firm commitment from those who own action items. Manage the clock during meetings, and as necessary table tangential conversations to get through the agenda. Afterward, distribute summary notes that include clear next steps, timelines, and DRIs (directly responsible individuals). Use this email thread later as documentation follow-up.

Managing risk. Everyone wants their program to launch and run perfectly, but the reality is that nearly every digital program has its detours and roadblocks. As the program manager, it is incumbent on you to take ownership and manage all challenges. The keys to managing with grace under pressure are twofold: at every opportunity ask yourself what can be done to move the program forward at that time (regardless of challenges), and anticipate potential risks by having response plans and scenarios carefully considered and in place (note - as things become urgent, make certain to escalate appropriately). Develop and refine this skill by constantly posing if/then scenarios, and with practice you will be operating as a pro in no time.

Playing from the heart. The best jazz musicians are masters of both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of their art. They become experts in the mathematics of music theory after 10,000 hours of practice. But, when they are actually on stage and performing, they empty their minds of their training and distraction and play pure music from the heart; thus, they achieve an almost enlightened level. Good program managers follow a similar arc; they master the fundamentals and then elevate to a higher level of consciousness during the actual "performance".

It's people powered. When all is said and done, it often takes a small "village" of individuals to coalesce a complex digital program. An effective manager keeps things together and holds people accountable, but she/he also knows how to be resourceful and flexible as well as how to keep things light. Always remember the higher purpose, and take care to balance short-term delivery goals with long-term client relationships.

Do you have best practices on how to better-run digital marketing programs? If so, I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.


Matt Jessell

Matt Jessell currently serves as director of ad sales operations at Federated Media Publishing in San Francisco. Matt, a founding member of the company since 2006, has worked to develop and implement award-winning programs for Fortune 500 brands including Intel, BMW, Dell, Clorox, Toyota, and American Express as well as build the Strategic Programs and Ad Sales Operations business units. Prior to FM, Matt held various, key positions in operations, and sales and marketing at Wired Magazine and Conde Nast. He graduated from the University of Montana with a dual emphasis on management and marketing.

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