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Breakout Session: Planning Your Way to Digital Marketing Success

You landed your dream client. Now how can you ensure your digital marketing initiative will be successful instead of crashing and burning?

Most marketers have experienced what happens when poor planning, misaligned expectations, and missed milestones derail what could have been a promising engagement. For Karl Sakas, head of Agency Firebox, a marketing misfire with an Olympic athlete led him to rethink his approach to project management – and develop strategies and structures he now shares with others.

The key to getting better results for digital marketing and making projects less frantic is simple: lead early and often, says Sakas. He led a breakout session, “How to Deliver Successful Digital Marketing Work for Your Company and Clients,” on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at the High Five Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As a digital marketer, you should:

  1. Start early and start smart.

Hold a pre-kickoff survey to acquire critical information, such as asking stakeholders how they define success.

For example, if you are implementing a marketing automation system, ask how many leads the clients expect to generate each month. If there is a wide variance in answers, you should align stakeholder expectations upfront.

You should also get to know your team. Learn about people’s strengths and invest time in building a collaborative culture before you work together.

Also do a “pre-mortem” on a new project. Decide what you need to change now, before it gets too late.

  1. Track it early and often

If you do traditional waterfall development, it’s essential to create detailed project plans and constantly monitor progress. While many clients are moving to Agile methodologies to build both products and initiatives iteratively, this approach also requires discipline. Don’t wing it, counseled Sakas.

Marketers should pay attention to timeline, budget, and scope and track this information continuously. One of Sakas’s clients had a retainer engagement that was healthy, but not profitable. Although she was getting paid 100k, she was performing 200k worth of work each year. Based on Sakas’ advice, this marketer is now restructuring the client relationship. She is providing the company with two options: an ideal outcome, which would cost 200k, and the minimally acceptable outcome, at 100k.

Sakas acknowledged that restructuring relationships can be difficult, especially when you have over-delivered in the past goal. However, addressing these issues proactively minimizes ongoing losses.

Obsess over the details early and often.

Plan for challenges ahead. When Sakas’ team needed to work with a new web app, he reached out to a developer who was experienced with the technology before beginning the initiative. When the team encountered technical issues with the app, they had a resource in place who was ready to help.

Also focus on both the local and emotional side of client relationships: It’s great to turn over world-class deliverables, but you also need to make your clients feel good and look great with their superiors.

So how did it go with the Olympic athlete Sakas worked with? Sakas found himself at a photo shoot with no contract and no prepayment. While he requested a small payment, he found himself in a difficult situation when the athlete lost a sponsor and couldn’t pay the remainder of the fee.

Sakas hasn’t made the same mistake again. And now he helps others avoid marketing mishaps by leading early and often.

Join the conversation on Twitter at #high5conf.