A day in the life of a marketer is like that of a juggler trying to keep colored plates up on different sticks. Writing blog posts, preparing events, updating websites, scheduling advertisements, placing social media posts, setting up meetings … These are just a few of the dozens of different tasks that a marketer sees in one day. Marketers are therefore masters of multitasking and can handle a multitude of different tasks in one day.
It's precisely this versatility that makes the profession so attractive, because no day looks like another. But ... an excess of ad hoc work without a basis in terms of task planning drives every marketer to a burnout sooner or later. The need for professional (i.e. shared) task management is high, especially in marketing teams and agencies where tasks are divided between different marketers. But how do you share tasks with others? And which tools can help you with this?
If you work on a small project, as a freelancer or in a marketing team with few employees, Outlook might be a good choice for task management. It is part of the standard office software available to every marketer and is a commonly used tool throughout the day. You can easily create or assign tasks to others, set reminders and due dates or simply keep track of time. However, as soon as the team becomes larger and the projects become more challenging, Outlook is no longer an option due to it being too isolated within the global planning context. In practice, it is very difficult as a marketing team leader to get an overview of the tasks within the team at a glance or with a mouse click.
"Why don't we immediately place the tasks in the spreadsheet that contains our communication plans?" is a logical and perhaps frequently asked question in marketing departments. Logical because you can kill two birds with one stone: the communication planning (e.g. newsletter on October 13) is combined with all the tasks that should ensure that the newsletter is actually sent out on October 13. You will find such task and communication planning in abundance, in whatever marketing department, anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, it is not a perfect solution for challenging projects or campaigns. Reason: the spreadsheet quickly becomes unreadable (due to too much information) and gets the allure of a coloring book when every marketer places his or her accents. Moreover, spreadsheets are thoroughly misused by marketers because they are digital spreadsheets for performing numerical analyses, not for managing tasks. Finally, tasks in a spreadsheet may be tied to communication planning for a particular colleague or department, but there is a good chance that another colleague or department will be involved in the task or project. Then you have duplicate task management in two different spreadsheets.
Specific task apps such as Wunderlist and Trello are powerful, well-designed and user-friendly productivity tools for setting up task management with multiple people. Even in the free versions you can delegate unlimited tasks and upload files. They also meet the most common requirements of marketers: list items, subtasks, reminders ... all are possible. Trello even lets you drag, drop or colorize tasks in a way that many other task tools don't. The tool even allows you to visualize a task list in a calendar view. No wonder marketers who struggle with Outlook or who do their planning in Excel regard task apps as their salvation.
But I am still going to put the brakes on at this point. In many client projects that we launch with Husky, problems with task apps are the starting point for finding a better solution. Trello in particular is a widely used tool within marketing teams. What they encounter after a while is the too strong focus on task planning. Now, I hear you thinking: what's the problem, that was the intention, no? I mean that so much attention goes to setting up and managing tasks in one tool that task planning is quickly isolated from the other planning. After all, in Wunderlist and Trello you cannot set up a communication timeline or manage budgets, two common planning tasks in marketing. In other words: task apps encourage ad hoc work, which is a danger for marketers who increasingly need the larger planning whole in order to do their work properly.
A logical next step in the search brings us to project management tools. They don't start from the concept of 'tasks' but from the setting up and management of 'projects', and tasks are an important part of that. They do not differ much from task apps in terms of operation and user-friendliness, but have the big bonus that they have a so-called timeline function on which you can project tasks over time. That offers a familiar image for marketers who usually do their planning in Excel because you combine the ease of use of Excel with the power of a digital tool. In project management tools you can go a long way when digitizing your marketing planning and when sharing tasks with others.
The end of the search for a perfect task management tool? That depends on your ambitions. If you want to integrate task planning with communication or campaign planning within a marketing team, then you will find a difficult ally in project management tools. You will then have to combine task planning in, for example, Asana with a communication plan in Excel. For those who want to centralize or integrate marketing data, this can never be the intention. Two planning tools for the same project or within one campaign, that's asking for trouble. As a marketing agency, do you want to extract timesheets from the planning for reporting or invoicing? That is not possible. Do you want to allocate budgets to planning items or attach dashboards to the planning? Then you will have to keep reading.
It's impossible for marketing agency owners or employees to separate their task management from account management, time registration or detailed campaign planning for customers. All the previous solutions will therefore fall short for them. Task management is an extremely important feature for keeping marketing agencies up and running. They must find their solution in the corner of business software for advertising and marketing agencies.
Marketing agency software enables you to set up, manage and share tasks with others. But, as a bonus, you can also assign tasks to customers, to projects, to communication, to budget or to other specific planning items. Marketing Agency Planners are therefore 100% built to meet the needs of marketing agencies.
We have arrived at the latest task management solution within a marketing context. This is in the corner of the Marketing Project Management tools. These are entirely built around the work logic of marketers and marketing teams. Task management is one of the modules within such tools, but even more important is the fact that the task module is fully integrated with the other modules (such as communication, budget, results, notes, strategy, etc.). Working with such tools within a marketing context therefore almost completely excludes the risk of ad hoc working. You hop from tasks to communication, from insight into tasks to overview of the entire planning and you combine operational task planning with strategic marketing planning.
Task management apps
Project Management tools
Marketing Project Management tools
This blog article is part of a series on shared marketing planning for efficient collaboration. Below you'll find all the articles that will help you find your way around.