What Does a Project Manager Do in a Marketing Agency?

There’s a lot that businesses need to get done. They’re juggling tasks, deadlines, resources, budgets, and team members, and are always moving around priorities in order to take steps toward their larger goals.

Sounds like a lot, right? It is. And it’s exactly why project management is a continuously growing and high-demand field. 

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers work in a variety of industries — from manufacturing or construction to finance or utilities.

But there’s another area where project managers are in especially high demand: management and professional services. In fact, more than 60% of new project management jobs annually come from this specific sector.

Marketing agencies fall within that category, and they’re frequently on the lookout for people who can solidify relationships with clients and keep their marketing campaigns and deliverables on track.

If you’re interested in exploring this field, what can you expect? Here’s the lowdown on what a project manager actually does within a marketing agency. 

What does a marketing agency do?

Before you can understand how project management works within a marketing agency, it’s important to first get a grasp on what exactly a marketing agency is responsible for. 

Here’s the straightforward definition: A marketing agency works with clients to develop and implement a variety of marketing strategies and campaigns. 

That means marketing agencies need to handle a lot. Some are highly focused on a specific segment of marketing, while others offer a wide range of services including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Brand development
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Website hosting and development
  • Analytics and monitoring
  • Media relations
  • Event planning
  • Crisis communications
  • Video creation and editing
  • Graphic design 

Previously, marketing agencies (which you might also hear referred to as advertising agencies) focused on things like print advertisements — if you’re thinking of Mad Men, you aren’t far off. 

But, as the world has continued to move online, today’s marketing agencies work on a lot of digital projects. According to Ad Age’s 2019 Agency Report, it’s estimated that, for U.S. agencies from all disciplines, digital work and projects made up 53.6% of the total revenue. Even more impressive? That’s double the percentage from 2009. 

So… what’s the job of the project manager?

Needless to say, there are a lot of moving parts within a marketing agency. There are diverse projects, growing rosters of clients, and internal team members with varying levels of expertise.

That’s where the project manager comes into play. When you boil it all down, the primary job of the project manager is to ensure deliverables make it to clients on time and within budget.

It sounds simple when you put it in plain language like that. But getting that job done actually requires a lot of work. Your typical project manager will wear a bunch of different hats and handle a variety of tasks. These might include:

  • Meeting with clients to understand their project goals and requirements
  • Establishing and managing project scope
  • Planning a project manager calendar and budget
  • Contributing to client proposals and quotes
  • Scheduling and hosting a project kickoff meeting, along with frequent check-ins
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Streamlining communication between internal team members
  • Monitoring project progress and clearing roadblocks
  • Double-checking all project deliverables for accuracy
  • Sending progress updates to clients
  • Delivering the final project and summary to the client

Think of the project manager within a marketing agency as the glue that holds the whole thing together — they’re the ones responsible for keeping projects on track. 

Who does the project manager work with?

Since the project manager steers the ship from project inception to completion, there’s a high degree of collaboration involved. The project manager works with a huge assortment of people, including:

  • External clients
  • Internal team members
  • Freelancers and outsourced help
  • Vendors and suppliers

Of course, within each of those groups, there are numerous other people that the project manager will oversee and coordinate. For example, if a project manager is spearheading the relaunch of a new client website, they’ll be communicating and collaborating with:

  • The web hosting company
  • SEO specialists
  • Web designers
  • Web developers
  • Copywriters
  • The client themselves

As you can see, there can be a lot of cooks in the kitchen for any given marketing project. That’s why one of the major responsibilities of the project manager is to streamline communication so everyone, whether internal or external, is on the same page. 

What skills do project managers need to have to work in a marketing agency?

Collaboration is an important skill for any project manager. They need to be able to work effectively with many different individuals and teams.

But what other skills should project managers possess in order to thrive within an agency? It requires a healthy mix of technical and soft skills, which are broken down below.

Technical skills project managers need

  • Solid knowledge of marketing strategies
  • Data analysis and reporting
  • Budgeting and forecasting 
  • Project management tools and dashboards

Soft skills project managers need

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Conflict resolution 

Think soft skills are just buzzwords or unnecessary resume fluff? Not quite. They carry a lot of weight in the hiring process, especially in a project management position that leans heavily on these less tangible competencies. One 2016 study from Wonderlic found that 93% of employers say soft skills are an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions. 

Make sure to check out this article from PMI for more information about project manager skills and competencies.

Project managers keep marketing projects from running off the rails

Nearly every business and industry can benefit from the expertise and organizational skills of a project manager. But this is especially true for service-based businesses like marketing agencies.

Marketing agencies depend on fulfilling promises to their clients, which means they require a detail-oriented person who can corral all the key players, deliver projects on time, and (perhaps most importantly) keep clients coming back.

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