After two decades of working on business projects with technical components and over a decade of Internet-related project management experience, one of the best pieces of advice that I can share to increase your project's Return On Marketing Investment (ROMI) is to focus on PLANNING. While taking my first project management course in 2005, I was introduced to the saying "one hour of planning today will save two hours of work tomorrow." Back up and read that statement again, then let it sink in because you'll want to apply that motto throughout your career, starting today, to be an effective project manager.Do you want to reduce or prevent scope creep? One hour of planning today will save two hours of work tomorrow.
Do you hate wasting time in meetings? One hour of planning today will save two hours of work tomorrow.
How can you keep your projects on schedule and on budget? One hour of planning today will save two hours of work tomorrow.
Why wasn't this concept taught to me in college or even grade school? It should have been drilled into our minds at a young age in order to save us hours of time in the future! Back in grade school, I do remember when a teacher would make us spend an hour of class time writing a story outline, which actually did save me time rather than starting a story from scratch. But the concept wasn't drilled into my daily life like it should have been.Fast forward from grade school to my Master’s program in 2005. Since learning and adopting this motto, I truly believe that planning has saved me and my clients an exponential amount of time and hence increased the ROI of every project that I've worked on since then.
Although there are numerous ways to apply this motto in your business life and with project management, I'm going to focus on two key areas where I've experienced exceptional returns: Pre-Meeting Planning and End-of-Meeting Planning.
PRE-CAMPAIGN MEETING PLANNING
Every project involves many meetings and every meeting is an investment of the attendees' time. Therefore, to get the best ROI from this time investment, you must invest some of your time planning prior to the meeting. If you invite 4 people to a 1-hour meeting and the average hourly salary is $30/hour, then the 5 total people (including yourself) in the 1-hour meeting is a $150 investment of time. Add a consultant or lawyer to your meeting and the investment is even higher, but so is your opportunity for increasing the ROI. Your one hour of pre-meeting planning could essentially save 2 hours of future work per meeting attendee, and in our example it would equal 10 hours of time saved in the future!So how do you best prepare for a meeting to increase ROI?
First, I recommend creating an agenda. Just like when teachers made us write a story outline in school, invest your time creating a simple or detailed agenda for each meeting. In addition to the agenda items, list the goals that you expect to achieve by the end of the meeting.
Second, when organizing the agenda, analyze which topics apply to all members of your audience and which apply to only a subsection of the audience. Agenda items that apply to all attendees should be at the top of the agenda. Next, identify items where certain people can leave after the topic is discussed. Think of your agenda as a filter, where people can return to work once their skills and knowledge aren't needed for the remaining agenda items. If I can get a top-level web developer “filtered” out of a 1-hour group meeting after 15 minutes, then I just converted 45 minutes of "meeting time" into "development time"… which positively affects the project's schedule and budget… which results in an increased ROI.
A third pre-meeting tip is to send the agenda and meeting goals PRIOR to the meeting instead of presenting them at the beginning of the meeting. By sending the agenda and goals before the meeting, it allows attendees to—at the very least—subconsciously start preparing for the discussions in the meeting. The best case scenario is that every attendee has the opportunity to research and be fully prepared for maximum contributions during the meeting, which can reduce the actual meeting time versus the planned meeting time, and you just increased your ROI again!
One last pre-meeting tip, before sending the agenda and meeting goals you must ask yourself, "Can these meeting goals be accomplished using e-mail as communication tool?" If you can eliminate a meeting and accomplish your goals via an e-mail discussion, you've once again improved your project's ROI by saving time.
Once the last agenda item has been covered, barricade the door and don't let anyone leave before this next critical ROI improvement tip. Make sure you review all action items! Every action item that was identified during the meeting should be reviewed so that the group can confirm:
(1) Does the action item have a clear description? Vague action items create more and more meetings, like cockroaches multiplying!
(2) What is the expected result? Action items with empty expected results are like bad gifts from Santa because you had an empty Christmas list.
(3) Who is responsible for its completion? Unassigned action items are like stray cats outside your window that will keep you up at night.
(4) When will the expected result be delivered? An action item without a deadline is just a dream that will never be achieved.
[If you have better analogies, please share them in a Comment below]
If people left early during the meeting, make sure that they are also aware prior to leaving or via a summary after the meeting which action items have been assigned to them plus the details. By investing a few minutes to review the action items at the end of every meeting, you've once again saved time and money in the future!
START PLANNING TODAY TO INCREASE MARKETING ROI TOMORROW
Now it's time to start applying what you've just read. Check your schedule for the next meeting that you're hosting. Then, invest some time to create an agenda, document the meeting goals, and finally send the agenda and goals to the attendees. Before each person leaves your meeting, make sure you review each action item by describing it clearly, documenting the expected result, assigning it, and setting a deadline. The people attending your meeting will appreciate your time investment and the stakeholders of your project will benefit from the increased ROI.
And if you have kids, share your successful "one hour of planning today will save two hours of work tomorrow" example with them and help them apply it to their school projects early in life. Teaching them this lesson now will make them a better student now and exceptional employee in the future.
Once you've applied these tips, I welcome you to come back to our blog and share your experience in our Comments section. How did planning help increase your marketing project's ROI and what were your results?