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You’ve done it! You’ve made the sale! The hard part is over!
Wrong… The fun has only just begun.
Managing digital projects is no easy task, they present a unique set of challenges that you don’t face anywhere else. If handled correctly, you can wow your clients and develop lifelong relationships. If you mess up, you can leave with unhappy customers or worse, legal problems. Clearly, your project management lifecycle isn’t to be taken lightly. This will be your make or break moment as an agency.
I spent 15 years figuring out the most effective and foolproof process and learned a lot of lessons along the way. Too few steps and you open yourself up to errors and liability. Too many steps and clients get impatient and unhappy. So how do you strike the happy medium, how do you deliver incredible projects every time? Follow these 8 steps.
1. Project Calibration
This is arguably one of the most important steps in the entire lifecycle. It sets the tone for the entire relationship. It’s actually so important that it can’t all be handled in one go, it’s broken down into three important phases: an internal sales hand-off, an internal calibration meeting, and a client calibration meeting. All of these steps ensure that you’re minimizing scope creep and setting yourself up to wow your clients every time. So much information is covered in these meetings that we can’t fit it all in here, check out our Project Management online course for more info.
Regardless of what type of digital project you’re dealing with, copywriting should be the first real step you take. Website? Get the copy. Social Media Ads? Get the copy. Developing email campaigns? Get the copy. You must do this if you want to be able to properly move on with the project. The copy will determine how many web pages you create, what the ads look like, and what type of email campaigns you create.
The next steps are all dependent on the copy. So, if you’re writing the copy in-house, outsourcing, or just receiving it from the client, make sure you get the approved copy in writing. If you build out an entire website, and then the client comes back and decides they want to change things, it can throw off everything. Handle the copy up front, so it doesn't come back to bite you in the end.
Handle the copy up front, so it doesn't come back to bite you in the end
Most designs follow the same process: V1, V2, and a final version. Before you even begin with V1 it’s important to make sure your client understands that there will only be 2 rounds of edits before additional fees are incurred. Otherwise, scope creep will quickly set in. Clients will ask to see their logo in every color of the rainbow and before you know it all of those little changes will add up quickly.
By limiting the rounds of editing you are forcing clients to really think about what they want before they respond to you. They will take the design process much more seriously, instead of requesting changes just because they can, they’ll now think about the changes that they truly want and need.
4. Development/Campaign Creation
This is when the heavy lifting begins. Of course, this also means you need to make sure this process is carefully documented and monitored to ensure it goes off smoothly. I suggest having an internal checklist to monitor project progress, like this one in my Project Management Online Course. Cater the checklist to your specific deliverables.
Also, be extra careful with scope creep in this step. Since you’re doing most of the work in this step clients will also be doing the most dreaming and they’ll be getting excited. If you don’t monitor their requests you could be doing a lot more work than you signed up for.
5. Beta Testing & Checklist
Hopefully, your project was 99% complete by the time you presented it for the beta test. If it was, the client should be thrilled and there should only be minor edits. I recommend providing them with a checklist so they can inspect the site. Providing a checklist guides them and encourages them to focus on the important things, like, is my business name spelled correctly and is the website functional. Most importantly, it directs them away from getting hung up on things like: I wish that video was in the left column, not the right column.
Providing a review checklist for clients encourages them to focus on the things that matter most
6. Final Testing & Checklist
If your project was 99% before beta and then you implemented all of their changes, then this step is more of a formality than a necessity. It’s just making sure all of their changes were implemented correctly and then putting a cherry on top. To save yourself a lot of heartache, make sure you have multiple people review the project before sending it back to the client. Or if it's just you, look over it today, then review it again tomorrow with a pair of fresh eyes. You don’t want things like typos or broken links to leave a bad taste this late into the game.
7. Client Training
This step may or may not apply to you. If you’re managing Google Ads or creating content, there isn’t much to train clients on. If you’re setting up a website or automation system then this step is crucial, if done properly this step could lead to an ongoing retainer fee. Teach your client everything they need to know to be successful and simultaneously build value in your services. If you leave them with a smile on their face and feeling confident in your services then you’re building an ongoing relationship.
8. Go Live!
This step will look different for everyone, it just depends on your service offerings. Regardless of what you’re delivering though, use this as an opportunity to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. You should have an internal checklist that you can use every time you get to the final steps of a project.
I provide a detailed and editable checklist in my Project Management online course. Take your checklist and customize it to include all of the “little things” that you might miss. Is the old website backed up? Did you remove all of the test copy? Did you double check DNS and MX records? Is the AdSpend right? Keep thinking of all the finishing touches and make a list so you never forget about them. Once your project passes the checklist, it’s time to go live!
There you have it, eight easy steps! Make sure you document as you go and stand your ground when it comes to scope creep. If you follow these steps, and my Best Management Practices, then you should be a project management superstar in no time.