“I’m going to stop by,” I say whenever a marketing project stalls. I’ve worked on both sides — as the client and as the marketing team. I’ve worked as a freelancer, for agencies, and on internal marketing teams.

Every time a marketing project stalls, it usually takes a face-to-face meeting to sort things out.


Because we’re people.

Projects don’t stall on their own. They fall into the abyss because of communication issues, personnel problems, or process barriers. Below are the most common areas that project managers need to address.

1. Write a Better Project Brief

If you don’t already write creative briefs for your marketing projects, you should start now.

The Basics of a Project Brief

  • Title or Topic
  • Deadline
  • Budget
  • Goals and Expectations
  • Description or Overview
  • Point Person’s Name or Approver’s Name
  • Assignee’s Names

If you want to write a better brief, try to include answers to the following questions.

  • How did this project start? Explain the history behind this project.
  • What is your vision for the project? Offer examples of similar work —internal or external.
  • Are there any files or collateral needed? Package those and send them along at the same time.
  • Is there anything you don’t want? Clarify your expectations by mentioning what you dislike or what would disappoint you.

Ideally, the document will be short enough to reference during a conversation( 1-3 pages). It’s a starting point to list the key details and handoff the project.

Excellent briefs inspire your team and lead them to match your mindset when you created the project.

2. Reference Specifics in your Brand Guide

If you don’t have a brand guide, you need to create one before you start assigning more marketing projects.

Brand Guide Details

Logo (or Wordmark): This symbol immediately identifies your organization. Often, people use a combination mark with a wordmark and a logo. You may even create versions in horizontal, vertical, and simplified formats. 

Colors: One of the first things our eyes process is color. For a brand, the core colors signal the emotion and energy of the organization.

Fonts: Consistency in font use adds another layer of identity to a brand. It’s subtle. However, our eyes learn to match the shapes of font combinations with an organization.

Main Message: Whether you draft boilerplate copy, or outline your vision, you should be able to articulate the main message of your brand. Answer the key questions about what you do.

Key Statement: Not quite a tagline, a key statement is something you will repeat in your materials to help people remember the meaning behind your brand. It should be much simpler than your main message and easy to understand.

Contact Information: Most of the time, your call to action in your promotions will be related to your contact information. It can be online (like social media or a website), a phone number, or a physical address. Remember to keep it on everything you produce.

Moodboard: Pulling together key images and textures, a mood board shows the creative direction of your brand. At a glance, anyone can interpret your design preferences.

Further Reading: How to Define Your Brand on One Page

As you go through your marketing projects, try to reference your brand guide. Note the ways that this specific project adheres to the brand. If your concept pulls away from your brand, explain why you chose that deviation.

3. Focus on the Goal

As you get back projects from your marketing team, focus on the goal of the project. Your team may present a different solution from what you originally envisioned.

If their offerings match your goals, that’s a win — even if it’s different than what you originally thought.

Questions to Ask

  • Does our strategy allow for this concept?
  • How does this meet the creative brief? How does it deviate?
  • How can I better communicate in my feedback?

Similarly, you should reject an idea — even if you love it — that does not meet the goals of the project. This pushes everyone’s egos aside and places success at the forefront.

4. Delegate Appropriately

As you set your marketing team on a project, consider whether you have set them up for success.

  • Did you supply them with everything they need to complete the project?
  • Are there any departments or people that need to support their efforts?
  • Did you allow a reasonable amount of time and money to finish?

These questions are an important part of the handoff. If these areas aren’t addressed, your marketing team will find themselves running into roadblocks as they try to finish the project.

5. Curb Your Worst Behaviors

If the stories in Clients from Hell feel familiar, then you’re probably what marketing teams call a “bad client.”

Common Offenses

  • Arrogance and Ignorance: These clients say things like, “I could do that myself.” Not only is it rude and belittling, it baffles your marketing team. They end up asking, “Well, why don’t you?”
  • Disorganization: These clients lose documents and forget details. Their marketing teams wonder if the client is changing their mind —or losing their mind. Eventually, they stop taking you seriously because they feel like your disorganization signals incompetence.
  • Communication Issues: If a client becomes unreachable, especially when feedback is needed, it delays the project. Most marketing teams hate this because they can’t pace the project appropriately. Instead, they’re waiting for a response and wondering what is holding up the project. Then it’s harder to fit it back into the production schedule when you send late feedback.
  • Poor Leadership: These clients don’t fit the leadership role. When you communicate your project, it’s your responsibility to translate your vision into something a team can execute. As you get back materials, it’s your job to provide useful feedback. A trustworthy, competent team can create amazing projects with good communication and appropriate oversight. If you don’t trust your marketing team and feel the need to micromanage then, you should find a way to get a new marketing team.

Whenever you work on a project, you need to think of it as a feedback loop.

  1. You present a brief.
  2. Your marketing team asks questions.
  3. You provide useful responses.
  4. Your marketing team prepares materials for review.
  5. You provide feedback.
  6. Your marketing team edits.
  7. You respond.

This loop continues until the project launches. Then, you can all work together to evaluate the success of your project.

Get More Out of Your Marketing Team

If you want to get more out of your marketing team, look for ways that you can be a better partner. It may mean learning to communicate more clearly or leveling up your leadership skills.

In the end, your marketing team is made up of people. You’ll get more out of them if you look at them like they’re your team — and try to win together.