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28 February 2007

Marketing Projects: Do people market projects today?

I investigated whether marketing a project to stakeholders and user groups could improve a project’s chance of success. It turns out that there is not much written on the subject area.

Intuitively it makes sense to me that marketing your new customer management system to sales staff will mean better acceptance by the workforce. And it also seems intuitive that configuring your project scope document around ideas like the marketing mix is a more client centric way of stating your project’s objectives and outcomes that the typical technically focused approach used by most project teams.When you search you will find there are only two types of project marketing out there in the literature, and none of them are to do with the application of marketing principles to make projects more effective.

The types of project marketing that is written about are:

Marketing your professional expertise

You are a professional services form and you manage projects for clients. You market your business like any other services business. You configure your services to meet the demands of the market place and your price yourself to be competitive and profitable. (Cova 2005)

Your project is creating a product for end-user consumers.

This is the closest I could find to marketing your project to stakeholders and user groups. The stakeholders I am referring to are usually staff within an organisation, which has different requirements and options as far as adopting project outcomes. For example customers can very easily ignore your product so you endeavour to cater to their needs. Staff can be instructed to adopt a new system without any alternatives.

This type of project is most commonly found in construction. Even though product engineering and software development also create end user products and services it seems that there is still a gate between the project and end customer which is managed by a product manager or other similar role.

End users are not customers and don’t have the option of ignoring the new system your project delivers, but they do have an impact on your success criteria. If for example your new sales support system is difficult to use, or even simply forced on them without consideration of their needs they will rebel in both subtle and unsubtle ways. They can take longer on orders or pay less attention to detail resulting in more failed or reworked orders. They can make things difficult for up and downstream workers.

Just because the staff are paid to turn up and work on your new system doesn’t mean they will like it and marketing the project to them could be the answer.

In the next couple of posts I’ll look at what marketing is and how marketing principles could be applied to projects. I’ll also look at change, or implementation, management and how it is similar to but different from marketing projects to stakeholders.

Bernard Cova, Robert Salle, (2005) ‘Six key points to merge project marketing into project management’ International Journal of Project Management (Jul 2005) pp 354-359.