There are a lot of moving parts to any marketing campaign. The printing and mailing (or, if you are incorporating digital channels, text or email blasts) is only the last link in the chain. To ensure that the final deadline is met, you have to work backward to ensure that each individual component is on schedule.
How do you stay on track? At the start of every project, ask yourself the following questions:
What is the final deadline you are trying to meet?
Who is writing the copy and how long will it take?
Are you using stock images or creating the artwork yourself? Who is making those decisions and how long will that take?
Who will be doing the design and layout? What is the time budget for that?
How long will it take to print, finish, and mail the piece?
How many approvals do you need? How much additional time to you need to add for those?
The first answer provides your end date. Once you have that, you can work backward to determine your start date. Pad each time estimate by a factor of 1.5 to 3 times depending on your confidence in the numbers.
Once the project is complete, look back at how well you stuck to the timeline. Did you stay on schedule? If not, where did you get bogged down? What needs to be adjusted to create a more accurate time estimate next time?
Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. Along the way, you learned something, such as when your creative staff says, “It takes us one day to turn around the proof of concept,” they meant two days, or that you forgot to take into account transportation time when you made your project plan.
Staying on schedule takes practice . . . and smart planning. If you’re new to the process, don’t go it alone. We have tons of experience in project planning. Just ask!