Marketing Teams Need to Bring Back Marketing Campaign Management Roles
Marketing campaign management is the process of planning, tracking, and analyzing marketing campaigns. In the modern age of digital marketing, campaign management is an important part of measuring success, and leading marketing teams need to bring back marketing campaign management.
In this article, we'll cover the roles and responsibilities of marketing campaign managers and examine how organizations can incorporate campaign management into their marketing teams.
How marketing campaigns are similar to political campaigns
If you run a web search for “what does a campaign manager do?” most results are about political campaign managers rather than marketing campaign management. It’s true that, in many respects, a presidential campaign is the ultimate marketing campaign, but the fact is you need to go digging for real examples of marketing campaign management.
So let’s begin with the political campaign, and see how closely it mirrors digital marketing campaigns:
- An offer - the candidate.
- A clear goal - win the election.
- A clear metric - votes.
- A budget that can be spent in an endlessly diverse set of ways.
- Core campaign messages are intended to elicit a specific response.
- An integrated, multi-channel marketing campaign employing TV, print, digital, in-person events, billboards, social, radio, and so on.
- Measurement and optimization continuously tune and refine the campaign message and audience segmentation.
- Channel optimization.
How marketing campaigns are similar
Similar to politics, a marketing campaign manager is responsible for orchestrating the entire campaign to promote the offer (in politics, a candidate; in marketing, it could be a product or a service; in public health, it could be the value of mask-wearing or the importance of vaccination). A good offer with a bad campaign won’t succeed, and vice versa.
Marketing campaign managers are personally responsible for three key things:
- validating the offer's appeal
- defining the message
- targeting the right audience
Without those, the marketing campaign will inevitably perform sub-optimally with disparate messages over the wrong channels to the wrong audiences. The campaign will be disjointed, and overall campaign performance will be impossible to measure. If no one owns the message, audience, and offer, how can you tell whether things are going well?
Given the strategic impact of this kind of campaign manager role, where are all the campaign managers? If you search LinkedIn for campaign manager vacancies, the role descriptions are not strategic leadership roles. Rather, they tend to be project management roles with a preference for some digital marketing skills. These are critical skills for many marketing campaigns, to be sure, but they do not describe the marketing campaign management role.
Campaign managers used to exist in marketing teams. Still, the emergence of digital marketing and channel-dedicated technologies and tools has led to a channel-first mindset in marketing measurement and structure. These have sidelined the role of the marketing campaign manager, and it is time for campaign management to make a comeback.
Why is Marketing Campaign Management Important
For some reason, the strategic marketing role of "campaign manager" does not currently exist widely in the industry. The strategic responsibility lies too completely upon the CMO alone, or it’s outsourced to agencies and consultants, or - worse - it just remains unaddressed.
In another article, I wrote about the levels of marketing performance measurement, and the types of questions that are answered at different levels. This is very relevant to why digital marketing campaign management is so important.
When taking a look at the diagram above, CMOs are often responsible for overseeing the marketing plan and answering level 1 questions like:
- Is our marketing working?
- What is the value marketing has generated this year, in layman’s terms, like revenue, bookings, and pipeline?
Most teams are populated with staff focus on level 3 and level 4 measurement, using tools optimized to a specific channel. These people and technologies can answer useful questions, but they can’t answer critical strategic level 2 questions, like:
- Is this integrated campaign achieving our business goals?
- Did the campaign return a compelling ROI (meaning we understand the financial value of the return and can compare it to the total campaign investment, all-in - vs, say, cost per outcome or return on ad spend?)
- Can we look across all our marketing campaigns and consistently compare which were more/less effective campaigns?
- Can we describe campaign impact in terms the CEO and CFO understand (revenue, bookings, deals, churn reduction), or do we get stuck with marketing specialized metrics (click-through, downloads, impressions, reach)?
- Can we understand why different campaigns across diverse channel mixes were more or less successful?
The list goes on. These are strategic questions that add tremendous value, not just to the marketing organization but to the company. Campaign managers can answer these questions. Channel managers cannot. CMOs handle them in a small company because they are the de facto marketing campaign managers, but a critical gap emerges as a company grows.
Role & Responsibilities
A campaign manager is responsible for achieving the strategic goal of the campaign. In marketing, campaign management might be launching a new product, generating a certain amount of sales-accepted leads, reducing churn by a certain percentage, or repositioning the company to grow revenue in a new marketing segment by a certain dollar amount. The outcome tends to be strategic and objectively measurable.
The campaign manager is responsible for rallying and administering the budget, staff, consultants, technology, channels, creative, and project management skills at their disposal to make it happen. With marketing campaign management, you will know if things are on track and can make course corrections as needed.
They will be natural leaders with strong persuasion skills, and they will have analytical and financial aptitudes. If it feels like a unicorn hire, then put the best fit in the role, train them to close skills gaps, and build teams around them that possess complementary skills.
Marketing campaign management is to CMOs what product management is to CEOs
Good product managers are hard to find, but the very best among them treat their product lines like their business. Of course, they have constraints, but the best product managers take ownership of every aspect of the product life cycle: strategy, roadmap, technical decisions, pricing, value prop, target market, competitive dynamics, sales enablement, profitability, growth, engineering management...everything. Do they own all of those things on the org chart? No, probably not. But they feel accountable and act with accountability for making sure all of those things are solved and orchestrated.
This combination of skills, high accountability, and the ability to pay attention to detail-oriented execution while also considering macro-level strategy are the skill sets that organizational leaders need. This is why the best product managers often graduate to senior management roles.
The role of a marketing campaign manager should be the proving ground for future CMOs. There is no element of a digital marketing campaign that a campaign manager shouldn’t care about. These campaign elements include creative direction, analytics, financial performance, project management, and measuring ROI. And if you can handle that consistently well, you might be a good CMO candidate. Or for that matter, a good CEO candidate.
Elements of Marketing Campaigns
Campaign managers are responsible for coordinating these elements within a marketing campaign to drive the best possible outcomes. This includes:
- Audience - who are the people you’re trying to reach? This could be named individuals, audience definition by job role (for example. CIOs), by generation (for example, Generation X), or a combination of characteristics (e.g. middle-income casual gamers, aged between 30 and 45, who own an Android phone)
- Message - what are you going to say to your target audience? What is the message, or set of messages, you can craft to galvanize the desired outcome? The messaging does not live in a vacuum. It must be coordinated with your broader strategic narrative and be consistent with your branding, but it will be honed within that framework to achieve a target outcome
- Channel mix - channels are to marketing campaigns as packaging is to physical products. This includes packaging, and channels that have very little inherent or stand-alone value, but when orchestrated with the other marketing campaign elements they can make a significant difference to campaign performance.
- Activities - what activities need to be undertaken, by whom, and when.
- Investments - what are you going to spend on marketing campaign execution. In principle, a high investment should yield larger outcomes than a low investment.
For a full list, see our marketing campaign template.
The relative importance of any of these elements varies by the marketing campaign, but in all instances, they operate together, interlocking cogs in an engine - the campaign. Remove a cog and the engine won’t work at all. Assemble the engine with perfectly sized, well-fitted cogs working in perfect alignment and you have a winning campaign.
The elements of a marketing campaign described above are conceptual peers. None is more important than the others, and all are interdependent. If we ignore an element, the campaign will fail. If you over-emphasize any element too strongly, the campaign will likely fail.
How Channels Killed Marketing Campaign Management Roles
Consider a few of the key marketing channels: TV, Radio, Print, Billboard, Digital Advertising, Social Media, and Events. The tools, skills, consultants, platforms, reports, and so on, that are needed to orchestrate and run marketing campaigns are disparate.
Unsurprisingly, individuals tend to become experts in marketing campaign management over a subset of all the channels. Events managers rarely run digital campaigns as well, and vice versa. This leads to teams being structured around channel expertise too. Since budget allocations tend to follow team structure, many marketing teams allocate budget by channel.
Furthermore, there are specialized, channel-specific tools, reports, and metrics for measuring performance in narrow ways, that cannot possibly encompass everything that went into a campaign. For example, ad platforms report ROI based entirely on ad spend, and don’t capture any of the other costs that go into running and managing a digital marketing campaign.
The danger in focusing on marketing channels
In the previous section, we talked about the sibling relationship between messaging, audience, activities, investments, and channels to organize and manage marketing campaigns. Yet, in this channel-oriented structure, we find investments and activities organized around channels.
In such a team, individual performance is likely to be managed by the performance of their channel. The individual is going to be focused first and foremost on the performance of their channel. They will want to preserve funds to be spent in that channel. And they will need to be able to report analytically on how that channel is performing.
These are all good things to measure, but they are micro-level measurements. They do not tell the company whether their marketing campaigns are successful or not. They do not speak to how effective marketing campaigns are.
Due to the channel-oriented structure and budget allocation in most organizations, the hierarchy in a channel-biased environment looks more like this:
Channels have organizational ascendancy, and audience and messaging are relative afterthoughts. Or, the audience and the message are managed within the channel, leading to disparate strategies channel by channel. Marketing campaigns are not true campaigns in this model. They are subordinate to the channel, which:
- decreases the likelihood the campaign will achieve its goals
- obfuscates campaign-level measurement.
Such an orientation almost necessarily leads to a local approach to marketing measurement - “which channels are performing best/worst”, “is social working?” - rather than a global approach to marketing measurement - “is this campaign achieving its target metrics and ROI”, “are we achieving our key goals?” (you can use our marketing ROI software to track this).
Incorporating campaign management
There is danger in thinking that the channel determines marketing success. It can only determine marketing efficiency. If the message is wrong for the target audience, if the audience reacts to the message in an undesirable way, it doesn’t matter what channels you pick. If you have an attribution model that attributes value to some point in a customer journey (which we don’t recommend, but if you do), don’t forget the parenthetical phrase, “for this particular message to this particular audience.”
Otherwise, you may mistakenly think that it is the channel doing the heavy lifting rather than the complete blend of campaign elements. It only takes a moment’s consideration to reaffirm that the success of a product launch is never primarily down to the channel: it is down to the marketing campaign.
The time has come to reintroduce strategic marketing campaign management into the organization.
It is unrealistic to expect marketing organizations to simply add staff. Or to tap into some imaginary latent market of people who have been patiently waiting on the sidelines with perfect campaign manager resumes.
Rather, there is an opportunity for marketing teams to embrace the strategic importance of level 1 and level 2 measurement and to ensure they have representation in their team structures, technology stacks, and analytical landscape to answer the questions that pertain to those levels
Stretch your existing marketing team members, and help them learn new skills outside their channel specialization. Educate the team on the strategic marketing goals, and relentlessly repeat the goals. Help them see the bright line between what they do, and when and how their efforts impact the key marketing metrics that matter to the company.
Finally, ensure that each campaign - especially each multi-channel campaign - has a marketing campaign manager responsible for the audience, message, offer, and strategic campaign outcomes. Even if that is not a specialist, dedicated, campaign manager, pick someone and make them accountable for the overall success of the program. Give that person authority and accountability for the campaign.
Over time, the natural campaign managers - and future marketing leaders - will emerge, and your ability to consistently measure campaign performance will advance.
Dan Faulkner is co-author of The Next CMO: a guide to operational marketing excellence, and the CTO of Plannuh, a first AI-driven marketing planning software, where he is responsible for the technical strategy and delivery of the world’s first AI-powered marketing management platform. Dan has 25 years of high-tech experience, spanning research and development, product management, strategy, and general management. He has deep international experience, having led businesses in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America, delivering complex AI solutions at scale to numerous industries. Dan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics, and Masters degrees in Speech & Language Processing, and Marketing. He has completed studies in Strategy Implementation at Wharton.