Details are the key to success, it is said. Many great business plans have been created and failed due to poor execution. Execution of those messy details that are easy to forget and, when forgotten, turn the most well- planned initiative into a downward-spiraling disaster. And the people who control the details can control your career (if you are a manager) whether you realize it or not. Realize it.
Nowhere is this trend truer than in the rapidly evolving world of marketing campaign management. Many managers embrace an aggressive test-and-rollout methodology or plan to customize marketing communications without giving thought to the challenges the resulting volume increases present to campaign designers and analysts. Resolving this challenge is the key to success for every marketing campaign, in fact for the entire marketing industry. Because if the details resulting from technology-driven changes are not adequately addressed, the marketer (even the technology) could be sent to the scrap heap and many great opportunities lost.
In a simplistic view, the key elements of marketing campaigns are creative (copy and artwork), offer, target and analysis. Many more elements are involved, particularly in the front (planning) and back end (execution and delivery), but these core elements drive the success of any campaign. Usually, creative is developed by an outside agency, the marketing team develops offers (sometimes with assistance) and data analysts determine target and analysis. At minimum these three distinct functions are involved in almost all marketing campaigns, and usually three separate teams are represented due to the differing skill sets involved. Interaction between those teams is usually orchestrated by the campaign manager with a series of milestones built into a published timeline for presentation, revision and management approval.
As marketing activity grows in volume, so do the number of marketers, data analysts and agency creatives involved. If a marketing department takes on a new function, or a new business unit, then the number of marketers and teams grows somewhat in proportion to the number of campaigns and the complexity of the marketing effort involved.
The problem occurs when management expects to dramatically increase the scale of marketing activity from say ten annual campaigns to several hundred. Such a change might result from the introduction of new technology or from competitive threats, rapidly fluctuating pricing, etc. You can see the problem already. If marketing continues to scale in proportion to the number of marketing efforts, pretty soon the department will fill an entire building and then the neighborhood (just kidding). But the issue is real how do you increase the number and customization of communications and the complexity of the targeting, without exponentially increasing staff? This question must be resolved successfully for marketing to realize the value of their investment in the new technology as well as to address critical competitive issues.
In a battle of complexity, few would dispute that some form of knowledge management is a key to success. That knowledge management includes both process (coordination) as well as development and management of an archive to store key knowledge. You see, as marketing begins to scale dramatically, reuse is the key to increasing the work without increasing workers. More and more, elements that prove to be successful begin to become templates, and standards will evolve that can be used repeatedly until more successful elements are identified. This is as true for customer selection hierarchies as for copy and creative treatments. By making individual campaign elements into “reusable objects,” success can be more quickly replicated and elements that are present in less successful campaigns can be avoided, eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
The question is, who is going to identify elements in successful campaigns, create the reusable objects and communicate their availability and potential usefulness inside the organization? Much like a lighthouse, everyone benefits, but no one wants to pay. The campaign manager does not have the time, the agency is not funded for such activity and the analyst is more focused on data-related issues than on refinement of creative for reuse. If no one is tasked with the challenge of determining, storing and “marketing” available objects, then it is highly unlikely that such activity would become part of the fabric of the marketing team, which it definitely must be in order to scale marketing campaigns sufficiently.
That is why knowledge management is critical to marketing. This critical role is a cross between a librarian, an analyst and a marketer. I will call it “archivist” for now. A marketing archivist must work across all marketing functions with the goal of determining what elements are successful in different campaigns. This person also works with the agency and the analysts to standardize those elements that they can be reused. With standardized features developed, they must be stored and organized so that marketers can find the information. Finally, this archivist must “spread the word” to fellow marketers of what is included in the archive, how it can be used and where it can be found. The role is a mix of left brain/right brain and requires a unique personality mix to succeed. When that person is identified, though, they are worth their weight in gold to the team and, in fact, to the organization as a whole. For in technology-enabled marketing, the adage “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it” is especially true.
The second component of scaling the marketing effort addresses the need to coordinate campaign elements, timing and approvals across the hundred of campaigns that may be in the field or be in development at any given time. This position, again not a glamorous one, is vital to the success of the scalable marketing effort. The key is to distinguish this role from the campaign manager and to focus this effort for ensuring scalability by developing templates for timelines, budgets and P&Ls and working to manage the complexity by identifying the critical path for marketing campaign development and management. The person in this role must work to ensure that the critical path is met and that campaigns remain on time and on budget, even though the number of campaigns continues to grow. In fact, many of the meetings that are necessary to develop and gain approval of new campaigns would be led by this function, since conformance to the critical path will be a (potentially critical) discussion item in every meeting and since the movement of materials through the development and approval chain now belongs to the coordinator, rather than to the campaign manager.
This function is more than traffic, which focuses on the movement of materials to fit a deadline. Since the coordination role includes also budgets, P&Ls and approval management, this role becomes a cross between traffic, analyst and marketer. In addition to interfacing across the marketing organization, the agency and management, this role, of course, will also work with the archivist, since many of the materials they would deal with would either come from, or be stored in the archive, on an increasing basis over time.
The two roles described in the article are not glamorous ones, but they are critical to the success of technology-enabled marketing. Just as detail management separates successful initiatives from simple planning, a focus on these two roles is critical to successful technology-enabled marketing. My choice of words is deliberate. Focus is indeed necessary. If not, then these roles will deteriorate into simply administrative jobs, which will fail to address the issues raised in this article.
These roles may in fact be the key differentiator between marketing organizations that succumb to the weight of increased volume and complexity and those that find the key and can walk the balance beam, coordinating the many elements that help to keep them up and not tumbling to the ground with the rest.
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