Campaign management is essential for running a successful marketing campaign. Learn how to approach the campaign management process in this guide.

In 1987, Nike was at a crossroads. Sales at the company were down 18% YoY. Worse, it had just been dethroned from the top of the sales charts by Reebok, which was riding the aerobics wave of the ‘80s.

Nike’s response to this challenge was arguably the most famous marketing campaign of all time – the Just Do It campaign.

Within a decade of this campaign, Nike was a global behemoth. Sales climbed over 10 fold to $9.2B from $887M. Its market shared grew from 18% to 43%. And perhaps most importantly, Nike changed the way people saw not just athletic wear, but athletes themselves.

This is the power of a successful marketing campaign. Whether you’re launching a new product, reactivating interest in an existing one, or changing how people see your brand, a well-executed marketing campaign can be transformative.

Managing a marketing campaign, however, isn’t easy. You have to deal with countless channels, dozens of stakeholders, and an ever-evolving strategy.

In this guide, I’ll shed some light on marketing campaign management. You’ll learn what are marketing campaigns, how to plan them, and most importantly, how to manage them.

What is Marketing Campaign Management (And Why Do You Need It)?

A marketing campaign is a concentrated marketing effort. It’s usually focused on a singular, consistent marketing message spread across several channels and is meant to achieve a specific business goal.

For the best examples of marketing campaigns, just switch on your TV during Superbowl. Whatever ads you see are usually part of a new, splashy marketing campaign to achieve different goals for the brand.

Marketing campaign management, thus, is the process of planning, executing, tracking, analyzing, and optimizing such campaigns.

While this sounds simple enough, lots of people confuse a marketing campaign with marketing in general.

Understand that a marketing campaign is always focused on a specific message. It usually coexists alongside a company’s other marketing activities.

A business might have one campaign to build up awareness for its new product. At the same time, it might have regular promotions (think of those 20% off deals in your local newspaper) for all the other products in its portfolio.

For example, Nike has a “#JustDoIt” campaign on Twitter that aims to promote the Nike brand vision.

A screenshot of Nike’s Twitter feed where it promotes the #JustDoIt tagline.

At the same time, Nike’s local affiliates maintain separate Twitter accounts where they promote new launches, events, etc. These promotional activities are localized and unaffiliated with the broader #JustDoIt campaign.

A screenshot of Nike New York Twitter page where it promotes new shoe launches and availability at specific outlets.

These regular and ongoing marketing activities are usually handled by a marketing manager. A specific campaign, on the other hand, is managed by a campaign manager.

It’s common for large brands to have several ongoing marketing campaigns running alongside their regular promotional work. Thus, you’ll have multiple campaign and marketing managers working side by side and sometimes, even competing for resources.

For example, Nike has a city-focused campaign called “NY vs NY” for New York. This campaign runs alongside Nike’s ongoing “Just Do It” work.

Why Marketing Campaign Management is Important

Marketing campaigns have no fixed brief. One brand might run a campaign localized to a single city and pull it from the market in a few weeks. Another might run a successful campaign for years and even decades.

In rare cases, a successful campaign can even become the de-facto voice of the brand and change entire industries. Think L’Oreal’s “Because You’re Worth It” or De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever”.

De Beers’s “A Diamond is Forever” campaign changed the perception of diamonds in the popular imagination (Image source)

Regardless of the scale or scope, most successful marketing campaigns follow the same process. That is, they:

  • Understand the business’ goals
  • Develop a strategy to meet these goals
  • Create marketing collateral for different channels based on the strategy
  • Distribute marketing collateral and track results
  • Analyze results and optimize the strategy

And this is the campaign just for the initial stages. As the campaign develops, the goals might evolve, the stakeholders might change, and the target audience might grow-up.

All of this requires heavy investment in management. You can’t go from a list of business goals to a full-fledged, multi-channel campaign without someone overseeing every aspect of the endeavor.

This someone is a marketing campaign manager.

Essentially, marketing campaign management brings structure and order to your marketing work. It takes you from a business that runs ad-hoc promotions to one that focuses all its messaging on meeting a single, specific goal.

In the next section, we’ll do a deep dive into marketing campaign management, how it works, and how to use it.

The Campaign Management Process Explained

In its most basic form, the campaign management process is easy to understand. You start with an intended goal, you develop a strategy to serve that goal, and you create collateral based on this strategy.

Once you have collateral, you distribute it and analyze the results. Based on the results, you can change the collateral and review your strategy.

Let’s start with the first step in this process: the campaign goals and broader vision.

Understand the goals and purpose of the campaign

Goals and purpose might be synonyms in a dictionary, but in a marketing campaign, they represent different things.

Goals are the specific, actionable objectives you want to achieve with the campaign. As we wrote earlier, good goals are SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Related.

“Increase market share by 2% within 12 months” is a SMART goal. “Grow crazy fast” isn’t – it’s neither clear nor specific.

But before you can drill down to the goals, you have to understand the purpose of the campaign.

Purpose represents the broader vision of the campaign – the reason for its existence. Why does the campaign exist? How does it fit into the brand’s broader marketing initiatives and brand positioning? What long-term shift does the brand want to achieve with the campaign?

Purpose is a way to contextualize the campaign – within the brand, the market, and the broader social zeitgeist. A campaign’s goals might be to increase traffic to a brand’s website, but its purpose might be to reposition the brand for a younger audience.

Think deeply about this if you want to fully understand campaign management. It’s easy to focus too much on the goals that you miss the more intangible purpose.

How to figure out the campaign’s goals and purpose

To figure out a campaign’s goals and purpose, ask the brand: what do you want to achieve? Where do you want to see the brand – in 6 months, 2 years, and 10 years?

For instance, a brand might want to grow traffic to its website. At the same time, it might want to become a favorite Gen-Z brand.

Thus, the campaign’s goal would be:

  • Increase social media traffic by 25% in 12 months

The underlined parts represent the measurable, realistic parts of the campaign goal (“increase traffic by 1,000% in 1 week” wouldn’t be a SMART goal).

At the same time, the purpose would be to increase brand visibility and viability among the 18-24 aged audience.

This purpose would affect what kind of creative you create and where you distribute it. If your ads feature 40-year-old models and are distributed on Facebook, you’re not going to attract a lot of 18-24 year olds.

Try asking clients these questions to understand the campaign’s purpose and goals:

  • What is the single most important thing you want from this campaign?
  • How happy are you with the brand’s current positioning? What would you want to change, if anything?
  • What kind of results do you hope to get within 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years?
  • How is this campaign positioned in relation to your other campaigns?
  • What are the most important metrics for you? How are you currently performing on these metrics?

Establish key metrics (and how you’ll measure them)

Regardless of how broad the goals and purpose of a campaign might be, you have to establish three things:

  • The metrics you’ll use to measure success
  • How you’ll measure these metrics
  • What constitutes “success” for these metrics

For example, in a PPC campaign, “number of leads generated” might be a metric of success. You’ll measure it by calculating the number of leads captured in the CRM. And you might have a benchmark figure – say, 500 leads/month – as a measure of success.

Different campaign goals will have different metrics. For a B2B-sales campaign, number of MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) might be a measure of success, while for a branding campaign, number of direct website hits (i.e. type-in traffic) can be a key metric.

You’ll have to work with the client to agree on the key performance indicators (KPIs) and how you’ll measure them. And as for benchmark figures, figure out where the brand currently stands and what kind of results you can deliver. 30% YoY growth is unrealistic for a mature brand but not unreasonable for a new business.

Develop a Strategy

If the goals and purpose are the destinations, “strategy” charts the map you’ll use to get there.

Developing a strategy is a complex topic that deserves its own post. Strategy is also something campaign managers don’t usually work on – that’s the job of brand/creative strategists.

However, we’ll briefly talk about the most important ingredient in strategy below: your audience.

Understand the target audience

Everything in a marketing campaign springs from the audience. Whether you advertise on late-night TV or Snapchat, whether your ads are fun or serious – all will depend on the audience.

Understanding this audience, where it hangs out, and what it wants is arguably the most important part of a successful campaign. A poorly managed campaign can still hit its mark if it can deliver its key message to its key audience.

While there is a lot of nuance to understanding audiences, the most important elements remain:

  • The audience’s demographics and psychographics, including their interests, wants, and desires
  • Where the audience can be found and what is their relationship with these mediums (participatory or passive?)
  • The audience’s tastes and consumption patterns, especially in terms of creative choices.

How you get all this data will depend on how much information you currently have (large brands usually have exhaustive research and data on their customers) and your existing resources/budget.

If you have the resources, you might want to conduct a detailed customer survey. Else, off the shelf data from sources like Facebook Insights will have to do.

While you’re off understanding audiences, do keep an eye on current trends and the cultural zeitgeist. As the great Wayne Gretzky said, you have to be where the puck is going, not where it currently is. If you see any developing trend, it’s better to latch onto it than to focus on outdated norms.

Also, consider your capabilities when developing your strategy. Your best audience might be on TV, but if your digital agency has never made a TV campaign before, it might be better to stick to digital mediums.

Create Your Marketing Collateral

Blog posts, YouTube videos, TV ads, banner ads – any content you create in the service of a marketing goal can be said to be your “marketing collateral”.

What kind of marketing collateral you create will depend on three things:

  • Your capabilities, i.e. what you can create
  • Your audience, i.e. what you need to create
  • Your budget, i.e. what you can afford to create (and distribute)

If you’re a creative agency, developing marketing collateral should already be your forte. After all, this is the heart of what your business offers. So I won’t go into the creative development process in detail but just offer a few pointers in regards to campaign management:

Focus on the entire campaign

A campaign isn’t just a single piece of creative collateral (such as an ad). It’s every single point of interaction between the audience and the brand, and even between the agency and the brand.

Thus, when you’re developing the collateral, map the campaign from start to finish. Include every single customer touchpoint.

In an ad campaign, for instance, you’ll want to make sure that the following are on-brand and consistent with the campaign as well:

  • Landing pages and forms
  • Emails
  • Website and other content pages

Even ancillary interactions (such as text alerts) and brand-agency interactions (such as campaign reports) should be on-brand.

As a campaign manager, make sure that you gather and align resources for all this material, not just your primary collateral. Factor it into your campaign budget as well.

Align your creative and distribution resources

Good marketing isn’t just creatively good; it is also distribution-focused. Think of campaigns that have social media potential built-in, like Coca-Cola’s massively successful “share it with” campaign.

Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke with a friend” campaign was designed for the friend-tagging, social-sharing age (Image source)

Being distribution-focused also means you have to choose channels that are distribution friendly. If you have a budget for a 15-second ad spot but not for a longer 5 minute video, you’ll want to focus your distribution efforts on Instagram/Snapchat, not YouTube.

As the campaign manager, your goal should be to get your creative and distribution teams together. Get them to moderate each other’s ideas. An idea that is focused entirely on distribution risks being creative stale. And an idea focused just on creativity might not have enough legs to run.

Focus on your key goals

The campaign manager has a key role to play in the collateral-creation process: align creative efforts with campaign goals.

Creative teams can sometimes get too creative and lose sight of the specific goals of the campaign. It’s your job as the manager to rein them in and point them in the right direction. In a landing page design, if Creative focuses on copy, you should also get them to focus on the CTA. In a video ad, it’s your goal to get them to keep messaging on-brand.

Keep an eye on budgets and schedules

Creative campaigns are notorious for going off-budget and schedule. As the campaign manager, it’s crucial that you keep an eye on the costs and to-dos. Is a part of the campaign lagging behind? Have you used up too much of the budget too early in the campaign?

It’s your job to monitor your teams and get them back on track if necessary.

Final Steps

The final step in the campaign management process: distribute the collateral and analyze the results.

If you’ve already mapped your strategy, you should have a clear distribution plan. Make sure that this plan aligns with your budget (which is also why it’s crucial to keep creative team budgets in check).

Once you’ve distributed your collateral, dig in and analyze the results. Again, you should have a clear method for collecting and measuring key data, as outlined in the first step.

Based on your analysis, start modifying things. Does the creative need some tweaks? Should you try a different distribution method? Should you increase the distribution budget? Or do you need a new strategy altogether?

It’s a good idea to adopt an incremental approach to changes, i.e. modify the easiest and cheapest parts first before committing to bigger alterations. Instead of developing a new strategy, you might change the location and design of the CTA to get more clicks, for instance.