Marketing campaign management: everything you need to know

In a world of omnichannel marketing, it’s hard to know where to start. You probably have tons of ideas for programs and initiatives—new social media platforms to try, new email campaigns and audiences to experiment with, events, contests, virtual seminars, podcasts... 

Campaign management is a smart way to turn your never-ending idea list into focused, high-impact work. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about managing marketing campaigns—from terminology and best practices, to campaign management systems and processes, and more.

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What is campaign management?

First, some quick basics: Campaign management is the process of planning, executing, monitoring, and evaluating your marketing campaigns to ensure they perform as well as possible, and are executed as efficiently as possible. This management encompasses the entire life cycle of a marketing campaign, and it’s critical to helping keep efforts on target and on (or under) budget.

And of course, as campaigns (and channels) have gotten more sophisticated, so have their management tools and techniques. We've evolved from relying on gut instinct or a see-what-happens mentality to consulting robust data and analytics to optimize campaigns. (We’ll dive into these processes in more detail later.) This evolution has helped businesses to get the best possible return on investment and remain competitive in tough markets.

Why is campaign management important?

Given how complex campaigns are today, it’s hard to carry one out successfully without strong campaign management processes. With solid campaign management, you and your team can:

  • Bring focus to your messaging and marketing efforts: Instead of rolling out disconnected, one-off initiatives, you can focus your messaging and efforts in a consistent, concerted way.

  • Reduce stress on your team: Campaign management makes it easy to organize, communicate, and carry out your tasks in the most efficient way possible. As a result, your team has more time to focus on what they do best—creative marketing.

With that in mind, it may be time to invest in your campaign management processes and tools if you need to step up the quality of your marketing in general. Better campaigns will allow you to:

  • Attract new customers: Top-tier marketing campaigns can help draw in new customers from existing audiences, and enter new markets with a bang.

  • Increase sales: Thoughtful campaigns don't just help you gain new clients that bring in more revenue. They also help upsell existing clients who just need a nudge in the right direction. Plus, it shortens the sales lifecycle to help your sales team consistently win deals.

  • Roll out new products and features: Smart management helps keep your launch on track and ensure your marketing efforts reach the right potential buyers and speak to their pain points, resulting in quicker demand and sales.

  • Build or repair a brand image: Keeping a good handle on your campaign also helps you align messaging with branding—or with rebranding—to ensure consistency and build trust with your customers.

What does a campaign manager do?

To truly manage a marketing campaign in the way that works best for everyone and for the campaign, a dedicated campaign manager is key. While this role may be defined differently from one organization to the next, campaign managers are generally responsible for the entire campaign management process, including:

  • Working with key stakeholders and marketing contributors to plan campaigns—including themes, timelines, and goals

  • Organizing and delegating tasks to the entire team—and keeping them accountable to their tasks until the campaign is complete

  • Surfacing campaign updates to relevant stakeholders throughout the campaign

  • Tracking and evaluating the campaign, via helpful templates and solutions, to ensure it stays in-scope, on-budget, on-time, and on-brand

The campaign management process

Now that we know what campaign management is, why it’s important, and who should handle its many moving parts, let’s dive into the actual steps of managing an effective marketing campaign.

Define the campaign’s purpose and establish goals

Launching a campaign without knowing its objectives is like shooting in the dark—it drives up costs, wastes precious time, and probably won’t give you the results leadership is looking for. Before you embark on a campaign, your team needs  a clear purpose and game plan.

Once you’ve identified the business goals driving your campaign, you can set key parameters like: target audience, messaging, channels, and expected results. Clear objectives allow you to monitor how your campaign performs, and makes it easier to proactively course-correct.

To efficiently plan marketing campaigns, the campaign manager should set an overarching goal with stakeholders, then set smaller, realistic, measurable goals that follow a S.M.A.R.T. or OKR structure.

For example, let’s say you’re working for a media company and your C-suite wants to increase digital subscription sales. Sit down with leadership to figure out what that objective looks like. Is their goal to increase the raw volume of subscribers (in which case you might offer a discounted subscription offer), or is the goal to increase revenue in-quarter? What range of increase would be acceptable? This level of detail is necessary before you create your campaign plan.

Decide which metrics to use

Once you have clear goals, you’ll need to decide which metrics to use to monitor the campaign’s performance and keep the project on track. They should correspond directly to the goals you set—and your stakeholders should be aligned on the metrics. In the process of aligning on metrics, you may reveal new things or correct assumptions about your underlying goals.

Say you’re launching a campaign to increase awareness of a consumer brand. A good metric might be monthly average web traffic that’s coming from branded search terms, like the name of your company—so you set a goal of month-over-month increase in traffic coming from these search terms. But when you propose this metric to your stakeholders, they might ask to see an increase in conversions—meaning you need to drive clicks as well as eyeballs. Good thing you got clarity, right?

Pinpoint a target audience

In general, the better you understand your audience, the more successful your campaigns will be. In theory, there’s endless available data to help you get to know your audience better—but in reality, turning that data into insights is easier said than done. Google Analytics, native social analytics tools like Facebook Insights and Youtube Analytics, customer surveys, client feedback...these all give you pieces of the puzzle.

Target personas, which can range from lightweight descriptions to epically detailed dossiers, are often used to create a more complete picture. In fact, 77% of the most successful B2B content marketers use personas to research their audience prior to marketing to them. Gathering information like demographics, psychographics, pain points, needs, consumption patterns and behaviors, purchasing power, and more will give you a good holistic view of the actual people you’re trying to connect with.

Establish resources and budget

Another important step in the marketing campaign process is to clearly identify the resources that will support your campaign. In an ideal world, every marketer would have endless resources to execute their projects. In reality, 78% of marketers say they have a small team and need to work within those constraints. So it’s imperative to get a realistic idea of how your existing resources—budget, your team’s bandwidth, proper tools and software, and the like—map back to your campaign’s purpose and goals.

If you aren’t starting with a set budget, sit down with your leadership to map one out. Because you’ve already defined your goals, you’ll have a leg up in allocating a budget—you know what you’re expecting to impact, so you can more easily predict the ROI. Similarly, you’ll need to understand your team’s capacity to contribute, which will depend on the prioritization of your campaign. 

If you have them, lean on your project managers (or at least project management practices) to ensure you have a realistic timeline and don’t overextend your resources—both which may result in a shoddy campaign that negatively impacts your brand.

Brainstorm and plan the campaign content

Once you’ve aligned on goals, asked tough questions, and secured the right resources, it’s time to unleash your team’s creativity. Many marketing teams kick off their campaign planning with a team-wide brainstorm—it’s a smart way to get early buy-in and generate excitement from contributors, as well as come up with out-of-the-box ideas.

This isn’t the time to limit yourself—explore as many possible channels and mediums as possible. Here’s a list (by no means exhaustive) to get you started:

  • Print: Typically best suited for events, conferences, or other physical settings; it gives you a tangible canvas to highlight your messaging.

  • Podcasts: An excellent media that can help establish your brand as a trust industry leader; they’re an efficient way for people to digest information while multitasking.

  • Ebooks: Often gated, so they’re an effective way to capture and nurture leads. Note: you'll need a marketing automation software to gate content and handle leads at scale.

  • Webinars: Great for delivering content in video form and can include an interactive aspect that lets viewers ask questions and get answers in real time.

  • Social media: Allows you to post a variety of content (video, audio, text) and reach precise target groups.

  • Blog posts: Versatile lead generation tools that can attract and nurture leads, letting people consume information at their own pace.

  • Microsites: Smaller clusters of web pages that live outside of a company’s homepage, useful for publishing closely related content that speaks to similar high-interest topics or concepts.

  • Contests: A solid tool for branding and exposing new, possibly harder-to-reach audiences to your product.

  • Email marketing: Another versatile channel that can reach new clients and upsell and maintain connections with existing customers.

Once you’ve generated more ideas than you can use, you’ll need to winnow them down based on your aforementioned goals and resources. This is a good time to check in with your principle stakeholders again—does your final list align with their vision?

Create your content

Next comes content creation—easier said than done. That’s because smart content creation doesn’t just mean crafting work that lines up with strategic goals and generates leads; it also means managing processes and workflows so you don’t fall behind schedule or end up with sub-par content. 

Thankfully, you’ve frontloaded work like nailing down resources, knowing your audience, and thoughtfully planning content types and channels. All that’s left is locking in a solid workflow.

Work with your team to clearly define things like due dates, review windows, and owners. At this point, you’ll want to use a campaign tracker—check out our marketing campaign template, our product launch template, or our content calendar template to get started.

Track performance and analyze data

Once your campaign goes live, it’s time to start crunching the numbers and evaluating your ongoing progress. Use regular reports to keep tabs on your key metrics, and share them with stakeholders frequently. You’ll want to plan ahead for periodic progress updates, and a holistic postmortem once the launch is complete.

The importance of campaign management tools

Scrappy campaign managers can do a lot with a little, but a robust marketing campaign management tool will streamline your work, keep your partners on the same page, simplify reporting, and free you up for the inevitable fire drills. 

Here are some of the most important features to look for when choosing the ultimate campaign management tool:

  • Easy to use: A campaign management tool should make your life simple, not complicate it further. If you’re dealing with multiple layers of contributors and reviewers, you’ll find that the easier it is to set up, onboard your team, and use, the better. 

  • Flexible, customizable views: Look for a tool gives you the information you need when you need it, in the way that best suits how you work. For example, a good campaign management tool lets you toggle between different types of views (like calendar, Kanban, grid views, and more) and hide or reveal different information to different stakeholders.

  • Prevents data silos and redundancies: Your tool of choice should prevent data silos and redundancies by centralizing information. Rather than create duplicate data sets—which quickly create chaos—your whole team should be able to work from the same source of truth. 

  • Provides reporting: Manually mining for the data and crunching the numbers yourself hardly makes for a streamlined process; the software you use should help you easily surface insights. You should also be able to customize reports with relevant information for different purposes or audiences—all with just a few easy clicks.

  • Automates tasks: Robust campaign management tools should allow you to automate repetitive tasks, saving you time and reducing the potential for human error. Look for features like the ability to build custom trigger-and-action sequences with little to no coding.

Find the right marketing campaign management tool

Clearly, marketing campaign management is an intricate, time-intensive process even when things are running smoothly. But hiring the right people, sticking to best practices, and leveraging the right campaign management tool can make marketing campaigns do-able, and, dare we say it, fun.

Airtable offers marketing campaign managers a sleek, cloud-based platform that’s powerful and easy to use. Stay on top of all of your marketing processes and workflows, from establishing strategic goals and planning out resources to tracking content assets and compiling valuable reports. See your workflow in the way that works best for you with customizable views; use automations to integrate with popular chat tools like Slack; generate custom, sharable reports with robust dashboard functions; and more.

Learn how Airtable can help take your marketing campaign management to the next level, or sign up today for free!

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About the author

Nashia Kamalis a marketing expert and senior manager of integrated campaigns at Airtable.

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