For decades, marketers have thought in terms of campaigns when planning their marketing efforts. The campaign model provided a useful way to organize marketing activities and link those activities to specific marketing objectives. Today, however, effective B2B marketing requires new kinds of marketing tactics and methods that have an entirely different structure and rhythm from traditional marketing campaigns. Therefore, the campaign model no longer provides an effective paradigm for thinking about and planning all marketing efforts.
The word campaign was first used to describe a connected series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective. Surprisingly, the online dictionary provided by the American Marketing Association doesn't include a definition of marketing campaign. However, the AMA dictionary does define an advertising campaign as a group of advertisements, commercials, and related promotional materials and activities that are designed to be used during the same period of time as part of a coordinated advertising plan to meet the specified advertising objectives of a client.
With a few changes, this definition can be applied to marketing campaigns, which we can define as: A group of coordinated marketing activities (as opposed to a single activity) that are performed during a defined period of time and are designed to achieve a specified marketing objective.
As this definition indicates, the campaign model assumes that a marketing campaign has a fixed and defined lifespan. It begins, runs for the specified period of time, and ends. The problem is, many of today's most critical marketing tactics and methods don't fit the campaign model because they don't have predetermined lifespans. Many inbound marketing techniques fall into this category.
For example, if you want to have an effective company blog, you can't publish new content once a week for six months and then stop publishing for the next six months. That's one sure way to lose your audience. The same principle applies to other inbound marketing techniques, such as search engine optimization and most kinds of social media marketing. Once you begin these kinds of marketing activities, they will continue indefinitely and require more or less continuous attention. Therefore, the term blogging campaign is an oxymoron.
Lead nurturing is another critical B2B marketing activity that doesn't fit the campaign model. An effective lead nurturing program operates continuously. The timing and content of nurturing communications are either designed into the process or are triggered by the behavior of individual prospects. The nurturing process for an individual prospect will end under certain circumstances, but the nurturing program continues to operate as long as there are prospects to nurture. That's why the idea of a lead nurturing campaign doesn't really make sense.
As companies face the challenge of creating engagement with increasingly empowered and independent business buyers, the importance of always-on, continuously running marketing programs will continue to grow. These types of programs operate very differently from traditional marketing campaigns and require a different kind of thinking and planning.
Marketing campaigns won't completely disappear. The campaign model still works reasonably well for some kinds of outbound lead acquisition programs, but, it's time to ditch the campaign paradigm for a growing segment of B2B marketing.