In 1973, Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood of the band Faces wrote the song “Ooh La La” that is famous for its prescient lyric, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” The song is intended to be a lesson in love and relationships, but it’s a theme that applies to many aspects of life, including the planning, implementation, and management of integrated campaigns in B2B. What is “known now” is a more complete understanding of the consequences of choices made, actions by others, and events that transpired between “then” and “now.” Everyone wishes that they had the ability to adjust or avoid some decisions or actions based on information that was not available (or considered) at the time.
Campaigns are developed to run for a long time, and it is impossible to develop them with perfect information. Even if that were possible, the reality is that business circumstances change, and a campaign team may need to make adjustments to adapt the campaign accordingly.
In my recent research report Conducting A Campaign Audit (client access only), I identify three points in time when a campaign team should pause, evaluate their progress to date, and test their assumptions to increase the likelihood of the campaign achieving what is intended. At these major transition points within the campaign implementation process, marketers should take the following steps.
1. Conduct A Design Audit
The first three phases of the campaign implementation process are focused on scoping the campaign, developing a clear view of the target audience, validating that the company’s offering portfolio adequately addresses the needs of the buyers, and then developing the campaign architecture, including the allocation of budget and the development of the overall messaging hierarchy.
This is an excellent time to look back and assess if the initial assumptions about the scale of the opportunity, audience needs, offering relevance, and available execution resources are holding up. It might be that the breadth of the audience is forcing too thin an allocation of resources. It might be that a preliminary assessment of content requirements is substantially higher than expected and the costs of development are out of scope for available resources. It also might be that the alignment with the sales organization for focus on the target audience is not as strong as needed and that the sales organization is not prepared or planning to focus on them.
This point in the campaign implementation process happens right before the marketing execution teams are asked to make a substantial commitment to the development of content, assets, and programs, so if there are questions about the campaign planning assumptions, this is the time to pause and reconsider the effort.
2. Conduct An Operational Readiness Audit
The next steps in the campaign implementation process are focused on ensuring that the organization is ready to deploy the campaigns and determine which programs are going to run and when they will execute. The consumption of resources is higher than in the initial design phase, primarily because content is being developed and operational processes are being put in place, but it is not yet at the scale of full execution. At the completion of the design phase and before execution begins, an operational readiness audit should be conducted.
This audit will revisit the checks made in the design audit phase to ensure that assumptions and sponsorship have not changed. It will also look at messaging, content readiness, budget, detailed program plans, and team governance to ensure that the organization is ready to execute.
This is the last stop before the organization commits to full execution of the campaign, so it is an important checkpoint.
3. Conduct An Operational Audit
Once the campaign is up and running, it will cycle through the plan execution and optimization phases of the Campaign Implementation Process. This is where the campaign will live until it is concluded, so these phases can last quarters or years. During this time, execution funds are flowing, and the maximum number of people are actively involved in the campaign, so it is important to make sure there are adequate governance processes in place.
One common danger in these phases of the campaign lifecycle is that marketers can get bored with their messaging and programs. It’s human nature to want to spice up the campaign themes, messages, content, and focus. It is easy to overlook, however, that B2B marketing and sales cycles can last a long time and that it may more time for campaign themes, content, and assets to resonate with buyers than the marketers who were involved in the front end of the process want to give them. One lesson we can offer from the experience of hundreds of companies that have gone through the campaign process is to maintain your focus and to resist the temptation to redesign the campaign because the internal team thinks that it is getting stale.
The focus of the operational audit should be a fact-based confirmation of buyer needs, audience relevance, message effectiveness, confirmation of sales and sponsor alignment, and assurance that the operational processes are working. If the competitive landscape is changing, or customer needs are evolving, then these are the drivers that will influence campaign change.
Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood had the right idea about the value of today’s knowledge applied to yesterday’s decisions. But neither rockers nor B2B marketers can time-travel to revise past decisions. The next best thing is to make fact-based audits of progress and course corrections along the way.