Symphonies and Politics: Orchestrating Marketing Campaigns that Soar

Symphonies and Politics: Orchestrating Marketing Campaigns that Soar

Chapter 3 of a 12-part series

The term campaign has a wide range of meanings across marketing organizations. It can be as tactical as a single marketing activity, say running a paid media campaign to drive prospects to register for that brilliant new Gartner Magic Quadrant report where your “dot” is up and to the right. For years marketing platforms and organizations have categorized a single tactic as a campaign. Practically, it made sense. Strategically, I’d say not.

I believe B2B marketing organizations and their CMOs have a wonderful opportunity to go a lot broader with a campaign. The boring term is “integrated campaigning.” But how to inject more soul into this concept? The art of tying multiple marketing tactics together, bound by common messaging, call-to-actions, a prescribed journey and outcomes that require multiple touches. My love of music has always taken my brain to “Orchestrated Campaigns”, with a campaign leader (big job!) as the conductor.

Why strive for Orchestrated Campaigning versus a more tactical, “may the best silo’d execution win” approach? Three reasons:

  • When you orchestrate campaigns properly, you are creating more meaningful, more impactful touches. That in turn enriches the lead, delivers a higher propensity for larger pipeline per prospect and ultimately, as I’ve seen prove out, deliver higher lead-to-pipeline and pipeline-to-bookings conversation rates. I’ve seen this factor in a 10-20% improved conversion versus tactically honed, “random acts of marketing”.
  • An orchestrated approach to campaigning is going to be more efficient. Your teams will go deeper on less initiatives. You will remove the often insidious nature of human handovers between tactical campaigns, which can wreak havoc on your funnel metrics. I’ll admit a longer orchestration “tax” up front required to line up various programs and activities in your campaigns, but I’ve found it to be a classic example of investing bandwidth up front for longer-term payoff.
  • Simply put, this approach is more intellectually challenging and interesting for your teams, which turn keeps them engaged for longer periods of time. You want to be architecting beautiful buildings. Not raising a manufactured home one day, and on to a different one the next. Give your teams this Orchestrated Campaign challenge, and they’ll stay longer and see growth within your practice. I know many are looking for just that in today’s environment!

So how to pull this off? First, you need to consider a new foundation .. a refactoring of how you execute and track your system of demand generation. As my career progressed, I looked to a more systemic hierarchy of campaigning to scale. At the top of the pyramid, the campaign harbors the big new idea that shifts the company’s go-to-market into new and interesting directions and serves a top company priority. The programs are like the discrete, segmented  movements in a symphony — each executed to serve a particular purpose to a particular audience. Big campaigns have programs designed to ensnare new business, and related programs to deepen engagement and promote cross- and upsell motions with your existing customers. Each have distinct missions, but can serve the broader campaign very effectively. The activities are analogous to the notes being played … the specific tactics being used to bring the program to life, and to serve the overall campaign. Paid media. Virtual events. SEO. Refactoring your marketing practice and metrics with this hierarchy can do wonders to how to read and react to your team’s performance.

But none of this will matter unless you can orchestrate. And for me, the left-brain answer of marketing automation can only take you so far. You need the right brain, human, artistic inspiration to bring the best campaign to life. I’ve always followed different industries (Hollywood/entertainment being one) closely to borrow brilliant methodologies to help stick out in the crowded B2B tech world. But there’s another “industry” of sorts that I believe provides a perfect playbook for running Orchestrated Campaigns. Electoral politics has the best playbooks I’ve ever seen for this mission. And why not? Campaigns are fundamental to the world of politics! 

“Change You Can Believe In!”

I’m now going to connect the concept of orchestrated campaigning to the world of electoral politics. To avoid any unintended hints of political opinion and bias, I’ll do my best to reference “both sides” of the aisle.

OK. You have a major new campaign to launch to support your company’s move into a major market adjacency. This move will involve evolved positioning and supporting messaging for your company. It will require your go-to-market engine to expand to engage new personas and buyers. How to go big, and rally not just your marketing organization, but your company, your partners and your most loyal customers around the effort? Starting thinking about how you bring out your base to vote, and how you bring new voters into the fold.

I’ve studied many political campaigns throughout the years, and I think there is a compelling blueprint for how you can campaign. There are eight elements of campaigning that I’d like you to consider, that if well-executed, will bring Orchestrated Campaigning to life for your business:

  1. Craft Your Manifesto

Any great campaign should start with a well-written, thoughtful manifesto that captures exactly what the campaign stands for, the fundamental beliefs that it represents and why others should rally to your cause. And don’t confuse a manifesto with a mission statement! A mission statement is a straightforward capturing of what you do and how you do it. LinkedIn has a nice, crisp one of those: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Nike has a famous one: “Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete in the World.”  Contrast this with a manifesto. The greatest examples in our history of timeless manifestos like the Declaration of Independence, or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In the marketing world, one of the best was Apple’s “Think Different” Manifesto.

The difference is clear: Mission statements are about the clear, concise what and how. The manifesto captures the WHY we do what we do, and WHY others want to follow you.  Or invest in you. Or vote for you. In presidential electoral politics, it all starts with a campaign manifesto that captures, in narrative tonality, what the candidate stands for and why one should vote for him or her. Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” was aimed at continuing to raise the country’s spirits after a decade (under both parties) of inflation, high interest rates and energy crisis. Barack Obama’s captured the country’s desire for change. Both were considered brilliant storytelling that served as the heartbeat for their respective campaigns. Manifestos often serve as the copy for the first campaign execution to market, whether it be a speech or a strategically-placed ad tied to a new launch.

So before anything else, you need to bring together your best creative minds (and a wonderful writer!) and capture your new campaign narrative. Imagine it is a script for your ultimate speech, or ultimate new ad. Tell your story, with a focus on why others want to be with you, based on what you believe and stand for every day. I’ve had fun looking at a collection of manifesto examples across industries here for creative spark.

  1. Activate Your Base

With your manifesto in place, the next step in any successful campaign, whether it be in politics or B2B marketing, is to enroll your most faithful. Political parties thrive on this. It’s called “the base”. For your business, this is your most loyal customers. Your SALES FORCE, the ultimate emissaries for you campaign. Your employee base. Your best GTM partners. Before you develop a major new campaign, you must have a plan for how you engage, ears first, with these critical faithful so they help you craft the narrative and construct of what you’ll bring to market.

In the political world, this is all about town hall meetings. Focus groups. “Listening tours”. Community organizer meetups. You can do the same. Leverage your user group meetings, virtual or otherwise. Share your campaign-in-process with your customer advisory boards. Same with your top GTM partners. The outcome will be a highly engaged base that, in the world of politics, will relentlessly advocate for your cause and serve as force multipliers. 

  1. Rally Effect: The Convention

Every four years in the United States, politicians, activists and loyalists converge in a city for their party’s political convention. The party’s platform (like a manifesto) is finalized. Speakers rally the faithful. There can be news, in the form of an appointment, or even a vice presidential nominee. And the media covers it all. Often the goal is to “unify the party” ahead of the final months of a hard fought campaign.

I think there are a lot of similarities between this political convention and the classic user conference, whether they be held in-person or virtually as they have been for the past three years. These conferences bring together loyal customers, channel and ecosystem parties together with company leaders and innovators. Often you will have press and analysts there as well. They are all there to listen, to learn, to get educated and certified, and to leave with new conviction about how they will pursue their goals over the next year, together with their partner.

Given this dynamic, I can’t think of a more perfect venue to tightly weave big orchestrated campaign into the fabric of the proceedings. Consider marrying up the theme of your campaign with the theme of your conference. Open up the keynote session with a beautiful “anthem video” that brings your manifesto to life. Find creative ways for your attendees to participate in the campaign: video testimonials, social media posts and more. And take advantage of the bully pulpit by delivering news to the show floor: A new alliance with a surprise executive guest. New product intros. If done right, you will send your loyalists into the market inspired by what they experienced, and ready to carry the message forward.

  1. Paid Media: Oversaturation Alert!

Think about election seasons, particularly, in the United States, if you reside in one of those highly competitive “purple states”, you are used to being absolutely smothered with political ads across TV, radio, social media and direct mail. All of it is “targeted” to the desired demographic of “swing voters” that are open to being influenced and moved. But the net result of the deluge of ads is a numbing effect, where the voter is left counting days until they don’t have to see yet another ad. 

I believe a similar effect has taken place over the past three years of pandemic restrictions, where in B2B marketing we’ve seen a huge shift to digital paid media execution to fill the gap left by lack of face-to-face engagement, with similar oversaturation across all logical channels. I think the smart move these days is to sharply overweight your campaign activity on earned and owned media execution. Focus on generating news, conversation and perhaps even controversy that grabs earned media attention and eyeballs. Redirect team energy and budgets toward how to refine your owned media properties, with a focus on excellence in content, search and a maniacal focus on improving conversation rates on your inbound traffic.

All of this said, I do believe there are smart, hyper-focused approaches to paid media that moves away from the saturated, blunt-force approach you often see today.  Optimize for reaching the account, or even the individual at high-worth prospects. Teams with mature account based marketing platforms and associated execution have delivered interesting and exciting results by investing in highly personalized paid media that reaches a particular individual or account/prospects with a very discrete message. I also believe that there are early-mover advantages to resuscitating physical presence media buys. 

I’ve seen smart decisions made on billboard buys positioned outside of headquarters of major prospects just returning to the office, where  smartly placed ad that shone a light on the folly of blindly renewing costly ELAs captured the attention of a CIO, in a conference room, meeting on that exact issue. The call was made and soon enough, a new engagement was born. It was an unexpected message, showing up in a highly unexpected place. And it was a fresh approach, where many haven’t dared to reignite for fear of not reaching any eyeballs as companies lurch toward return to office.

One great example of a rationale paid/owned/earned campaign media approach, in my opinion, is Contentsquare’s “Know What Makes Them Click” campaign. Contentsquare offers a digital analytics platform that helps marketing organizations understand the behavior, intent and feelings of digital engagements. They need to reach digital marketing professionals, including Chief Marketing Officers. The team resisted the temptation to go too far and wide with their media buys. Instead, they meticulously selected key points of presence for their campaign: beautiful, unexpected placements on beautiful buildings in select cities. A media buy with National Public Radio were a couple of examples.

At the same time, the team released a “Digital Experience Benchmark Report”, which delivered data that allowed readers to compare and contrast with their own digital engagement metrics. This proved to be a great earned media asset, generating new conversation and coverage in social media and press outlets. And of course for this company, they tuned their web experience to produce a 6X improvement in visitor engagement with their online demo experience, and a commensurate uptick in new qualified lead generation.

I knew this campaign was working when I personally realized I was being “hit” by the campaign several times a week. While I’m recently retired from an operating CMO role, I was amazed at how this campaign reached me … while driving home from a Warriors game, while listening to the news on NPR, and from some pings I received from digital marketers I know who called to ask me about Contentsquare. I asked these colleagues how this campaign broke through. They told me it was the combination of great messaging and unexpected placements that reached them where others weren’t trying to do so. That’s saying something given the oversataution of paid media we’re seeing today.

  1. The Debates! Spark One!

One of the most effective moments of a political campaign are the debates. These venues, where candidates share a stage and (well .. ideally…) engage in a lively exchange of ideas, can be huge ratings grabbers and press coverage generation. I always encourage teams to explore creative ways to generate a new debate in the market to go along with a major campaign effort. This can come in the form of a blog from your CEO, challenging the industry to take on an industry challenge. It can be an actual debate, where you bring together industry experts and analysts to debate a challenging topic tied to your domain. And if you’re feeling particularly aggressive, you can introduce a new competitive claim, backed up by credible (key!) third party data and endorsement, that may compel others to respond via social media or otherwise, which in turn serves as free earned media attention for your campaign. The idea here is to borrow from what works so well in the political world in driving eyeballs and attention: a great way to generate conversations is to foster open, respectful, passionate debate.

  1. The “Ground Game”

With all of the flash and flurry of conventions, launches, media and more, a vaunted “ground game” has proven to be the difference maker in the best political campaigns. Essentially, knocking on the right doors and creating the human-to-human experience to “get out the vote” can make or break a competitive precinct, county or state. I like to think that the best B2B campaigns also feature a highly orchestrated field marketing execution to personally involve its target audience in memorable ways. While it was certainly difficult to do this in the throes of the pandemic, I think the best campaigns will now feature a “return to human interaction” element in the form of regional events, either tied to a broader industry conference or with a cultural activity. Make sure, with any major campaign you are running, that you have this local touch plan in place with your field marketers. Your prospects are looking for meaningful, interesting interaction that takes them out of their Zoom meetings and back into real business life. Be that answer as part of your campaign!

  1. The Closing Argument

I’ve seen too many campaigns that just peeter out and end with a whisper. The media buys expire. The company moves on to the next big thing. I think any major, brilliantly organized campaign needs to have a signature moment that stands as a closing argument for the case you have presented to your audience. Think Barack Obama delivering his victory speech in Chicago to conclude the 2008 election. Think Reagan’s “Morning in America” closing argument ad that ran right before election day. ”Are you better off today than you were four years ago”. 

For your campaign? Orchestrate what you already have! It could be that killer newly-released Gartner Magic Quadrant report. What better way to put an exclamation point on a great campaign by finishing it with a great “and the experts agree!” message. It could be timing with a major new partnership announcement, or a major new customer. Bring it together with the campaign theme and look. That way, you have a beginning, a great middle, and a killer finish.

There’s nothing here I’ve covered that isn’t naturally a part of an amazing marketing organization’s repertoire. But for me, the difference between strong tactical campaign execution and truly next-level campaigning is connecting your repertoire with purpose, flow and in the spirit of the best political campaign playbooks, delivering a change for your organization that all can believe in!

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