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Has your marketing campaign run its course?

This is the tale of two of my clients and a graph.

The first client undertook a particular marketing activity consistently for about three years and enjoyed some success with it, but it then reached the point where it wasn’t working any more. 

The target market had become used to the approach and desensitised to it, so the marketing message wasn’t cutting through. The approach had simply reached the end of its shelf life. 

Wisely, the client had been keeping an eye on this for a while and decided it was time to change tack. 

The second client is another matter. Having decided on a particular marketing approach, they implemented it just once before deciding to abandon it, saying they weren’t convinced it was working.

The activity was not about getting instant results, but building the brand and shaping the message to keep leads warm and to nurture them through to purchase, which due to the specification process could be a year down the line.

Shelved after just one implementation, it never stood a chance of delivering results.

The moral of the story is this: know when to commit – and when to quit. 

Like products, marketing campaigns have a lifecycle and it makes sense to apply the same sort of management techniques to them – for example, by using the principles of the product lifecycle curve. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the lifecycle curve charts the profit generated by a product over its lifetime in the market. A typical lifecycle curve has five phases, which indicate what a company can do to manage the product at that point. 

So, consider this: like a product, a marketing campaign has:

  • A development phase: which involves a lot of effort and expense behind the scenes, including research, careful planning and budgeting, as well as developing concepts;
  • An introduction phase: where you launch the campaign, monitor the early results closely, look at how the market receives the message, make any necessary adjustments and widen the campaign;
  • A growth phase: where the campaign rolls out strongly and confidently and you start to see returns;
  • A maturity phase: where the campaign has built up momentum nicely and should be yielding consistent results – in this phase you’ll look to develop the creative concept and media to keep the target market engaged and extend the campaign’s lifespan to give maximum results;
  • A decline phase: inevitably, as the market changes competitors’ responses change and a new approach is needed to capture the minds and hearts of the target market. 

So the questions are: do you recognise this lifecycle pattern? How long is your marketing campaign lifecycle (weeks, months, years)? And at what stage is your campaign?

Have you ridden the curve and managed your campaign through to maturity, seen results and are now ready to move on (like the first client)? 

Or, like the second client, have you put in a lot of effort behind the scenes to get things started (the development and introduction phases), but then become disenchanted or worried about the time, cost and manpower involved, withdrawing your commitment before the campaign has a chance to gain momentum and deliver returns? 

I hear it said quite often about various marketing techniques, “Oh, we tried that and it didn’t work”. Put that comment in the context of the campaign lifecycle, and it could give a very different perspective on the issue. 

Perhaps the ‘failure’ is less about the marketing approach and more an issue of campaign – and expectation – management.

Annette Harpham is a chartered marketer and owner of SharpEdge Marketing – a marketing consultancy and outsourced marketing management service which specialises in B2B, manufacturing and construction marketing. She is also a member of the CIMCIG committee.

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