It’s time to stop thinking in terms of campaigns. Contributor Justin Dunham says marketers need to take a more iterative approach and instead think in terms of programs — algorithms, assets and continuous optimization.
Remember WhatsApp? They built a $20 billion company — without running a single marketing campaign. As AOL co-founder Steve Case noted on Mashable:
WhatsApp built its massive audience with no traditional advertising or marketing. They just created an awesome app and made it compelling enough (and easy enough) for people to tell their friends.
Do I think this strategy would work for most companies? Probably not. But the point is that today, user acquisition and customer growth aren’t (just) about marketing. And they’re certainly not (just) about marketing campaigns.
Instead, successful marketing is about building assets and systems that drive growth — whether that’s an amazing customer service experience, a growth hacking mindset or an incredible product.
Programs, not campaigns
Many marketers think in terms of campaigns. Start with an idea or product, come up with a marketing plan, develop the messaging and creative, and you’re done. The problem is, once you’re finished, you’re already chasing the next campaign. (I’ve copied the idea for this diagram, and the following, from consultant Steve Seager.)
When you run a campaign, you get a temporary boost in your key metrics. But mostly, you can expect to go back to where you started once the effects of your campaign have worn off. Rare is the campaign that’s truly evergreen, that stays relevant forever. But compare a more iterative approach:
The iterative approach gives you better results over the long term. And today, marketers can iterate much more easily — we have data about what works and what doesn’t, and that data comes to us in real time; we don’t need to wait months, or even minutes, to start thinking about the next iteration.
The way to get out of this trap is to think about marketing in terms of programs — algorithms, assets, ongoing optimization — rather than as campaigns.
Why programs work
Why are programs the right way to think about modern marketing? Four reasons.
1. Data is key to effective marketing
Let’s take paid search as an example. For paid search to work well, you need lots and lots of data about:
- what keywords are effective.
- how you should bid on them.
- how your landing pages are working.
- and so on.
This data can only be accumulated with time and consistency. And it’s not just you who accumulates data — it’s Google, too. Google learns over time how well your ads are working and who it can show them to most effectively. And it calculates its “quality score” — which directly influences how much an ad costs you to run — based on the behavior it sees from your website visitors.
The need to gather data is key for any digital marketing effort — whether it’s search marketing, website performance or marketing to your database.
2. Evergreen content rules
Think about all the steps that go into producing a single digital asset — copywriting, graphic design, production, marketing automation and so on. It can easily take dozens or even hundreds of hours.