What Will Campaign Management Be Like In 2020?


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I was recently asked what I thought Campaign Management software would be like in 2020. My quick (and somewhat flip) answer is to bemoan the seemingly slow pace at which marketing software has evolved to date. After all, as scary as it may be, 2020 is only 11 years away!

What were you doing 11 years ago? I was working on a project with Eddie Bauer to build a big marketing data warehouse and implement software to explore and mine customer data. Our business objectives? Better understand and drive cross-channel behavior, increase the effectiveness of EB’s catalog marketing efforts, and increase the synergy between the direct (catalog) and and retail channels. Fast forward to today, I continue to see lots of projects that sound very much like that one.

But, to be fair, the marketing world has also changed dramatically in 11 years. Eleven years ago, eCommerce was new and order volumes were low. Eddie Bauer and most other leading multi-channel retailers, were still printing online orders and entering them by hand into the catalog order system. Marketing (and CRM) technology has also largely evolved in this same time period. We’ve seen the growth and demise of great companies like Exchange Applications, Prime Response, and Epiphany. We’ve seen the development of categories like eCommerce and Web Analytics (Omniture has evolved a lot from its early days as SuperStats.com and MyComputer.com).

So, back to the question at hand. What will Campaign Management be like in 2020? I preface my comments with the above to explain why I apply a measure of realism to my fantasies around how dramatically Campaign Management will change in the next 11 years. The technology will change at the rate at which marketing organizations can absorb it. And, the biggest barrier to technology absorption — at least in my experience — is the maturity of the marketing organization and its processes. IT can be another key barrier — a barrier which can be reduced to an extent by on demand solutions. The other bright side of on demand — as I wrote about more than two years ago on Forrester’s Marketing Blog — is that the development innovation cycle can be dramatically decreased.

With the above as preface, my thoughts (appropriately influenced by my current and former colleagues — some of the brightest minds in the marketing technology sector) on Campaign Management in 2020…

What is Campaign Management Anyway?

One key thing that the industry (vendors, analysts, et al) needs to consider is that what we think of as Campaign Management today is not campaign management at all from the marketer perspective. Specifically, the industry largely defines Campaign Management as technology to support outbound direct marketing campaigns. It’s time to take a broader view. To start, we must incorporate the management of marketing communications through inbound marketing channels into the definition. But beyond that, if you really think about how marketers define “campaigns” ( i.e., inclusive of a much broader set of campaign types ranging across direct, online, and traditional mass media), then the definition of Campaign Management needs to expand to enable marketing to manage, automate, and measure any type of marketing campaign. Interestingly, this makes what the industry defines today as Marketing Resource Management (MRM) or Marketing Operations Management (MOM) really Campaign Management (I have never been that keen on terms anyway;-)… It also means that what we know of today as Campaign Management really becomes Centralized Customer Decisioning, Customer Decision Management, or Customer Message Management (none of those are great and I’d love to hear more suggestions, but you get the idea).

Immediate Evolution of Campaign Management

In the immediate term, we absolutely need to see campaign management solutions expanding to provide two key things:

  1. Integrated support for inbound and outbound marketing. Simply put, Campaign Management solutions can no longer just support outbound marketing. Response rates to outbound marketing activities are continuing to decline and inbound channels (online and offline) offer a tremendous opportunity to interact with an engaged customer. While some CM solutions today have inbound capabilities, the fact that these capabilities are not integrated with the outbound capabilities presents another significant challenge to marketers. The vast majority of companies identify “improving customer experience” as a key corporate priority. The idea of centralized decisioning — which integrates inbound and outbound messaging driven by rich interaction history — is core to helping firms carry interactions seamlessly beyond a single channel.
  2. Integrated support for online and offline. Most of us recognize that companies can no longer treat the Internet as “new media” or a standalone skunk works marketing function separate from the rest of the marketing organization. Interestingly, the kinds of things that onlinemarketing groups are trying to do today requires many of the core capabilities that most Campaign Management applications possess. But Campaign Management also needs to evolve to deal much more effectively with visitor anonymity, online behavioral data, and web channels. Beyond that, it must also better support marketing’s need to integrate across online channels themselves (yes, current technologies do a poor job of helping marketers integrate their online efforts much less online and offline!) as well as offline or traditional channels.

What Will Happen to Campaign Management Next

When we think beyond the more immediate future, there are some important mid-term priorities:

  • Campaign Management must improve and consolidate response attribution. Campaign Management solutions across the board do a mediocre job of capturing and attributing responses. And, this ability needs to extend beyond the attribution to direct marketing offers, but also merge that with touch points such as: an organic search click through, a TV commercial that is running in the area of the customer with a reach of x% of that area’s population, even a banner or video insert ad view on the Internet at the extreme. The other major piece is the ability to evaluate a series of responses to marketing messages to understand the role that each message or the combination of messages has in getting to the final outcome.
  • Campaign Management must evolve to support new channels. We are finally starting to see interest in mobile channels really heat up (in the US, not just EMEA and APAC). So far execution (i.e., real action) is still primarily focused on SMS/MMS but the exciting shift will be as more consumers adopt advanced mobile devices and further leverage mobile browsers, GPS, etc. Socialchannels are another good example, Campaign Management needs to figure out how to integrate with and support messaging through social networks and communities. Some of this is possible today but the capabilities need to be fleshed out in much more detail.
  • Open EMM will emerge. Feeding off of the need to support new channels, Campaign Management vendors must recognize and accept that innovation is happening the fastest within the channels and media itself. We’ll see technology like HTML, Flash, SVG, TV, eInk/flexible displays, etc. changing so significantly that our notions of landing pages and website offers, web calls to action, and product placement must change along with it. Marketing software has to be brilliant at decisioning, optimization, and integration as well as pulling all marketing activities together to support cohesive planning, management, and measurement, but the software should never hold back the media and channel innovators from pushing the envelope. So, Campaign Management (call it Enterprise Marketing Management if you like) must provide a system of record and flexible application framework into which channel applications can effectively “plug in.” There will never be a single application that does everything for marketing soup to nuts (and marketing groups will never accept one), the key is for the core software platform to provide the organizing framework, the message decisioning infrastructure, and the measurement capability.
  • SaaS CM will rise and then move into the cloud. Over the next five years the lion’s share of marketing technology innovation will be in software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. As the definition of Campaign Management expands (as noted above) and extends from core direct marketing groups into online groups and into new vertical markets, appetite for easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, lower TCO solutions will escalate. As I also noted previously, a nice by-product of SaaS will be more rapid innovation in the marketing technology sector. But, few highly successful software companies manage their own hosting operations — applications are designed for mega hosting infrastructures (e.g., Microsoft, IBM, Google, Amazon) that have a-million-plus-nodes hosting infrastructure. Smart software companies will design and optimize their apps to leverage virtual servers and storage offered by emerging cloud computing infrastructures.

Beyond these ideas we can dream of technology that supports fully automated marketing processes and black box decisioning, tools that simplify marketing complexity and support collaborative, viral, and community marketing (I don’t know about you, but the ads on Facebook are already starting to get to me!)… We can further imagine that marketing and buyers have a mutual love:love relationship and that marketing has ceased its shouting and focuses purely in a service-oriented role. We’ll continue to work towards that and I’ll continue to preach to it, but if you want me to put my money on the table, I’m telling you that this kind of nirvana is more than 11 years away.

Happy New Year everyone! I’d love to hear what you are thinking along these lines.

Elana Anderson
Unica Corp.
Elana Anderson is vice president of product marketing and strategy at Unica Corp.. A highly regarded marketing software expert, Anderson previously served as vice president and research director of the marketing practice at Forrester Research. Prior to Forrester, Anderson was a strategy consultant and systems integrator for nearly 15 years.


  1. Hi Elana

    Good to see you back blogging.

    An interesting vendor perspective on marketing technology. Your average CMO’s perspective (and I was one for a while recently) is similar in some respects, yet quite different in others. The biggest similarities are the need to integrate inbound and outbound campaigning into a seamless whole, and to reliably measure the real results of marketing activities. As a recent report by the CMO Council shows, CMOs are under great pressure to prove that they add value and to justify their place at the top-table. That they have one of the shortest C-suite tenures shows that they aren’t there yet.

    The biggest differences are also quite important. They show that the CMS software industry still has some way to go before it can really enable CMOs to create demonstrable value for their organisations, and for customers:

    • An Explosion in Marketing Touchpoints – Marketing is inexorably becoming more decentralised. That means more channels in the mix, more partners in the mix and more customer managed touchpoints. In fact, the whole CEM movement means an explosion in the number of marketing touchpoints, irrespective of whether they are managed by marketers or not. Marketing in general and the CMS software industry in particular will have to rethink how they deliver all the marketing touchoints in the end-to-end customer experience, not just the traditional outbound marketing ones.
    • Centralised Rules but Decentralised Decisioning – Pretty much all of the large volume data owners, e.g. banks, telcos and utilities, and the CMS software industry are pushing the centralised decisioning model. What they don’t relise is that this is only a half-way house towards a more customer-responsive model. In this model, broad rules are developed centrally for universal use at touchpoints with customers, which are then interpreted locally in real-time using all the contextual information available.
    • Customer Co-creation of Social Media – Just as CRM has already evolved to CEM, CEM is inexorably evolving to Customer Co-creation. The current incarnation of customer co-creation relevant to marketers is social media. As many CMOs are starting to recognise, social media is rapidly becoming more influential than their own variety of push-marketing. And for the Milllenials born in the 1980s and 1990s, there is no real doubt that they believe their peers much more than they believe marketers.
    • Customer Control of Marketing – Despite the US$ Billions thrown at marketing communications by CMOs, it is generally agreed that marketing is becoming less and less effective. This is partly a function of the increase in customer touchpoints, but it is also a response to the carpet bombing by push marketers that customers are subjected to. Customers are tuning marketing communications out unless they add value. Worse, customers are starting to demand control over who can market to them.
    • Disruptive CMS Innovation – As CMS have grown larger, more integrated, more unwieldy and more expensive, some organisations have responded by going for simpler, leaner right-sized CMS tools. Marketing on demand, SaaS and open-source marketing tools have proliferated. What the CMS software industry seems not to have realised is that their overweight products are ripe for disruptve innovation, as nimbler vendors provide all of the really useful functionality used by CMOs, without any of the expensive and often not best-in-class add-ons, at only half of the price.

    It will be interesting to see how the CMS software market pans out in the future. One thing is for certain, it will likely be very very different from how it looks today. And I dare say from your predictions. And from mine too. Eleven years is several lifetimes in the future CMS software industry.

    Graham Hill?
    Independent CRM Consultant?
    Interim CRM Manager

    PS. I have posted a more extensive comment to your blog post in a separate post on Five Challenges that Keep CMOs Awake at Night

  2. Hi Elena – this is a very intriguing questions. I was actually asked the other day where CRM is in 2020.

    I do believe that by 2020 we have very robust CRM systems very much like ERP and accounting. They will still exist. When I visited my fathers company sometimes back in the 60’s I saw his finance chief sitting with an engineer playing with the new finance software. This was way hot for both the company and that CFO. Today – the accounting software still exists but is managed by some bookkeepers. CRM will still exist in 2020 because you still want the customer database one way or the other – certainly integrated in the social web for fast updates and what have you – but it will be some sales clerks operating the system.

    Marketing? Will be different. Campaigns will look everything but what they are today. Advertising – dead. PR – made by external people or nothing. Marketing after 100 years of being questioned every year by every CEO or CFO and today by EVERY customer will have to reinvent itself in a way that the marketing systems will be as different as the methods to interact with the market.

    Like Graham pointed out – Marketing will be IN THE MARKET not done by the company. Hence to “campaign tools” have yet to surface but if you look at what we teach in the Social Media Academy (just review the leadership class list) you get an idea where this is going.



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