How to plan a marketing campaign: seven steps

Tired of wasting marketing budget on aimless activities? Learn how to plan a marketing campaign with this simple seven step guide from Vu Online.

What we will cover

Step 1: Tighten up your marketing plan

The most amazingly designed buildings will collapse if they are not built on firm foundations. Likewise, a perfectly executed marketing campaign will fail if it is not based on a sound marketing plan.

Some of our previous articles have focused on how to write a marketing plan, but the four most important elements you need to be sure of before planning your first marketing campaign are:

  • Who are you marketing to?
  • What are their pain points and motivations?
  • How and where do they consume information?
  • What is your product/service?
  • What is your annual marketing budget?

If you are unclear on any of this, consider booking a place on one of our marketing strategy workshops before thinking about how to plan a marketing campaign.

Step 2: Set out your campaign specifics

Once we’re happy we’ve identified our audience, their motivations and our budget, we can confidently move on to the nuts and bolts of how to plan a marketing campaign.

The first question to ask yourself is, ‘Why are we running a marketing campaign?’ Are you launching a new product? Targeting a new market? Taking advantage of an industry event or public holiday? This will help you to decide on your timeframe and whether you need to segment your audience ahead of your campaign.

For example, if you are a shoe shop launching a new range of young children’s shoes, you will first need to create an audience segment comprising parents of young children. If you are running a Hallowe’en campaign, you need to time your campaign for the weeks around October 31st.

How to plan a marketing campaign: plan all your activities
Just using a simple spreadsheet with all of the tasks plotted against time will highlight just how much there is to do

From your marketing plan, you should be able to decide on which platforms you will run your campaign. Will it be a ‘real world’ or digital marketing campaign? Will it be an integrated marketing campaign which uses both online and offline platforms? If digital only, will you be using social media? Which tools and platforms will you use?

Another important decision you will need to make is about budget allocation. Will you put money aside for pay-per-click ads? Will you purchase print media space? Again, your decisions should be guided by your expectations on how your audience consumes content.

Finally, your campaign needs to be tied to SMART goals. For those who need reminding, that means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals. If you tend to sell 100 pairs of children’s shoes a month, selling 150 pairs over the Christmas period is likely to meet the definition of a SMART goal for your business.

Step 3: Clarify your big idea

One of the secrets of how to plan a marketing campaign is choosing a powerful theme or idea to stand behind it.

As David Ogilvy once said, “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.”

Some themes are embodied in the type of campaign you’re running. For example, the 2022 Comic Relief and Walkers Christmas campaign is backed by the seasonal theme of sharing conversation with the people you love, which is also tied up with another powerful theme, that of mental health.

Advertising with a powerful message cuts through the nonsense and gets us talking

Other themes will be more closely tied with your business branding. For example, if your shoe brand is centred on a convenient shopping experience, you could ensure your children’s shoes campaign consistently drives home that message.

Step 4: Plan deliverables

Here is where the rubber really hits the road with your marketing campaigns. Whether you’re a one man band or have a marketing team behind you, you will need to create all of the assets for your campaign ahead of time.

Many companies fall down by putting a lot of pressure on themselves to create graphics, articles and videos at short notice. This leads to poor quality results which reduce the campaign’s effectiveness.

How to plan a marketing campaign: draw out a realistic timeline!
Have a big visual somewhere to hold marketing in the forefront of your mind and keep you on task

Most successful businesses have a documented content strategy which can be adapted to meet the demands of each of their marketing campaigns. This will often include a team content calendar through which team members can co-ordinate their deliverables. We can help you with all of the above if this is unfamiliar territory for you.

Rather than bombarding your audience with content, chunking it down into small pieces and feeding it to them piecemeal is often more effective (and easier to manage from your end).

Set a launch date weeks or months ahead, it will allow you to be creative with the content you leak, the way you encourage engagement between your platforms and most importantly – give you and the team realistic timeframes to deliver it!

Tip: Many businesses underestimate the onboarding process when it comes to platforms such as Google Ads or Meta Business Suite. Allocate time for relevant team members to learn how to use your chosen tools and platforms.

Step 5: Prepare your campaign

In the lead up to your campaign start date, create some pre-launch buzz, perhaps using teaser graphics, blog posts or even video trailers. Cross pollinate the idea of signing up to newsletters for more info on your social platforms and vice versa – use this exciting opportunity to tease and grow your audience.

Set up online ad campaigns a few days ahead of launch to give enough time for asset and policy approval and, if necessary, adjustment.

Make sure your analytics service is set up with any necessary conversion goals.

Step 6: Press the green button

Most marketing campaigns start with a flurry of intense activity on ‘launch day’. Make sure that your launch coincides with the times your target audience are most active.

press the big green launch button
The time will come to turn on some advertising, be sure you have checked and double checked

Step 7: Monitor and reflect

Once the campaign has ended, get together with your team to analyse the results. If you are using paid digital advertising, you can gather a lot of information from the campaign dashboards of the services you are using (e.g., Google Ads or Meta Business Suite).

Your analytics service will give you insight into activity on your website, such as where traffic came from and your conversion rate.

Use this information as data for tweaking your marketing plan and your future campaigns. Do more of what works and you should see your revenue and profit grow over time.

Tip: Conversions often happen after the campaign has ended, so don’t assume a campaign has failed if you miss your goals. Tie your results into your overall sales cycle to measure any hard to spot impact on year-on-year patterns.

Need some help getting your campaigns off the ground?

For more advice on how to plan a marketing campaign, please get in touch. If you need to shore up your marketing plan first, book a spot on our next Digital Marketing Strategy Workshop where a Vu marketing specialist will answer all your questions and work through practical exercises with you and your team.

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