Every marketing campaign should start with a plan. Not just a plan in your head, but a documented plan that you can refer to as you build and implement the campaign, and look back on to judge its effectiveness.
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Many marketers neglect this step. They start doing things without planning. They fail to create meaningful goals, misalign their tactics with their goals, or forget to measure anything. All of this diminishes or eliminates their results.
What counts of a marketing campaign worth planning? Everything, says Amanda Durepos at Unbounce. “If you want to achieve measurable results with your marketing, you need to treat every single one of your marketing activities as a marketing campaign.”
Set proper campaign goals
Creating goals is a critical component of planning a marketing campaign, but it’s also the step many neglect. They jump right into the tactics without having a clear understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish.
First, ask yourself about the purpose of your campaign. Do you want to attract more traffic to your website? Do you want more people to sign up for your email list? Do you want people to buy a particular product or service? Do you want them to view multiple pages? Click on ads? Listen to your podcast? Download your eBook?
Once you’ve established the purpose of your campaign, you can create a goal. But not just any goal. Vague goals like “I want more ecommerce sales,” “I want to raise awareness,” or “I want more traffic” aren’t concrete. You won’t know if or when you’ve achieved or failed.
The best goals are SMART.
How to create SMART goals
- Specific – You need to understand exactly what you’re trying to improve.
- Measurable – They have to be goals that can be measured objectively.
- Attainable – They need to be realistic; not pie-in-the-sky dreams.
- Relevant – You have to tie the campaign goals to your overall business goals.
- Time bound – There should be an end date where you can say “I’ve succeeded” or “I’ve failed.”
Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a popular ecommerce store that sells children’s clothing and usually sells 1,000 units per season: “We want to sell 2,000 units of our new spring collection by May 1, 2017.”
This goal is specific and measurable because it sets a benchmark for 2,000 units. It’s attainable because the company isn’t seeking an outrageous increase in sales. It’s relevant, obviously, because they’re selling existing products. It’s time bound because they have an end date.
Make sure to consider your customer
It’s important to position your campaign so it gets the best response. As you set your goal(s), be sure to consider the type of customer you expect to respond to your campaign. Don’t give away free circus tickets to people looking for B2B software. Don’t offer an AARP membership discount to kids looking for trendy shoes.
Furthermore, consider your customer’s position in the buying cycle. A customer who isn’t quite sure he has a problem isn’t interested in a product comparison article. However, a customer who knows they have a problem and is ready to purchase a solution would like to read a comparison between you and a competitor.
Set a reasonable budget
You need a clear understanding of what you can afford before you start your campaign. This prevents you from spending too much and ruining your return on investment.
“Budgeting is all about being realistic,” recommends American Express. How much business can you reasonably expect to capture? Take this figure and calculate how much profit you’ll earn from those buyers. Think about their lifetime value, not their first purchase.
Next, estimate your audience’s potential response rate. This will depend heavily on the type of person you’re reaching and the channel you’re using. For instance, retail email marketing responses are about 4%, but paid social media ads convert lower.
Once you know how many people will respond, you can set a budget. For example, if you expect 200 responses and each response will earn $8 in profit, you have to spend less than $1,600 to be successful.
Decide on campaign tactics (or channels)
Your next step is to decide how you’ll go about achieving your goal(s).
Almost universally, digital marketing campaigns revolve around a landing page on your website. You need somewhere for fans to arrive, learn about your campaign, and take action. Your landing page should be unique to the campaign. When users arrive on the landing page, it should be clear that the page is related to whatever link they clicked.
Unbounce has an excellent guide to creating landing pages to get you started. Other useful tools include InstaPage, Lead Pages, and Launchrock.
Once you’ve built a landing page, you need some tactics to send traffic to that page. How will you spread the word?
There are countless promotional methods. You could create blog content, implement a social media strategy, buy paid ads on search engines or social websites, post on community sites/forums, launch press releases, host a contest, guest blog, etc.
Fortunately, this decision is usually fairly simple. The tactics you choose will be based on two variables:
First, consider your audience. Where do your customers spend time? Where can they be reached? What sites, social networks, forums, or blogs do they frequent? All products/services aren’t suitable in all channels. For example, you wouldn’t sell auto parts through email if the subscribers signed up for information about weight loss because the audience isn’t right.
Next, consider your budget. You shouldn’t invest in a channel that’s too expensive. If your ROI becomes negative, the whole campaign was a waste.
Tracking your campaign
If you’re like most marketers, your campaigns involve several channels. It’s smart to classify that traffic so you know where it comes from. This will help you judge the effectiveness of each channel to improve your future marketing. For example, if posting on Facebook had an ROI of 3x, but Twitter posting had an ROI of 20x, you would want to focus on Twitter more for the next campaign.
The best way to do this is to track your URLs with UTM codes. A UTM code is some extra text that attaches to the end of the URL to provide some extra data. They tell analytical tools like Google Analytics how many people clicked that link.
UTM codes are critical for marketers who post dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of links. If your campaign requires posting to social media ten times in a day, you would want to track each post so you can focus on the types that get the most clicks. They also help you identify which links people clicked on in an email, even when those links point to the same URL (you might learn whether your subscribers prefer to click on buttons, links or images).
Content creators should use UTM codes to track links to each piece of content from each source. Ecommerce store owners would want individual trackable links for each product.
Buffer has an excellent guide on the basics of UTM codes. To get started making your own UTM URLs, try Terminus.
Make use of what you’ve got
Whenever you plan a marketing campaign, make sure to include your existing assets, like your blog, social media fans, or an email list. For example, even if your current marketing campaign doesn’t have a large social media element, it’s still smart to mention it on your social profiles. You’ve already invested in that asset, so make use of it however you can.
At the end of your campaign, go back to your tracking tool and measure everything. Did you produce the ROI you intended? Did you stay within budget? Was your response rate accurate? Were your tactics effective?
If this is your first campaign, keep in mind that it won’t be perfect. But if you plan properly and measure accordingly, you’ll gain valuable learning that will improve your future campaigns.