Let me be clear - marketing takes a significant time investment. It is not something that you can just set and forget. Online marketing channels have made mass marketing more accessible to small businesses through pay-per-click models and automation platforms that seem to “run on their own.” However, leaving your marketing campaign to run on it’s own is the quickest way to failure. Think of your marketing as the vehicle that will drive you toward brand recognition and sales. What happens to your car when you neglect to get an oil change? It breaks down. The same will happen to your marketing if you neglect to service it regularly. The difference is that changes in technology and online algorithms happen more frequently than changes in automotive technology. I understand that as a small business, you have limited resources, which is why my best advice is simple and you’re likely familiar with it: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Yes, the ‘P Principle.’ It will take you far.
If your current marketing initiatives are not producing positive results, or if you are contemplating launching a new strategy, here’s a quick guide on how to plan and launch a successful marketing campaign:
1. Start with a campaign brief
Your brief will be your marketing campaign bible. I write a brief for every project I work on, from things as small as this very blog you’re reading to things as complex as a 100 page website redesign. A campaign brief is essential to avoiding chaos and misunderstandings, it documents all required campaign information in one place to align all stakeholders. A good campaign brief will contain the following elements:
Your objective is a singular goal that drives each component/tactic of of your marketing campaign. Every decision made will directly tie back to this stated objective.
Your budget will help to identify the best mediums available within your range. The fact of the matter is national TV ads are more expensive than online display units, so depending on your budget your options may be limited. Once you’ve established your total campaign budget, break that down into weekly and daily budget numbers (especially if you are using online marketing channels), this will allow you to efficiently manage your spend and ROI.
Don’t fret if you don’t have a large budget, start small. I know in the world of social media celebrities and “influencers” starting small doesn’t sound sexy, but you have to start somewhere. There are several ways to stretch a small budget in the age of digital marketing. Feel free to ask me any questions you have in relation to optimizing small marketing budgets, by clicking the "Ask Me Anything" button above.
Do not skip this part of the brief. If you are just starting out you may be tempted to neglect this portion of the brief and I understand, how can you know who your target audience is if you don’t have an established customer base?... If you’re asking this question, you have three options:
Secondary research, there is plenty of research available online through industry articles and paid research services such as Mintel, Forrester, etc. However, those options can be pricey.
Look at major players in your industry and find their target audience, you can also find this through research… the unpaid kind that you do yourself.
If all else fails, establish a broad target, ensure that you have proper tracking mechanisms in place and continuously edit your target audience based on the campaign data, until you’ve found your niche and your most valuable customers.
What do you want your target audience to do when they see your ad? This is where you establish clarity on where your audience is in the purchase funnel. This section of your brief is a direct reflection of your stated campaign objective. Fill in the blanks to the following statement: In order to <insert campaign objective>, my prospective customers must <insert desired behavior>.
Reasons To Believe:
Establish three reasons your prospects should take the desired action.
The first reason should describe a feature of your products/service.
The second reason should describe the benefit of that product to the end user/customer.
The third reason should be the hook or what differentiates your product from competitors.
Key Performance Indicators:
Also known as KPIs. These are metrics that determine the success of your campaign. How will you know if your campaign is successful? Is it floor traffic, or website traffic? Is it social media engagement, likes, shares or comments? Or maybe it’s simply sales. Whatever your metric is you must vigilantly track this information to quantify the value of your campaign and your return on investment.
Determine how you will distribute your message. Your tactics should take into consideration your budget, desired audience behavior and KPIs. For instance, we know that display advertising will generate thousands of impressions and site traffic at a low cost. However, it tends to be more of an upper funnel activity targeting people that may not be ready to make an immediate purchase. And we know that search engine marketing tends to work well when targeting lower funnel prospects that are actively looking for a specific product. Figure out the right mix of marketing tactics for your business and work them into your budget.
Pro Tip: Consider a phased approach to your campaign to optimize budget and drive prospects through the purchase funnel.
You must include a timeline, especially if you will be working with a team to execute your campaign. Your timeline will establish milestone/deadlines and keep everyone, including you on track. List each project task and it’s associate due date (or timeframe), and communicate it to all stakeholders and resources. Your timeline may look something like this (simplified version):
09/04/17 - Project Kick-Off
09/06/17 - Establish campaign content schedule
09/07/17 - Start campaign ads creative
09/14/17 - Campaign ads creative due
09/15/17 - Set up Facebook campaign
09/15/17 - Set up keyword groups
09/16/17 - Upload campaign creative
09/18/17 - Launch campaign
09/25/17 - Week 1 metrics report
10/02/17 - Week 2 metrics report
10/06/17 - Campaign end
10/09/17 - Campaign wrap up report
10/13/17 - Lessons learned regroup
10/16/17 - Distribute lessons learned
2. Vendors, Tools & Resources
You will likely need help to execute your marketing campaign and your help will come in the form of an outside vendor that you pay to execute your strategy or tools and resources such as Adwords, SEMRush, Facebook Ads Manager, etc. that allow you to implement your campaign on your own. Once you’ve identified your resources add them to the tasks in your timeline, for which they will be used. This establishes accountability for each element of your campaign.
3. Program/Project Management
This aspect of a successful campaign is often overlooked, because people tend to think that things just happen. But we all know, this is not the case. You must manage each deliverable of your campaign to ensure quality, timeliness and budget adherence. If you don’t have the time to manage your marketing program, I strongly advise that you enlist someone else to do so, otherwise, you may as well throw money out the window. You must have a program manager in place from the campaign kick-off through campaign close. Your program manager will be one of, if not these most valuable campaign assets that you have. He/she will likely play a large part in the success or failure of the initiative.
If you are using digital channels to execute your campaign strategy, you will want to be measuring your success metrics (KPIs) regularly. Someone should be tracking and reporting on your campaign at least weekly, if not daily. Reviewing your campaign performance will allow you to optimize on the fly as necessary. If you notice that a specific channel or placement is not generating activity, this is your opportunity to adjust it or remove it from your mix. Or if a specific channel or placement is generating a ton of clicks, using your budget, but not generating the desired outcome, nix it immediately. If a certain channel is driving significant sales, increase the budget.The only way you will know these things is if you are checking/managing your campaign regularly.
5. Lessons Learned
Most companies never do this, but documenting what you’ve learned from a project/campaign will prevent you from making mistakes in the future. As your company grows, historical knowledge is priceless, because your future employees do not live in your head. Including the information that you learn from projects in training material for new employees will save you unnecessary headaches. Also, listing lessons learned in future campaign briefs will align your project team and again, save you unnecessary headaches.
I hope this helps!
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