Planning a marketing campaign is, let’s be honest, the dullest part of marketing. Marketers are creative people and they want to get stuck into the exciting parts, copywriting, designing graphics, carrying out research, posting to social media, and all the other cool stuff involved in bringing a marketing campaign together.
But without a marketing plan, all those lovely things are just a collection of parts that don’t sit together to make a whole. They’re simply vehicles of delivery, or content ‘forms’, in a process that requires the perfect message, the right content form, and the right platform, to ensure the message is delivered to the right people at the right time.
To make planning your campaign, dare I say it, fun, I’m going to give you a ten-point plan and process you can use to bring everything together, and make your marketing campaigns effective.
10-point plan for planning a marketing campaign
- Start at the end
- Write a brief
- Set a budget
- Create a detailed plan
- Build your team
- Allocate jobs and set timelines
- Set all the technical details
- Create a feedback loop
- Launch and monitor
- Measure, report and learn for next time
1. Start at the end
This might sound backwards, and it is, but starting at the end makes a lot of sense. What do you want your marketing campaign to achieve? This is the key question most businesses miss. By deciding this, you’ll be able to measure success. Without knowing this, how will you know if it worked?
Knowing what you want to achieve up front helps the team bring your marketing campaign together to establish exactly what they are tasked to do. Ambiguity is the death of planning (a marketing campaign).
2. Write a brief
I don’t mean a 200-page PowerPoint with more detail that you need to launch a mission to Mars. The brief should be no more than a few pages, the shorter the better, but not short on the crucial details which include:
- What is the campaign supposed to achieve?
See point 1. Keep this simple and measurable. Too many things will just dilute the plan.
- Who owns the project?
This is key. One person needs to take overall ownership. While they should listen and take feedback, the project owner should make all the final calls. Nothing great was achieved by committee!
- What is the final deadline?
All other deadlines will be worked out later, but without a fixed time and date, things don’t get done.
- How will you measure success?
See point 1
3. Set a budget
Budgets scare people, and that’s fine, but when actual £ or $ are being spent, it focuses people. Budgets also make it even more important to be very clear about what you want your marketing campaign to achieve.
Remember though, that budgets are not just cash. Budgets are also time. So even if you are using your internal marketing team and there’s no budget to speak of, in terms of outgoing costs, your budget is time. Your internal marketing team still need to be paid!
4. Create a detailed plan
Now for the “fun” bit of planning a marketing campaign – spreadsheets!
You can use a fancy project management tool if you have one, but for most campaigns, a spreadsheet will do. I know lots of people who prefer pen and paper, and that’s fine too, to begin with, but eventually, you should digitise your plan.
If you have more than one person working on your campaign you’ll want a way to collaborate and paper or post-it notes, just won’t cut it. They also don’t travel too well and are easy to misplace.
We use Google Sheets when planning a marketing campaign, but you can use your own weapon of choice. On your sheet, you need to detail every single action you need to carry out to complete your campaign. Each action will have more detail within it, but getting the main details down is the point of this exercise.
5. Build your team
Just like the Avengers, you need to assemble! This part will always come after the plan and brief, as up to this point you won’t know what you are doing.
Building a team is really key. If you are a team of one, you’ll soon see which parts you can do and which are out of your skill set. You might need a marketing agency (big hint there) or there might be colleagues that could help you, but you must choose wisely. Giving someone a role because they are a mate, or at a loose end, is a bad plan.
At this point, you might need to revisit your budget or timelines if you need to bring in collaborators.
6. Allocate jobs and set timelines
Make sure you allocate sections of the project to the best person you have available, show them the brief and your planning spreadsheet, get feedback and adjust as needed. Once you adjust, make sure you set clear expectations and deadlines, and get your team to agree to them.
7. Set all the technical details
Marketing is pretty technical these days. Gone are the times when counting coupons in the post was as hard as it got (those were great times). Depending on what you’re planning, and what you want your marketing campaign to achieve, there could be some very technical details you need to ensure are covered off.
- This could be as simple as ensuring you have stock if you’re selling a product.
- Or setting up your e-commerce store to ensure sales are passed through to Google Analytics
There’s an array of things that could go wrong technically when planning a marketing campaign, hence paying attention to building the right team.
8. Create a feedback loop
Now you have your plan, things will change.
It’s inevitable that deadlines will move, issues will arise, people will be ill, you’ll have missed something, the sky will fall in etc. So, you need to build a feedback loop into your marketing plan.
This is where using a collaborative spreadsheet comes in, and setting those deadlines really comes in. (You did set them didn’t you?) Feedback meetings and sheet updates are what will stop you from losing your mind and the campaign. Communication is really key. This also ties into creating the right team, see point 5.
9. Launch and monitor
At last, the exciting part of planning a marketing campaign! Launching is what you and your team have been building towards, and it is both the best and worst part.
Best because it is finally out there, and worst because it is now by and large out of your control.
Real people are going to be reacting to your marketing campaign, and that means you’ll need to respond to the praise, delight, complaints and issues. You may even have to adjust as you go forward, but all your planning should mean you are able to tackle most eventualities.
This is also a good time to dip back into that feedback loop to resolve problems or opportunities as they come up.
10. Measure, report and learn for next time
The marketing campaign you planned is over, so it’s time to look at what happened and see if you hit that goal you set in step 1.
- Did you smash it? – Brilliant
- Did you hit it? – Well done
- Just short? – Well done again
- Failed? – Oh no
Whatever the result of your campaign, you can now go back over your plan and check the measurements you set for yourself, reporting on what went well and what didn’t.
Your marketing plan will help you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and cock-ups.
Win, lose or draw, you need to learn from your results before the next time you plan a marketing campaign.
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