Marketing Campaign Planning: What Is the Process and Why Should You Create One?

We’ve all seen a political campaign in action. It’s a push to get a candidate in front of a specific group of voters within a certain time frame (often sooner in the election season than we all would prefer). Campaign managers know that certain types of voters want to see certain issues addressed. As such, they make a concerted effort to get a specific message (ex. unions) in front of the right people (ex: certain trade professionals) via tactics like targeted mailings, ads on specific websites, etc.

Marketing campaigns involve a similar process: figuring out your target audience and getting in front of them with the right content at the correct time and place. The primary difference is, of course, the end goal.

So how do you start the process of marketing campaign planning? You begin by asking the right questions: the why, what, who, when, where, and how of developing your plan.

#1: Why should you create a marketing campaign plan?

Marketing campaigns differ from marketing programs. “Marketing program” is a term for your overarching tactics that take place on a recurring basis, such as distributing regular email newsletters, blogs, or webinars. “Marketing campaign” is a term for a more specific effort completed over a specific period of time.

For example, imagine you want to increase brand awareness for your new software product. You might create an email marketing campaign with the goal of getting potential customers to download a white paper about your product. In contrast, if your objective was to generate leads, you might use a different tactic altogether, such as offering a free trial of your software in exchange for contact information.

You should develop a marketing campaign only if you have a goal in mind that cannot be achieved by your regularly scheduled marketing program (or if you want to test out a new addition to your marketing program–more on that later). And that starts with a clear, documented marketing campaign plan.

So, how can you hone in on your objective and target your campaign to your needs?

#2: What is your objective?

That starts with clearly defining your needs and expectations. Here’s an overview of some of the reasons people choose to run campaigns. Do you want to…

  • Build brand awareness? A popular marketing statistic points out that it takes 5 – 7 touches (although this number is debated) for someone to begin to form awareness of your brand and its services or products. If you’ve been trying to reach the same audience time and time again with little progress, it’s time to cast a wider net and build a campaign that informs and educates prospective buyers.
  • Drive traffic to your website? This is a common marketing campaign goal and one that can be achieved through a variety of tactics, such as paid search ads or display ads, an SEO optimization campaign, email lists, developing a lot of content around a specific topic or for a particular group, or social media campaigns.
  • Generate leads? A lead generation campaign’s purpose is to capture interest in your products or services with the goal of converting prospects into sales-ready leads. These campaigns use landing pages, forms, free trials, consultations, coupons, and other offers to entice potential customers.
  • Launch a new product or service? If you have a new product or service to promote or existing ones that could use a boost, running a marketing campaign can help. Discounts, bundling, free shipping, add-ons—there are many ways to structure an offer that will appeal to your audience.
  • Test out a new tactic? Maybe you’ve avoided a tactic like webinars because you weren’t sure your audience was interested in video content. However, your buyer personas have changed, and you’re beginning to suspect video may now be a viable tactic. You can start with a webinar marketing campaign, test it across various channels and promotional techniques, and decide at the close of your campaign whether or not it’s worth repeating in the long term.

When documenting your objective, try to make it specific and measurable when applicable. For example, you can plan to generate 10 new sales-qualified leads (SQLs) from your new landing page, ad, and email campaign.

Your objective will determine the approach of your campaign. For example, if your goal is to build brand awareness, you’ll likely need to build out brand assets before you begin, such as a website or social media profiles. If you’re looking to generate leads, you’ll want to make sure you have lead capture forms in place so that you can collect information from interested prospects.

#3: Who is your target audience?

Your target audience should be at the forefront of your planning process. Everything from the messaging in your campaign to the channels you use to reach them should be designed with your buyer personas in mind. Not sure who your target audience is? Check out our blog on how to create buyer personas in a strategic marketing plan for more tips.

It’s important to build out everything you know about this target audience before running your campaign. That way, the messaging, information, and distribution will be as targeted as possible. For B2B audiences, this includes:

  • A summary of the type of business
  • The buyer’s job title (along with the titles of anyone else involved in the purchase decision)
  • Specific pain points
  • Potential blockers
  • Where they shop for/find information about their business

If you’re not sure where to start, consider surveying your current customer base or conducting market research.

#4: When do you plan to run your campaign?

Your time frame will also influence your planning process. For example, if you’re running a short-term campaign around a seasonal product, you’ll need to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunity.

On the other hand, you may be promoting a product or service you’ve had for many years but haven’t received the level of interest you’ve hoped for. Whether your campaign is for lead generation or brand awareness, it’s still just as important to set (tentative) time frames for your campaign. This is because:

  • It gives you a deadline to step back and analyze what’s working and what’s not
  • It allows you to track your progress over time
  • Most strategies need more than a month to give you any real, statistically significant data

If you’re not sure how long your campaign should run, start with a shorter period of time and reassess as you go. This way, you can always extend the campaign if it’s performing well, make changes as needed, or pause your campaign altogether.

#5: Where will you reach your audience?

There are a number of ways to reach your target audience, and the most effective approach will vary depending on who your target market is. Some common methods include:

  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn)
  • Display advertising (online banner ads)
  • Search engine marketing (Google AdWords)
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing (blog posts, infographics, eBooks)

Again, it’s essential to consider where your target audience spends the majority of their time online and tailor your approach accordingly. For example, if you’re trying to reach millennials, you’ll likely have more success on Instagram than you would on Facebook.

#6: How will you achieve your objective and measure success?

Once you’ve determined which channels to utilize, it’s time to start creating your content, messaging, and/or advertisements. This is where the fun begins! But before you get too ahead of yourself, consider what kind of feeling you want to communicate and what call-to-action you want your audience to take.

The brainstorming phase is perhaps the most important of any campaign. Your content should be compelling, visually appealing, and most importantly, relevant to your target audience—and that starts with generating ideas that will wow your audience and capture attention in an often-crowded marketplace.

Your marketing campaign plan should include all the details you need to follow-through, including how often you’ll be sharing, who will be responsible for content creation, who will post content, and how you will track and measure success (e.g. Google Analytics goals, e-mail list signups, etc.).

Creating a marketing campaign is no small feat—but if you take the time to do it right, the payoff can be huge. Want to learn more about marketing planning but not sure where to start? Check out our guide below or contact us here.

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