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The Complete Guide to Creating a Marketing Campaign

This blog post is being revamped and updated to reflect the most up to date and accurate practices.

Build a Campaign from Start to Finish

This is a comprehensive guide to building, launching, and monitoring a marketing campaign. This guide is designed to help increase website traffic, improve the quality of leads a business collects, and create the reporting structure to measure ROI and the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

If you’re a small business owner, tech-driven startup, or established medium-sized business, this guide is right for you.


Colin MacInnis is a digital marketer and educator at Cape Breton University. His career stems from technology companies that serve large B2B enterprises. In Colin’s role, he helps managers execute go-to-market strategies, analyze ROI, and increase market share.


Part 1: Understand Modern Marketing Operations

Welcome to part 1 of this comprehensive guide on how to create and launch a marketing campaign.

This section is dedicated to aligning readers on the meaning of marketing operations and how its function connects to sales and customer success. By getting on the same page, the logic of how to create, launch, monitor, and measure a marketing campaign will make much more sense.

Please review this section briefly before proceeding through the rest of the guide.

It’s hard to be on the same page when you’re reading different books.

1. The Big Picture of Marketing Operations

There is a tendency in business that silos marketers to the marketing department and salespeople to the sale department. For decades, the 2 departments have struggled to align their goals and activities. Modern-day marketers recognize the flaws of this siloed mindset and have begun emphasizing roles that align marketing and sales (e.g. Chief Revenue Officer, SVP Revenue Operations, etc.).

revenue operations cycle
Marketing is Collaborative

This diagram shows us how marketing, sales, and customer success should collaborate with each other. A difficult part of constructing revenue operations is ensuring the activities flow smoothly between each business unit.

Some questions you might want to consider are: (1) How might your marketing department align its activities closer to sales operations or customer success representatives? (2) How can you discover the ‘wow’ moment of your product and service and use that information to power your marketing operations?

2. Marketing Campaigns vs Day-to-Day Operations

How does a marketer spend their day? This is a great question. Marketing has grown to encompass elements of social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and more.

It would be wrong to create an equation suggesting marketers spend 20% of their day doing social media marketing, 30% on advertising, and 50% creating new content — their work depends on upcoming events, seasonality, customer trends, and more.

This is why I suggest there are 2 categories of work to which a marketer performs:

  1. Day-to-Day Marketing Operations. Activities a marketer does day-to-day in their role. This could include reviewing customer demographics, responding to comments on social media, drafting ad creative, or making changes to a website. The nature of day-to-day operations is that it is fluid, loose, and dependent on other projects the organization is pursuing.
  2. Marketing Campaigns. Deeply concentrated activities with a keen focus to achieve a specific result. Campaigns are used when a business wants to do a big push to promote its brand, promote products and services before a holiday, organize an event, or deliver a targeted message. Marketing campaigns are projects pursued in addition to day-to-day operations.

With the above covered, there is no distinct breakdown of how often marketers pursue campaigns versus perform the daily tasks of marketing — they both run simultaneously.

3. The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations

The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations is a framework I developed  for managers to organize and create marketing strategies for their marketing operations.

My framework is subject to biased opinion, however, I feel my background, skillset, and credibility warrants me the ability to create and suggest such a framework. To my credit, I’ve worked with many startups to help build their foundation for growth and prosperity, have started 3 businesses of my own (1 failed, 1 sold, 1 running), and am educated in computer science, marketing, and economics, and information systems. In addition to this, I spend my spare time reading cases in business development, CRMs, and artificial intelligence.

As a sort of algorithmic way of demystifying the world of marketing operations, I’ve categorized my knowledge of marketing operations into 4 dimensions, called The 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations.

In summary, the framework highlights the following 4 dimensions of marketing operations:

  1. PR & Communications. Public relations helps businesses gain exposure at a corporate level — not at the product/service level. New announcements, shared reports, earning statements, competitive direction, etc. These are the areas to which a company, founder, or president shares information about the company’s vision, mission, and direction. PR & Communications can come in the form of releasing an annual progress report, sharing news of new partnerships and alliances, or even venture capital announcements
  2. Brand Awareness. Brand awareness helps people build familiarity with a brand. This familiarity leads to attention, interest, and consideration when considering an organization’s products and services. Some activities for Brand Awarenessinclude billboards, logo placements, running YouTube ads, sponsoring events, and publishing content
  3. Lead Generation. Lead Generation helps businesses increase sales for, without leads, there are no sales(and without sales, there is no cashflow). In balancing your daily marketing activities, ensure your website, events, emails, call-to-actions, and content are yielding new marketing qualified leads for your sales team to engage. Opt-in’s can include ‘schedule a call’, ‘book a meeting’, or ‘download our service catalog’.
  4. Customer Success. By bridging customer success and marketing, businesses can improve customer retention. Marketing activities for customer success draw on the success and value proposition of your product or service. Activities can include highlighting a customer’s experience, showing how a solution fits with the customer’s need, how a customer realized the benefits of the product or service, and more. The important part is that your marketing activities inspire trust and belief in your product, service, or organization (yielding more referrals to your business).

Download The Marketing Operations Canvas

This Marketing Operations Canvas is a tool for managers to organize and create marketing strategies. It’s design is based off the 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations highlighted in this section of the guide.

Download PDF

Part 2: How to Plan a Marketing Campaign

As mentioned earlier, a marketing campaign is a concentrated set of activities dedicated to achieving a specific result. In this section, the process of campaign planning will be explored, giving you clear steps for creating a campaign that succeeds.

1. Choose 1 Dimension of Marketing Operations

Choose 1 of the 4 Dimensions of Marketing Operations to concentrate your campaign efforts on:

  1. PR & Communication. Used for promoting a corporate message, strategic direction, community event, or effort that involves government, government funding, or government partners.
  2. Brand Awareness. Used for raising awareness of a company’s logo, the industry a company operates in, or the articulation of an organization’s products and services.
  3. Lead Generation. Used for generating sales activity for a business. This includes building sales intent, capturing leads via an opt-in, or promoting a specific product or service.
  4. Customer Success. Used for building customer loyalty and fandom amongst customers and consumers of an organization’s products or services. This would include reward programs, membership promotions, and other similar programs or events.

The reason I emphasize concentrating on 1 dimension instead of 2+ is that managers tend to get carried away. What begins as a simple campaign to generate followers for an Instagram account can quickly spiral into a massive “BUY NOW” frontier; spanning multiple different points in a campaign’s lifetime. Don’t make this mistake.

If you need to achieve both brand awareness and lead generation for your business, create separate campaigns.

2. Select Your Campaign Objective

Your campaign objective will depend on the dimension of marketing operations you chose in step 1. In the case you’re stuck, here are a few options for your campaign objective:

Campaign Objectives for Brand Awareness

  • Increase Facebook likes
  • Increase Twitter followers
  • Increase Instagram followers
  • Increase email subscribers
  • Increase social engagement
  • Increase blog engagement
  • Increase impressions

Campaign Objectives for Lead Generation

  • Get visits to your product page
  • Get people to book demos
  • Get people to schedule free consultations
  • Get people to contact the sales team
  • Get people to create an account
  • Get people to sign up for free trials
  • Increase leads

Campaign Objectives for PR & Communications

  • Introduce a new program for community members (e.g. student scholarship award)
  • Co-host an event with community members (e.g. Chamber of Commerce event)
  • Announce a new corporate direction
  • Increase communication with investors and board members

Campaign Objectives for Customer Success

  • Raise awareness of a rewards program
  • Give thanks to existing customers
  • Increase the number of referrals from customers
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Increase memberships
  • Encourage customer feedback

3. Select the Target Audience

Based on your existing customer-base or suspected target audience, what demographics and themes can you extract? When speculating a target audience, we’re often inclined to consider things like age and language. However, I encourage you to explore additional information you can collect from your CRM data or what you speculate from your competitors’ customers (hobbies, interests, job titles, etc.).

Sample: The Target Audience for SUP Baddeck. SUP Baddeck was a watersport company I owned, operated, and sold. The target audience was female healthcare professionals (nurses, RNs, LPNs, doctors, etc.) between the ages of 21 and 35 who were interested in hiking, sailing, and tourism.

The reason you should be specific with your target audience is to test and experiment with different customer segments. If you target too many groups of people, your campaign messaging becomes broader and less personalized. As a result, the persuasive elements of your ad copy and designs don’t work as well. Furthermore, by splitting out your audiences, you can gain stronger insight into which groups of people respond favorably to your messaging.

4. Set Your Campaign Budget

The goal of this step is to choose a number that’s realistic for your operations.

Before brainstorming ideas for your campaign, it’s wise to decide on the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Otherwise, when it’s time to share ideas with teammates, you’ll receive too many unrealistic suggestions that work against your operating capacity (e.g. getting Joe Rogan to record and post an endorsement for your business).

Lastly, this number will be based on (1) your ambition, and (2) your campaign objective. If you’re a solo startup founder wanting to launch a campaign with 4-5 different campaign objectives and achieve massive results with little-to-no cashflow, you’ll need to adjust your expectations.

Budget considerations that might be applicable for you:

  • The Side Hustle Entrepreneur.
  • The Tech Startup with 3 People.
  • The Traditional Small Business Playing Catch-Up.
  • The Business with a Healthy Budget.

5. Brainstorm Ideas for Your Campaign

Now that you’re armed with (1) a dimension of marketing operations to pursue, (2) an objective for the chosen dimension, (3) a target audience, and (4) a budget, you can begin adding creative elements of the campaign ideas.

At this point, you can either facilitate the brainstorming phase yourself or give a member of your team the brief containing the 4 items mentioned above.

The ideation phase, or brainstorming phase, should be a collaborative process involving fellow marketers and representatives within the marketing, sales, or customer success department(s). The more people that are involved in ideation, the more ideas are considered. The downside is that by involving more people, the process of generating a singular campaign idea becomes longer; consuming more time. However, the benefit of involving others exceeds the time-cost of brainstorming as it accelerates the psychological “buy-in” decision in the minds of those involved. Otherwise, the campaign idea risks being seen as “out there”, “unrealistic”, “stupid”, etc.

Relative to the time spent brainstorming, it should not take a team of 10 people 3 weeks to generate a campaign idea. Throughout your brainstorming session, a sense of logical judgment should be present; moving the team towards the finish line.

An ideation process that guides and accelerates the brainstorming process is Design Thinking.

Perhaps the most important thing to emphasize is that your ideas fall within the scope defined in earlier steps of this section.

6. Choose Your Campaign Idea

With the brainstorming phase complete, it’s time to place your bet on the winning campaign idea. Based on the criteria originally required — dimension, objective, target audience, and budget — the chosen idea should meet the campaign objective.

Example: Let’s design a Christmas catalog for our millennial audience that promotes our store products.

  • Dimension: Lead Generation (there’s sales intent to drive catalog downloads)
  • Objective: Promote store products
  • Target Audience: Millennials
  • Budget: $5,000
  • Brainstorming Elements: Focus on the upcoming Christmas holiday

7. Choose the Best Channels for Your Target Audience

Years ago, marketers became hell-bent on a concept called Integrated Marketing Communications (IMCs). The idea of IMCs is to launch a campaign across multiple channels on a number of different mediums (e.g. running an ad campaign on YouTube, in the newspaper, and on a billboard).

IMCs are pretty good as they work well for marketers that believe in multi-channel attribution, however, more marketers are seeing IMC campaigns becoming less effective. Why is this? Because there’s less focus on the target audience and their preferred channels of communication.

If my target audience cares only about YouTube and Instagram, why bother promoting on LinkedIn? In my view of things, businesses have templated their IMC approach, taking campaigns on tour across typical platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn instead of really leaning into places and mediums that matter.

  • What events matter most to your audience? (e.g. Superbowl, Comicon, etc.)
  • Where does your audience hang out online? (e.g. YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, etc.)

8. Build Your Campaign Calendar & List Required Assets

This is an extra step if you’re looking for recommendations on how to manage your campaign project. Most people will use a spreadsheet to list what’s needed and what the status of each item are. This is fine if you’re working internally and are more interested in launching sooner, but if you want to list out what days which activities will happen, review the plan, etc., a Campaign Calendar is likely to do the trick.

Download the ‘About Us’ Campaign

This is a sample campaign plan that relates to this section of the guide. Hope you enjoy!

Download PDF

Part 3: How to Launch a Marketing Campaign

Part 1 of this guide covered the modern-day concepts of marketing operations (Marketing Operations 101). In part 2, we expanded on those initial concepts and learned how to plan a marketing campaign. In this section, we’ll be diving into the activities involved in launching a campaign.

Since there are too many possibilities as to which campaign you’re going to use, I’m going to share a framework you can use to organize your launch activities.

How to Launch a Marketing Campaign:

  1. The Framework: Announce, Ask, Remind
  2. Activities for “Announce”
  3. Activities for “Ask”
  4. Activities for “Remind”
  5. Pre-Launch Checklist

Part 4: How to Monitor a Marketing Campaign

Too many marketers walk away after a campaign has launched. Don’t be like the majority. A good marketer knows launching is only a small win in the greater effort that is an effective marketing campaign.

This section is dedicated to helping you monitor a campaign in the early days after its launch.

How to Monitor a Marketing Campaign:

  1. Coming Soon

1. Create Tracking Links to Capture Campaign Analytics (UTM Parameters)

Before you start wildly sharing links across the web, use a tool like Google’s Campaign URL Builder to attach tracking to your URLs.

This tool attaches an extension to your URLs called “UTM Parameters”.

No UTM Parameters: www.marketingqualified.com

UTM Parameters: https://www.marketingqualified.com/?utm_campaign=my_campaign_name

Notice that this adds “utm_campaign=MY_CAMPAIGN_NAME” to the end of the URL. This means you can track it separately from your other traffic on Google Analytics.

Create trackable URLs wherever applicable for your campaign. This would be required for social media links, links within emails, links inside blog posts, and more.

2. Schedule Your Blog Posts and Social Media Posts

Launching a campaign shouldn’t require staff to manually publish posts at a specific times.

Using website tools like WordPress or Hubspot, schedule your blog posts to publish at a set time. Next use tools like Buffer or Hubspot (again) to load your campaign’s social media posts into a launch sequence.

Once scheduled, your campaign will officially go live to the public, audience, and community.

Publishing Unlisted Videos on YouTube

If you’re planning to use YouTube videos as part of your campaign, you’ll want to publish those in advanced as “Unlisted” videos.

Unlisted videos are visible to people who have the link. They won’t show up in search or alert your subscribers.

Unlisted video means your can safely publish your videos before launching your campaign.

Once on YouTube, you can embed the video on your campaign landing pages, or run them as ad creative leading to your opt-in pages.

Unlisted videos won’t be indexed on YouTube, but if your campaign has ended (or you want it available on YouTube, switch the video from “Unlisted” to “Public”.

3. Send Your Press Releases

You should send press releases early (but not too early).

Media outlets will require some time before publishing your press release. Be sure to give reporters enough time to discuss your press release with their team members and to reach out to you for additional context (quotes, interviews, images, etc.).

For hobby bloggers, I recommend you send your press release a week in advance.

Bloggers tend to have less time than full-time reporters and they’ll need more time to get everything together.

For media outlets, I recommend you send your press release 2-3 days before launch.

Media outlets run at a fast pace and prioritize their content based on what’s interesting or most relevant at the moment. Reporters tend to work faster than bloggers (in my own experience) and are quick to have meetings, make calls, and get what they need to publish your content.

4. Follow an Ad Schedule

When you tee up your campaign ads, it’s important to follow a schedule.

Good campaigns will feature multiple ads.

Think of the promotions for Marvel’s Avengers Endgame. They launch their official trailer, then they run ads “in 14 Days”, “in 10 Days”, “in 7 Days”, “tomorrow”, etc.

Each of these ads feature the same content, but it’s remixed into an edited version that reminds you of the initial trailer.

This is why you’ll notice professionals run video ad campaigns that are 1 minute, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, and 6 seconds.

This isn’t to say you need video ads, but the same principle holds true if you’re using images for your ad creative.

In short, know what you’re going to advertise and when you’re going to advertise it. Include your ad schedule on your campaign calendar. This will keep everyone on-track for expectations and when things are going to go online.

Include Remarketing Ads in Your Ad Schedule

Remarketing ads are a way to catch conversions that fell off during your campaign process. Serving ads to your audiences who’ve already visited your intended campaign opt-in page (but didn’t convert) works wonders.

5. Prepare Your Marketing Automation

Set up your marketing automation in advance.

Once your campaign goes live, the last thing you want to do is scramble to make sure things are working properly. This means that your ebooks are automatically sending. Your lead nurturing emails send. That your alerts and notifications are telling your when someone is warm, or ready for sales qualification.

Here are a few examples of things to double check for your campaign:

  • Forms have the right fields attached to them
  • Forms include the right hidden fields that segment people who sign up
  • Your submit button redirects to the right thank you page
  • When submitting a form, you receive the right offer that you signed up for
  • When book appointments, your team receives notifications they’ve been scheduled
  • That all the links work in your automated emails
  • That people properly enroll into your automated lead nurturing workflows

Managing a Campaign Once It’s Live

Once your campaign goes live, your marketing team needs to flip into a response team.

A big mistake marketers make is to set it and forget it.

Instead, marketers need to be watching engagements, reading comments, answering questions, and creating materials that address gaps in your campaign.

Do people have questions about your pricing? Create an article that explains it.

Are people not sure how to get started with your sales process? Create an article that explains it?

Do people have general questions about your offer? Include an FAQ section on your landing page.

Use tools like Hubspot’s social monitoring tool or Hootsuite to see what people are posting and if they have questions.

Make your campaign amazing and don’t let poor follow-up compromise all the work you put in.

Indicators of a Successful Campaign

There are a number of things to look at when analyzing your campaign.

If you chose to run a Brand Awareness campaign, your success indicators are impressions, likes, comments, and shares (or your engagement rate).

If you chose a Lead Generation campaign, your metrics are page visits, time-on-page, and form submissions. A really successful lead generation campaign would be one that yields marketing qualified leads (MQLs); meaning they’re ready to be engaged by the sales team and spend money.

Overcoming Common Pitfalls

If you run a lead generation campaign and no one signs up, do more brand awareness.

As for pitfalls, don’t be discouraged. The world of digital marketing is like clearing a pipe.

If you’re getting a lot of impressions but no clicks, you have an ad creative/messaging problem.

If you’re getting clicks but no conversions, you’re having a landing page problem.

If you’re getting form submissions but no sales conversion, you’re having a nurturing problem or sales problem.

Either way it goes, marketers need to be keep experimenting and adjusting the process to enable the flow of leads.

There’s no secret formula for the perfect funnel, only experience of what’s worked in the past and what your team is capable of doing right now.

  • Social proof is important for your landing pages
  • Make sure your ad creative and messaging align with your landing page messaging

Conclusion

This article has covered the entire procedure for planning, launching, and managing a marketing campaign.

We’ve addressed the importance of a campaign calendar, an ad schedule, marketing automation, and to manage a campaign once it’s live.

You’re bound to stumble onto problems along the way but I assure you, keep going.

The result of this entire process means increased website traffic, brand awareness, leads, and conversion.

Keep iterating. Keep learning. Keep working. It’ll pay off.

Mentioned Companies, People, and Sources

Companies:

People:

  • We didn’t mention any people in this article, but would have loved to. If you know someone whose story is worth sharing, please connect us with them via our contact form.

Sources:

  • There were no academic sources listed in this article. The tips and advice mentioned in this post came strictly from our marketing experience over the years helping startups, small businesses, and large enterprises build and engage their audience.

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