The great war strategist Sun Tzu once wrote “every battle is won before it’s ever fought”.
Now he wasn’t talking about marketing but that doesn’t make this lesson any less important. Because in marketing, in business, and in pretty much anything you want to be successful at a little bit of preparation goes a long, long way.
Over the years as a marketing strategist I’ve spent a lot of time learning, studying, researching, and then testing, experimenting, and applying what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to launching a successful marketing campaign.
And here’s where things get interesting. What I’ve found after launching literally thousands of different campaigns is that pretty much anything can work whether we’re talking about content marketing, email marketing, online advertising, or even good old fashioned direct mail…
But what separates the winners from the losers isn’t the tactic, but rather the underlying …is strategy behind it. This is why it’s so important to set yourself up for success right from the start by being strategic and taking a few extra hours ahead of time to ensure you’ve planned out the campaign from start to finish. I promise, the little bit of extra effort you put in here will pay off huge rewards and can even help you avoid a train wreck of a marketing campaign before it even gets launched.
Alright so with all that said, let’s dive into the 5 key steps to planning and launching a successful marketing campaign.
Step 1: The Why
One of the craziest things I see, and on a pretty regular basis too, is the creation of a marketing campaign “just because”.
What I mean by that is marketing, simply for the sake of marketing, or in other words, what I call “Random Acts of Marketing” which is creating a campaign without any clear plan, goal, or objective.
It’s probably not hard to believe that when this happens you’re pretty much doomed from the start. A campaign gets launched, it doesn’t bring in any new business, and then the business owner blames the tactic, channel, or marketing in general and goes back to doing things the way they did before.
Madness I tell you, madness.
It’s rare that a successful campaign gets launched without first determining the motive behind it and next, even just generally describing what success would look like.
Here are some questions to ask yourself at this stage: Why are we doing this? What are we hoping to achieve? What is the end goal? How will we know if we’re successful, or not?
Step 2: The What
Alright so now that you’ve got your reasons sorted out it’s time to take a good hard look at what you’re about to promote.
One of the next biggest mistakes people make is trying to market or promote what they want, rather than what the market wants. What They Want VS What The Market Wants OR, marketing something out of sequence in the customer journey, but that’s another topic for another day.
Basically, what you want to do at this stage is get crystal clear on the absolute best thing, whether it’s a product or service, to market.
If you’re marketing to a brand new cold audience who has no idea who you are then you likely want to pick something with high-demand, and a low-barrier, but that can lead to further purchases down the line.
If you’re marketing to a familiar warm audience who already knows you then you can take a few steps up the customer journey ladder and run a marketing campaign for a more specific, or more expensive product or service.
Regardless, some of the key questions you want to ask yourself at this stage are: What are we trying to promote? Is this the thing we should be promoting? Do we think people want this? What might they want more instead?
Step 3: The Who
OK so you’ve got your Why, you’ve got your What, it’s time to dial in your Who.
It’s at this stage we want to deep dive into both the What we’re marketing, we’ll call this your offer, as well as the Who you’re marketing to, we’ll call them your customers, in order to find the overlap between your customers pains and how your offer is uniquely positioned to solve them.
This parts really important so let me say that again in a slightly different way.
The goal at this stage is to uncover your customers biggest pains, problems, frustrations, as well as dreams, wants, needs, and desires, and then use that knowledge to show them how your offer can help them bridge the gap from where they are now to where they want to do.
And the better you understand your customer, the more specific, relevant, and appealing you can communicate your offers benefits.
Questions to ask yourself at this stage are: Who are we trying to serve? Do we know their basic details like age, gender, occupation, and where they live? What about the deeper stuff like their attitudes, interests, and beliefs?
Step 4: The Where
By this stage you should have a pretty clear understanding of why you’re running your marketing campaign, what you’re going to be promoting, and who you’re promoting it to.
So it’s in Step 4 that we begin what most consider “the actual marketing part”, as in, this is where we go out and put our message in front of them.
But to do that, we first need to find out where they are so we can meet them there.
Fortunately, armed with the answers you uncovered in the previous step it’s usually pretty simple to find the best channels to reach them on and just a quick google search on what demographics are using what social media channels should point you in the right direction here.
Some good questions to ask yourself here are: Where do my customers spend their time, online and offline? What social media networks do they use? How do they prefer to engage with online content? And what kind of content do they prefer?
Step 5: The How
Finally we get to the “How”
I’ve put this step last for a very good reason, but unfortunately this is where most people mistakenly start. And that’s what leads to random, haphazard, and chaotic marketing campaigns that go nowhere, do nothing, and give marketing a bad name.
After all, how can you possibly know what the best “How” is until you’ve identified your goals, your customer, your offer, and where to run this campaign. The answer as you know, is that you can’t, which is why most marketing fails.
The key then is to go through the steps we’ve just covered, and by the time you get to this final step, determining the How will come down to just choosing the right tactics to execute on.
As an example, if you’ve determined that your market is on Facebook and you think Facebook Ads would be a good fit here, then it’s time to go about determining the best way to run them.
Or if you think a longer term video content marketing strategy on YouTube would be effective, or a short term YouTube Ad push would be helpful, then it’s time to go about researching the best way to do that.
In most cases, some good questions to ask at this stage are: How are we going to do this? Should we do it ourselves or hire someone to help? What do we need to know, have, or do to make this work?
No strategy that covers the Why, What, Who, Where, and How would be complete without at least addressing the When.
But I didn’t want to include this in the main 5-parts of the plan because in my experience one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is continually putting off marketing “until”
Until the business generates more revenue
Until the business declines and needs to
Until next month
Until next quarter
Until next year
Until we get our staffing issue sorted
Until we hire an intern
Until, until, until
And nothing ever ends up happening. As the Chinese proverb says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now”
So the When, is now.