Nike's famous slogan "Just Do It" is really bad advice when it comes to conducting a marketing campaign for your small business. But this is what passes for a marketing plan for a lot of small businesses. They place an ad here and an ad there, put up a website or a Facebook page and call it done. Unfortunately, this sort of "doing-this-and-that" marketing approach is like fishing on dry land; you can cast as much as you like, but you're not going to catch anything because you're nowhere near the pond.
How do you get your line to where the fish are? Follow the nine steps below to run a successful marketing campaign.
1) Know How Your Marketing Campaign Fits Into Your Marketing Plan
Ideally, before you plan a marketing campaign, you have a marketing plan for your business. (If you don't, writing the marketing plan will lead you through the process.)
The marketing plan is your master plan for marketing your small business. It provides the full picture of your marketing objectives and strategies for interesting your target market in your products and/or services. The marketing campaign, on the other hand, is one small piece of your marketing plan—a marketing action designed to achieve a particular objective.
When you know how your marketing campaign fits into your overall plan, you know who your target market is and how you might best communicate with them.
2) Set Your Marketing Campaign Objective and Parameters
What do you want your campaign to achieve? That's the objective. You want to be a specific as possible. Not just, "I want more sales," but how many and of what product or service?
You can think of parameters as the details of the marketing objective. Time is the most common parameter that needs to be included as marketing campaigns lose their effectiveness over time. (Even Tony the Tiger had to be retired eventually.)
A common marketing campaign objective formula equals: what will be achieved + how long will the marketing campaign run?
For example, sales of face beauty marks will increase by 50% in three months. Or sales of travel services will increase 15% over the next eight weeks.
3) Determine How You Will Measure Success
What metrics are you going to use? How will you tell if your marketing campaign has succeeded or not? Obviously, if you have a marketing objective such as "Sales of face beauty marks will increase 50% in three months" the metric you're going to use to measure the success of your marketing campaign is the number of sales made over the three month period. But the number of sales may not be an appropriate metric at all if your marketing objective is to increase the awareness of your brand or to improve your website's search engine page ranking.
Don't forget to establish or note a baseline for whatever metric you've chosen; you'll need it to measure your progress.
4) Set Your Marketing Campaign Budget
How much money you have to spend on your campaign will greatly affect the marketing strategies you choose so you need to set the marketing budget first. Obviously, a Superbowl TV ad is much more costly than an ad on local television or on social media.
Don't depend on free advertising and promotion strategies for your small business. This is one of the biggest mistakes small business owners make. This is not to say that all free marketing strategies are bad. But there is always a cost to marketing, even if the cost is only time and your time may be much better spent.
Always think first; is this the best/ most effective/ most convincing way to reach my customer? These ways usually cost money so resign yourself to spending money on your marketing campaign. You don't necessarily have to spend a lot, but you do need to spend some.
5) Choose Your Marketing Strategies to Communicate With the Customers
What communication channels are you going to use? Email? Direct mail? Pay-per-click online advertising? Note that some communications channels are going to be better suited to your target market than others. For instance, placing radio ads may be a complete waste of money if your target market doesn't regularly listen to the radio.
Think about your target market's haunts and habits when you're choosing channels to reach them. Where do they spend their time? Where are they most likely to see or hear and pay attention to information about your products and/or services? In a magazine? On a bus bench? On their smartphone?
6) Create a Timeline and Action Plan
Write down what exactly you’re going to do and when. It doesn't have to be elaborate but writing it down will greatly increase the chances that you follow through and give you records to use when you go to evaluate the success of your marketing campaign.
For instance, suppose you are selling bicycle seats designed to be more comfortable than most. You might come up with a campaign plan such as:
- Sponsor local Sea to Sky bike race in September ($500 to become a sponsor)
- Send out a press release when you first become a sponsor (free if you do it yourself)
- Send out another pre-race in late August
- Place a series of ads in the local newspaper, one in June, one in July, two in August and one post-event in September (5 x $125.00 = $625)
- Post sponsor info on your business Facebook page
Now that's about as simple a marketing campaign as you can have—simple is fine if it gets results. This is also a great example of a marketing campaign that it would be easy to jazz up.
Suppose, for instance, that there was a local person who was going to be in the bike race that was willing to wear a jersey with your business name and logo on it for the cost of a free bike seat.
Suppose as well that they were willing to be the face of an online marketing campaign, whether free or for a price, and you could then set up a Facebook page and Twitter account about them training for the race (and, of course, promoting your bike seats). On race day, you could tweet about her progress. See how easy? And all for less than $2000.
You could also get more promotion benefit out of your race sponsorship by advertising in more places, such as buying banner ads on bike-related websites, and/or ads in the appropriate magazines.
7) Do It
Write your ad copy. Firm up your dates. Place your ads. Search for and approach someone to be the face of your online marketing campaign. Whatever actions your campaign involves, execute; do; activate.
Go back to your action plan timeline and check items off, writing in the date that you complete them. It will keep you organized and you'll love the feeling.
8) Measure Your Results
When the campaign is over, it's time to see how successful it was. Go back to your marketing objective, measure what you've chosen to measure to determine the campaign's success and see how it's done.
Suppose that the marketing objective for your bike seats marketing campaign was to increase sales of bike seats 25% over four months. It would be a simple matter after the fact to compare May, June, July, August, and September sales figures and do the math.
9) Tweak and Repeat as Necessary
Once you've measured the results of your marketing campaign, you'll be able to make decisions about the marketing strategies you've used and future campaigns. Suppose that your bike seat marketing campaign increased bike seat sales by 41%. You'd decide to repeat it again next year, wouldn't you?
And assuming you had the tracking in place to know which marketing strategy produced which results, you could tweak your campaign accordingly. If the data showed that only 2% of increased sales came from your Twitter and Facebook strategies, you might decide not to bother with that aspect of this campaign next year. Or you might decide to repeat the whole marketing campaign as designed and see if the results for these two strategies improve.
Of course, your sales results for the months involved may show no improvement or even a decline, making this marketing campaign a bust. That happens sometimes, too. You might have to go back and do some serious revamping or even scrap the whole bike race sponsorship campaign.
But if you've set up your marketing campaign properly and kept records of what you’ve been doing, at least you have data to make these kinds of marketing decisions.
The Best Marketing Campaign
In a way, any marketing campaign is better than none, because it means you're directing your small business marketing efforts rather than just casting blindly here and there. But the best marketing campaign is the one that gets the results that you want and that takes some planning and a coordinated effort.