How to Run a Successful Marketing Campaign

9 simple steps will improve your results

woman coming out vintage television in sales informercial
••• Erik Dreyer/Getty Images

Nike's famous slogan, "Just Do It," should not be applied to a marketing campaign for your small business. Many small firms place an ad here and an ad there, put up a website or a Facebook page, and consider it done. Unfortunately, this approach is like fishing on dry land—you can cast as much as you like, but you won't catch anything because you are nowhere near the pond.

A profitable marketing initiative requires careful planning. Here are nine steps to creating a successful marketing campaign.

Know How Your Marketing Campaign Fits

Ideally, before you plan a marketing campaign, you should have a marketing plan for your business. This plan lays out the overall marketing objectives and strategies to lure your target market to your products and services. A marketing campaign, on the other hand, is just 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 can identify your target market and how best to reach it.

Set Your Campaign's Objective and Parameters

What do you want your campaign to achieve? The campaign's objective should be as specific as possible. For example, "more sales" is too broad. A specific metric is required—a specific amount of sales for a specific product or service within a specific amount of time. Why? So that the parameters of your campaign are laser-focused and you can measure the effectiveness of the campaign as it proceeds.

A common marketing campaign objective formula is: What will be achieved plus how long the marketing campaign will run.

For example, "Sales of face beauty masks will increase by 50% in three months." Or, "Sales of travel services will increase by 15% over the next eight weeks."

Determine How You Will Measure Success

What metrics are you going to use? The numbers will tell you if your marketing campaign is succeeding. If not, metrics will allow you to assess whether continuing with the campaign is worth the cost.

Make sure you have the right tools in place to track your metrics. If your marketing objective is to increase the awareness of your brand or to improve your website's search engine page ranking, you can use Google Analytics.

You will need to establish a baseline for whatever metric you've chosen before you begin to measure your progress. 

Set Your Marketing Campaign Budget

How much money you have to spend on your campaign will greatly affect the marketing strategies you choose. 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 not to say that all free marketing strategies are bad, but there is always a cost to marketing, even if it's only your time. The most effective way to reach your customers may not be cheap, so be realistic when setting your budget.

Choose Your Communication Channels

What communication channels are you going to use? Email? Direct mail? Pay-per-click online advertising? Some communication channels will be better suited to your target market. Don't place radio ads if your target market doesn't regularly listen to the radio. Consider where your audience members spend time. Where are they most likely to see or hear—and pay attention to—information about your products or services? In a magazine? On a bus? On their smartphones?

Create a Timeline and Action Plan

Record exactly what you are going to do and when. This will greatly increase the chances that you'll follow through and will give you a record to evaluate the success of your marketing campaign.

For instance, suppose you are selling bicycle seats designed to be more comfortable than most. Here's a possible campaign plan:

  • 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 press release 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. And simple is fine if it gets results. It's also a marketing campaign that could easily be augmented.

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. You could then set up a Facebook page and Twitter account documenting their training for the race (and, of course, promoting your bike seats). On race day and leading up to it, you could tweet about their progress. See how easy that is? And all for less than $2,000.

You could also get more promotion benefits out of your race sponsorship by advertising in other places, whether by buying banner ads on bike-related websites or placing ads in cycling magazines.

Execute

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.

Go back to your action plan timeline and check items off, writing in the date of completion. It will keep you organized and motivated.

Measure Your Results

When the campaign is over, it's time to measure its success. How many bike seats did you sell per week or month pre-campaign? How many are you selling post-campaign? If your marketing objective was to increase sales of bike seats 25% over four months, compare May, June, July, August, and September sales figures.

There is an exhaustive list of marketing campaign software that can help you plan and measure your efforts. ActiveCampaign, SharpSpring, and Hatchbuck are some of the most popular ones.

Plan for Next Time

Why are metrics so important? Once you know the results of your marketing campaign, you can improve your marketing strategies. Suppose that your bike seat marketing campaign increased bike seat sales by 41%. You would probably repeat your campaign next year.

But you might also discover ways you want to tweak future campaigns. If the data showed that only 2% of increased sales came from your Twitter and Facebook strategies, you might decide to eliminate them from your campaign next year.

Some might argue that any marketing campaign is better than none. For the most bang for your buck, though, planning and using metrics are the best strategies.