As the end of 2016 approaches, our business focus inevitably turns to 2017 and making plans for the year ahead. While the word 'planning' may not elicit excitement from most of you, it is becoming an ever more integral feature of successful digital marketing campaigns.
Executing a digital marketing campaign without a plan can be compared to setting out in your car without a set destination or any directions of your route. While this may be fun and perhaps exciting, it is highly unlikely that you will reach your intended destination.
In digital marketing, there is the added challenge that the journey to your final destination is often not clear. If you have just launched a website, you may know that you want it to provide 30 sales leads per month, but you may not know how you are going to deliver these leads.
In this article, I'm going to outline my six-step process to planning your digital marketing campaigns for 2017 and beyond.
Digital Marketing Campaign Planning Process
1) Review and action your lessons learned
Before starting to plan a new campaign, it is important to learn from the mistakes and successes of previous campaigns. In project management, we call these 'lessons learned'. If you can avoid your previous mistakes and capitalize on your past successes, your campaign will be set on the path to success.
Typical mistakes include choosing the wrong marketing channel or not dedicating a sufficient budget to your campaign.
Meanwhile, past successes may be discovering a topic for your content marketing efforts that resonates well with your audience or finding a social media platform that is frequented regularly by your ideal customer. I recommend keeping a written record of your lessons learned, this will help you apply the lessons that you learn throughout your 2017 marketing campaigns.
2) Consult your Business Goals
If you consult your business goals, you can ensure that your campaign supports your business goals. It is highly likely that a successful campaign will help you to make progress in your business, so why not make this progress count towards your business goals?
During the early stages of planning a campaign, it is important to think beyond digital or marketing, so that you can focus on business results.
Your business goals might include increasing your customer retention rate or growing your customer base within a specific sector.
Whatever they are, make sure that you identify one of your business goals and consider it throughout the rest of this process.
3) Formulate your campaign objectives
Once you have decided on a relevant business goal, you should transform this goal into one or more objectives that you can aim to achieve during your digital marketing campaign.
If your business goal is to ‘improve your customer retention rate,’ your campaign objectives might be ‘produce three useful pieces of content per week that address your customers’ problems’ and ‘send a monthly update email to your existing client base that explains what other services your business offers and presents a discount code if they place an order with you as a reward for their loyalty.’
It is critical that your campaign objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based).
If they are not SMART, it will be incredibly challenging to track your progress and evaluate the results that your campaign delivers. Generally, between three and five objectives will be sufficient for the vast majority of campaigns.
4) Develop a campaign strategy
Now you know which business goal(s) you are targeting with your campaign and what the objectives of your campaign are. The focus of your planning should now turn to the execution. At this stage you are addressing the important question: “how am I going to achieve my campaign objectives?”
To address this, you need to develop your strategy. Your strategy is your plan and approach to the operational elements of your campaign. A good strategy will act as a definitive guide to day-to-day activities.
Each campaign strategy is different, however, they all include some of the following elements in one form or another:
- Approach definition – outlining how and when your digital marketing activities will be carried out
- Campaign objectives – to help you measure your campaign's success (fortunately for you, you will be able to use your objectives from step three)
- Key messages – these are the most important messages that you wish to convey to your target audience
- Channel selection – explaining which digital marketing channels you will use to deliver your key messages to your target audience (e.g. email marketing and pay per click (PPC) marketing)
- Campaign assets – this is the content (mostly text and images) that you will use across your selected marketing channels
- Marketing measurement – a plan detailing the measurement metrics that you will use to evaluate the success of your campaign (I will help you decide on this during the next step of the process)
5) Formulate and finalise your marketing measurement plan
At this stage you should have a clear idea of what you intend for your campaign to achieve and how you are going to go about doing it. The final step before the all-important launch is to decide how you will measure the success of your campaign. There are two elements that you must decide on.
- What do you constitute as a success? (These will become your measurement metrics)
- How are you going to measure them? (These are your measurement platforms)
In the case of the former, your metrics will depend on the marketing channels that you select.
If one of your campaign objectives is to increase your social media engagement, your metrics may be likes, shares, followers or retweets.
While your measurement platform is likely to be Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics or perhaps HootSuite.
Regardless of your measurement metrics and measurement platforms, make sure that you setup and test them prior to your campaign launch. From the moment that you press the go button you want to be collecting valuable campaign data. Not only will this help you evaluate the success of the campaign as it progresses, it will also help you collate your lessons learned.
6) Launch your campaign
It's time for the most exciting and final step of the process: launching your campaign. At this stage, your planning will be complete and you will be undoubtedly eager to press ahead with the launch. Excitement aside, it is important to remember that far from being the end of the work, it is in fact just beginning. You cannot just let your campaign run after you have invested so much time planning for its success.
Continuous evaluation and incremental improvements are key throughout the life of your campaign.
Make sure that you use the data collected by your selected marketing measurement platform to guide your incremental improvements. There are some fantastically useful insights into your campaign there for you to use. If these insights are used effectively, you will be able to maximise your campaign ROI and further your progress towards achieving your business goals.