How to Create a Marketing Campaign for Your Small Business in 10 Steps

As a small business owner, one of the most important things you need to do is know how to create a marketing campaign. You need these campaigns in order to spread the word about your product or service and make sure you are reaching as many potential customers as possible. 

Ideally, you will have a comprehensive marketing strategy that will set out your bigger and more long-term marketing goals and plans (we will save that topic for another time!). As part of that strategy, you are likely to have several defined marketing campaigns. It’s these campaigns that will drive interested customers to your website or business, and in this article we will show you exactly how to create a marketing campaign. 

What is a Marketing Campaign?

First, let’s just get clear on some definitions. A marketing campaign is a time-bound initiative for which you have specific goals and a budget (which can be very low or even $0 in some cases). For example, if you are going to be offering a special promotion for the holidays, you would run a marketing campaign to raise awareness about that particular deal with the goal of getting people to take advantage of it. When the promotion ends, the campaign is over as well, and you can track how well you’ve met your goals and stuck to your budget. 

A good rule of thumb to differentiate between a marketing campaign and your run-of-the-mill day-to-day marketing tasks is whether or not there is a specific end date. An ongoing facebook ad letting people know that your site exists, for example, is not a marketing campaign but rather is another element of an overall marketing strategy. 

What is an Integrated Marketing Campaign

You may hear the term “integrated marketing campaign” and wonder how this is different from any other marketing campaign. An integrated marketing campaign refers specifically to a cross-channel strategy, in which the same campaign is run across different platforms. Meaning, if you are planning a promotional event for your online store, you might run an ad on Google and also send direct emails as well as take out an ad in the newspaper.  These are all elements of the same marketing campaign, but are responding to the understanding that your target audience is not homogenous and can be best reached in different ways.

The vast majority of marketing campaigns these days are integrated campaigns, and in discussing how to create a marketing campaign in this article, it’s safe to assume we mean an integrated one.

Why Do You Need to Plan a Marketing Campaign?

As with any business activity, a marketing campaign needs to start with a plan. Further on in this article, we will walk you through the steps needed to create your plan, but first let’s briefly go over why it’s so important to plan out the marketing campaign before you start.  A well-thought out marketing campaign will give you:

  • Consistent messaging - planning out the campaign will ensure that you offer one consistent message across all platforms and for the whole length of the campaign.
  • Brand awareness - in addition to the specific product or event that you promote in the campaign, you can also include brand-building messages that will keep customers loyal even after the campaign ends.
  • Increased ongoing revenue - a successful campaign means more than just one-off purchases, but rather a steady stream of repeat buys. 

Types of Marketing Campaigns for Your Business

One more thing before we get into the details of how to create a marketing campaign. There are a number of different types of campaigns that you may choose to run based on your specific business needs. The most common marketing campaigns include: 

  • Product Marketing Campaign - a product marketing campaign is used to introduce a specific new product to the market, such as a newly invented gadget.
  • Brand Development Campaign - a brand development campaign is aimed at building awareness and interest in your brand, particularly for a new company that is looking to enter the market.
  • Email Marketing Campaign - an email marketing campaign is a sequence of emails sent to a specific list or lists or receivers on a certain topic over a defined period of time. 
  • Content Marketing Campaign - a content marketing campaign uses an assorted array of marketing pieces - such as ebooks, blog posts, or landing pages - that are all based on the same theme and are driving one unified message.
  • User-Generated Content Campaign - a user-generated content campaign encourages followers or customers to create their own social media content about a particular product or business.
  • Public Relations Campaign - a public relations campaign focuses on getting the media to publish articles or other awareness-raising activities about a product or business.
  • Direct Mail Campaign - in a direct mail campaign, hard copy materials are mailed to lists of potential customers in an effort to encourage them to patronize a business.
  • Affiliate Marketing Campaign - in an affiliate marketing campaign, a company would pay third-parties to publish content that generates leads or draws traffic to their site.
  • Social Media Campaign - a social media campaign uses different social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or TikTok to spread a particular message.
  • Acquisition Marketing Campaign - acquisition marketing campaigns are specifically designed to bring in new leads and acquire new customers by reaching out on social media or using SEO-optimized web content.
  • Paid Marketing/Advertising Campaign - while the above can all be done for no direct costs, in a paid advertising campaign you purchase ad space that will be put in front of specified target audiences. 

How to Create a Marketing Campaign - 10 Steps

Now for the fun part! Let’s go through the 10 steps you need to take to create a marketing campaign. Ready? Let’s go...

Step 1: Define your Goals

You cannot begin your marketing campaign journey without having a clear picture of where you want to end up. Put another way, you must first determine your goal and only then can you figure out what you need to do in order to reach it. What the goal is is entirely up to you and dependent on your business and what you ultimately want to achieve. The most important thing is to make sure you are creating “SMART” goals: each goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The more well-defined and specific your goals are, the easier it will be to track and make sure you are achieving success. 

If you’re feeling stuck, here are some examples of common goals that businesses have when creating marketing campaigns - start with one of these, but make sure you make it specific and relevant to your business:

  • Introduction and promotion of a new product or service
  • Increase sales
  • Lead generation
  • Improve customer retention
  • Brand awareness and publicity
  • Advertise an event

An example of taking a broad goal and making it “smart” would be rather than simply setting a goal of increasing sales, you would say: the goal is to leverage social media to double the number of sales of product X by the end of the year. 

Step 2: Know your Target Audience

Now you know what you want to accomplish, next you need to determine who is going to get you there. Having a deep understanding of the characteristics and needs of your target audience will make it much easier to create a campaign that will resonate with them and prompt them to take action. If you get this wrong, your campaign will fall flat, so it’s worth putting in the time and effort to do your research and create buyer personas. 

Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is essentially a made-up person who is your dream customer. Once you create this persona, you then “speak” directly to them in all of your marketing materials, ensuring that you’ve got the right messaging that will spark interest. Make your buyer persona as detailed as possible - many companies even give him/her a name. You may also have more than one if you want to reach several categories of people, but the more you can narrow it down and be specific, the better. 

The types of information you will want to know about your target buyer includes:

  • Age and gender
  • Where they live
  • What job they have
  • Salary
  • Level of education
  • Interests
  • Fears and motivations
  • Types of content they like/where they are on social media

If you don’t know this information off the top of your head, consider adding in an extra step of doing some market research and talking to existing customers or those who you think would be most interested in what you have to offer. 

Step 3: Competitor Research

Unless your product or service is completely unique, you are likely to have some competitors. Before you create a marketing campaign, you’ll want to know a bit about what your competitors are doing so that you can try to do it better. When researching competitors, make sure you look at both local as well as national and even international competitors especially if you have an online business where location doesn’t matter as much.

Make a list of all of the features and benefits that you offer and try to include a differentiating factor in each way that puts you ahead of the competition. These factors could be related to price, quality, availability, partners, etc. At the end of this exercise, you should have identified the “unique selling proposition” that you will focus on in your campaign. 

Step 4: Set your Budget

One could argue that setting the budget should really be step 1 or 2 and not way down here at step 4, but we believe that it makes sense to think through what you want to accomplish fully and only then put the numbers to it. When it comes to the budget, however, you do need to be realistic. If you’re working on a shoestring budget you cannot plan an extravagant event and ads in major newspapers. At the same time, you do often have to spend money to make money and investing in a marketing campaign done right is likely to pay off significantly. 

If you are struggling with how much you can afford, you can do some basic math to get a general idea. First, think about how much income you are likely to bring in from a customer. Then, think about how many customers you would need to bring in in order to break even. If you are considering spending $1,000 on a marketing campaign and you expect each customer to be worth $500 then you only need 2 customers to make it worth your while. 

Bottom line, create a budget that realistically will allow you to get your message out to the audience effectively while also ensuring you can make a profit. 

Step 5: Follow a Marketing Campaign Template

There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creating a marketing campaign. There are plenty of existing templates that you can use to help set yourself up for a successful marketing campaign. We suggest searching around and taking elements of existing templates to create the one that works best for you.

Following is an example of the key elements that you should include in your template (which can then be used for any future marketing campaign that you create), all of which present a high-level view of the planning and execution of a marketing campaign:

  • Goals - as described above, you’ll want to write down your goals tied to specific KPIs that you will measure. 
  • Budget - once you’ve settled on a budget, include that number in your marketing campaign template so that you can make sure you stay on track.
  • Marketing Channels - list out the channels that you will use to spread your message. This may include different social media platforms as well as email distribution and any printed materials such as flyers or posters.
  • Content - you’ll need to decide what type of content will have to be created (see Step 7 for more detail) for each marketing channel. This will look different depending on the type of campaign and its goals. If your goal is to raise awareness of your brand, you may want videos, press releases and testimonials for example.
  • Team - if you are a one-star show then yours might be the only name in this section, but if you do have employees or other team members you should be clear on who is going to play a role in the running of the campaign.
  • Design - you will want all of your marketing campaign materials to have the same look and feel- you might want to have them professional designed or if you are going to DIY it, you should make sure you use a consistent color theme or logo.

Step 6: Create an Action Plan 

At this point, you’ve got most of the pieces of the puzzle and it’s time to start putting it all together. The action plan is probably the most important part of the marketing campaign because it will tell you exactly what needs to be done and when. It’s a good idea to create the action plan using a timeline working backwards from the launch date so that you can be sure to get everything done on time. 

Once you’ve set the dates, consider the content you want to create and the channels you plan to use. Compare that with the human and financial resources that you have and make decisions as to which content will be promoted on which channels and at what frequency. Include specific dates when possible. It may help to plot this information out visually on a calendar so that you can make sure that you’re catching every channel at the right cadence. 

Step 7: Make a Content Plan 

Hand-in-hand with the action plan, is your content plan. As part of your planning, you will decide what types of content you need to create, but then you’ll need to work out a plan for the specific pieces. This includes the main messages of each one and who will do the actual work - will you do it yourself, do you have an in-house person or will you outsource. Keep in mind for most of these assets you will need both text and design and you may need separate people to do each part. 

When creating your content plan, these are the main types of content that you are likely to need: 

  • Email sequences
  • Social media posts
  • SEO content
  • PPC
  • Landing Pages or other webpages
  • Event invitations
  • Press releases
  • Print ads
  • Video

Step 8: Create Designs

Simultaneously to creating the content, you’ll also need the designs. You’ll want your email sequences to look similar to your social media posts. And your videos should also have the same look and feel and convey the same message. The best thing to do is to have a logo or key imagery designed that you can then easily pop into an email or social post. You could also ask a designer to create a template that you can use for all of your ads. 

There are lots of tools out there like Canva or Promo that can help you easily create all kinds of content that are easy to match your branding and design. 

Step 9: Launch your Marketing Campaign

The fun really begins when all your materials are ready and it’s time to launch the campaign. Put your action plan into play and start promoting your campaign and watch the sales flow in!  

Step 10: Monitor and Analyze Results

The fun doesn’t end when the campaign is over. Now it’s time to take stock and see how well your marketing campaign performed. Remember that very clear goal that you set? It should be easy to look back at it and see whether you met it or not. Hopefully you surpassed it, but whatever the outcome some of the questions you should definitely ask include:

  • Did we reach our goal?
  • What helped make sure we reached it? What held us back?
  • Would we run this campaign again? Why or why not?
  • What was easy about this campaign? What was the most difficult aspect?
  • What new information did we learn about our audience and customers?
  • What mistakes did we make?

The more data you collect during the marketing campaign, the more useful your analysis and insights will be. The goal you set in the beginning will help determine what type of data you should be sure to collect, but some ideas include:

  • Number of visits to your website
  • Email open rates and click through rates
  • Clicks on ads
  • Number of leads from an event
  • Social media engagements
  • New purchases
  • New inquiries

You may want to measure the results of each marketing channel separately which will help you see the best way to reach your target audience. If one channel has bad results, you’ll know not to invest as much in that one next time. 

Offer Online Payment Options

One last, but very important, point before we go...you can have created the best marketing campaign in the world, but if your customers can’t easily make a purchase once they get to the finish line (i.e. your website) then you’ll lose them. So you’ve got to make sure that you are well set-up to accept your customers’ payments. That’s where a solution like Pay.com comes in, making sure you have all the tools you need to provide a smooth and seamless payment experience for your customers. 

FAQ

How to Plan a Marketing Campaign?

For a marketing campaign to be successful, it must start with a plan. You probably have some idea of what you want the campaign to promote, but you may be thinking in very broad terms. For example, perhaps you want to plan a marketing campaign that will help you increase sales of a certain product that you are selling online. In order to plan well for a successful campaign, you’ll need to first define a much more specific goal than just increasing sales - how many products do you want to sell or how much income do you want to bring in? And within what time period?

Once you’ve gotten clear on your goal, the rest of the planning flows from that: define your target audience, research what your competitors are doing, determine your budget, build out a timeline of all that you need to do and when you will do it, create any content and designs that are needed and then launch!

How to Start a Marketing Campaign?

The first step in any marketing campaign is to plan out what your goals are and the steps you need to take to reach them. No campaign is likely to succeed if it’s done haphazardly and without a specific plan in place. The very first thing you should do is sit down and think through what exactly you want to accomplish with this marketing campaign. Some possibilities may include: raising awareness about your brand or website, increasing sales, increasing subscribers, attracting buyers to a specific promotion - the possibilities are truly endless and you must determine what makes the most sense for your business goals. 

What are the Main Types of Marketing Campaigns?

There are many types of marketing campaigns, usually based on the specific goal you aim to achieve. The main types include:

  • Product marketing of a specific product
  • Brand development to raise awareness
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing
  • User-generated content in which you encourage your customers to post testimonials on social media
  • Public relations and media campaigns
  • Direct mail
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Social media across different platforms
  • Acquisition marketing
  • Paid marketing, also known as traditional advertising

What is in a Marketing Campaign?

A marketing campaign is made up of a number of components and a sequence of events that come together to promote a particular product or service. Each campaign will vary slightly depending on its specific goals, but is likely to content the following key elements:

  • Clear goals
  • Target audience
  • A set of key messages that will be consistent across platforms
  • Action steps
  • Budget
  • Timeline/calendar
  • Analytics after the campaign ends to monitor success

What is a Good Marketing Campaign?

A good marketing campaign is one that is well-planned and executed and reaches its target goals. To plan a good marketing campaign, you must be methodological and think through each element. Most importantly, a good marketing campaign has clear goals that are specific, measurable and time-bound. 

What is a Marketing Campaign Example?

Marketing campaigns run the gamut from Nike’s famous “just do it” slogan to the small campaigns run by small businesses. Here’s an example of a simple marketing campaign with a goal of encouraging a specific audience to take advantage of a new offer:

Goal: Get X number of people to cash-in a special price promotion on a product that is being offered during the last 2 weeks of the year.

Target Audience: Existing customers who have made purchases in the past year

Key Message: Last chance to save 25% before the end of the year!

Action Steps/Plan:

  • Create banner ads for targeted websites
  • Email list of existing customers
  • Build a story that can be tied to the offer and presented to the media via a press release
  • Paid search ads and/or facebook ads
  • Get satisfied customers to write testimonials and post on social media 

Budget: $X per activity

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