Planning Marketing Campaigns: 6-Step Checklist

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Step 1: Add “Marketing Campaign” to my to-do list

Step 2: ?

If you’ve just added the not-so-simple task of “Marketing Campaign” to your to-do list, you might find yourself struggling to get started. Planning an entire campaign is no easy feat, and it can be hard to know how to begin. Even as seasoned marketers dive into their 50th campaign, they may wonder, “Am I missing anything?”

That’s where a checklist can be useful. It not only ensures you don’t miss something but also ensures you plan your campaign in the right order.


Though it’s tempting to just dive in and start making things happen, that often leads to misunderstandings, underperformance, and confusion. Using a checklist keeps you and your campaign on track.

To plan your next campaign and set it up for success, take the following six steps.

Step 1: Identify the goal

Without a goal, campaign waters get really muddy, really fast. You can’t justify a budget—because no one knows what you’re going to do with it. You can’t decide on tactics—because you don’t know which ones will accomplish what you need.

Here’s the good news: Goals are simple. Identifying a goal is the easiest step of the entire planning process. Just ask yourself: What is the most important thing you want to happen as a result of this campaign? Here are a few examples:

  • Get more newsletter subscribers.
  • Generate leads for a new product.
  • Have many people sign up for an event.

Those simple goals set the stage for your entire campaign, and they leave room for more specific objectives.


Step 2: Choose the objectives

Objectives build directly off your goal. Whereas a goal is broad, objectives are specific. Whereas a goal is singular, objectives can be numerous. Based on the goal examples in the previous step, here are some objectives you might choose:

  • Get 200 more subscribers to weekly roundup newsletter by July 30.
  • Generate 50 leads interested in the remote work software product by June 1.
  • Have 75 marketing managers sign up for social media webinar by September 15.

You’ve likely heard of SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Notice that the above objectives fit each of those requirements.

With a SMART objective in mind, you can’t help but think more strategically about planning your campaign.

Step 3: Set the budget

Money: everyone’s favorite touchy subject. Setting the budget for your campaign is a necessary evil. The last thing you want is your boss wondering why you spent $10,000 when you could have spent $20,000 and gotten better results. Actually, the last thing you want is your boss wondering why you spent $10,000 when he wanted you to spend only $5,000.

Get the exact dollar amount you’re approved to spend in writing, and stick to it.

A proper budget is closely tied to the tactics you choose, whether that’s an ad in a trade publication or sponsorship of a local event. Go back to your objectives and analyze where you’ll get the most results for your investment.

Step 4: Define the audience

You might think that to reach your goal you should target as many people as possible. But think about it: Your money goes only so far and you don’t want just anyone to register for your webinar. You want people who could actually turn into customers and pay for your services. That’s why it’s important to define your ideal audience.

For example, who are the ideal subscribers to your newsletter? Spell it out:

  • Industry
  • Occupation
  • Role or seniority level
  • Location
  • Interests

Your audience also affects which tactics you choose, because not every tactic reaches your target audience. Your target audience may not be reading Good Housekeeping, but they could be reading WIRED. Defining your target audience before planning your tactics can save you a lot of money: It prevents you from spending it on people who are unlikely to become customers.

Step 5. Plan the tactics

Many people begin with this step—maybe because they’re inexperienced, or maybe they’re short on time, or maybe they just want to get to the fun part. Though an extremely important part of the campaign, this step cannot be the first you take, because it is informed by all the steps taken before it.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve completed the previous steps, and you know that your objective is generating leads, your ideal audience is 25-35-year-olds, and your budget is $10,000. Based on all that, you choose the tactic of a $10,000 Facebook ad targeted to that demographic. Because you waited to plan your tactics, you have a much better chance of achieving your specific objective, reaching your ideal audience, and keeping to your budget.

You might consider a few other tactics to consider for your campaign:

  • Google and Bing search and display ads
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter advertising
  • Event sponsorships
  • Educational presentations and webinars
  • Marketing emails

The ones you choose should be based on what you’re trying to achieve, whom you’re trying to reach, and what you’re approved to spend.

Step 6: Align your messaging and design

This step is commonly forgotten, yet it is crucial. You must be clear on what message you’re trying to communicate through your tactics. Whether it’s one specific benefit of your product or the key takeaways from your event, it needs to be established and understood so you can express it purposefully and communicate it consistently.

Accordingly, spend the necessary time to make your copy persuasive. All the planning in the world means nothing if you don’t have a message that converts and helps accomplish your objective.

Equally important is the design. Visual branding is vital for any company: In a matter of seconds it conveys who you are and what you’re about. Think about how you can design your message to be clear, concise, and impactful; then keep it consistent throughout your messaging.

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If you complete all six steps of this planning checklist, you set your campaign up for success. All that’s left to do is sit back and relax! (And, of course, monitor daily, adjust if necessary, and regularly update your team.)

Happy campaign planning!



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