Let’s be honest: When you’re running a small business, marketing can often fall by the wayside.

You’re focused on keeping your current customers happy so they stick around and hopefully pass you referrals—not necessarily on getting your company’s name out there.

New clients find you, but usually because of their own efforts rather than yours.

This may have worked up until now, but it’s not a reliable or consistent approach to growing your business.

To make your bottom-line goals a reality and attract new customers to your business on a predictable basis, you’ll need to incorporate marketing campaigns into your ongoing marketing efforts.

What is a Marketing Campaign?

The term ‘marketing campaign’ gets tossed around a lot, but many people don’t really understand what a campaign entails.

If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered…

A marketing campaign…

  • Is an initiative that exists outside of your ongoing marketing tasks
  • Has a budget (even if it’s $0)
  • Has a specific desired outcome
  • Starts and ends on a specific date

An example of a marketing campaign might be…

You’re trying to attract new clients in a particular area, so you host a neighborhood event, advertise in the local paper, and ask current customers for referrals. At the same time, you still continue your normal marketing operation—running Facebook and Google Adwords ads, writing blog content, and so on.

If you’re ever unsure if you’re running a campaign, ask yourself, “When am I beginning this project or activity, and when am I wrapping it up?”

If the answer is “now” and “never,” it’s an ongoing part of your marketing strategy, not a campaign.

But if the answer is something like, “September 28” and “December 10,” then you’re probably launching a campaign.

Now that we’ve clarified the difference, let’s dive into the steps.

Step 1: Choose Your End Goal

Before you do anything else, define your objective. The more granular and quantifiable your goal, the better. Not only is it easier to gauge success when you’ve got a clear-cut goal, it also helps you plan.

Maybe you’re hoping to sell more of a certain product…Do you want to sell $10,000 worth? Three hundred units? Get 30% of the customers who buy a different product to buy this one, too? That’s the level of specificity you’re aiming for.

Here are seven common high-level marketing campaign goals. Pick one, then make it as specific as possible.

  • Promote a new product
  • Increase sales
  • Increase customers
  • Improve retention rate
  • Improve percentage of repeat customers
  • Get good publicity
  • Raise brand awareness

Step 2: Set Your Campaign Budget

You don’t want to come up with a great idea, work out the costs, and then realize it’s out of your financial reach. Setting a budget based on what you can afford helps you avoid this issue.

Not sure what you can afford? Calculate how much income you generate from an average customer, also referred to as customer lifetime value (CLTV).

There are a number of ways to calculate customer lifetime value, here’s one.

Once you’ve determined your CLTV, estimate how many customers a campaign could realistically bring in (don’t forget to account for how many new customers you can handle).

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Let’s say each customer equals approximately $5,000, and you think you could acquire at least two with a campaign, you might put aside $5,000 for it. This means you’re likely to get a positive return on investment.

Of course, you should also take your current financial situation into account. Borrowing money to run a marketing campaign is risky; if it doesn’t go as planned, you’ll have trouble paying back the loan. Use the cash you’ve got on hand if possible.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience

Next, figure out whom you’re targeting. Understanding the general demographic and needs of your audience will help you craft a relevant, valuable, and memorable marketing campaign.

Here are a few characteristics you may want to consider:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Income bracket
  • Job title
  • Education level
  • Interests
  • Biggest challenges

Step 4: Design Your Content

The next essential component of a marketing campaign is the content. The content of your marketing campaign conveys a certain message and contains your call to action (CTA).

Your CTA should be specific and obvious to the people you are marketing to. It’s generally considered a marketing best practice to only include one CTA per campaign, in order to avoid confusing people or diluting your results.

Your content can take many forms. If you’re creating a content marketing campaign, for example, you might choose to market a blog post or a video that encourages viewers to subscribe to your blog. In this case, your CTA would be subscribing to the blog.

If you’re implementing a direct mail marketing campaign, your content might be a postcard or flyer that asks recipients to redeem a discount. In this case, your CTA would be redeeming a code to receive a discount.

So, how do you turn an idea into a professional looking piece of content?

In the old days of marketing, businesses were forced to rely on advertising agencies to design campaign content. Now, thanks to sites like Canva, iMovie, Promo, and Gimp, even the most technically challenged can create beautiful content on their own, often for free.

No matter what form your content takes, the most important thing to keep in mind is your audience and the channel(s) through which you’ll be promoting your content.

Step 5: Choose Your Channels

Marketing campaigns are like smoothies: A simple one might include two ingredients, while a complex one might include 15.

In this metaphor, your promotion channels are your ingredients.

Typical channels include email, direct mail, radio, social media, TV, events, trade shows, online advertising, digital media, print media, and publicity.

Your selection depends on two things: Your budget, and your answers from step #2 and #3.

As a small business, a TV commercial is probably out of your price range. Facebook ads, on the other hand, are affordable (as low as $1 per day) and cost-effective (meaning you get a good bang for your buck).

Email, events and trade shows, and social media are likely your best bets, although it’s worth doing some research to see which other options are financially feasible.

Once you’ve winnowed the list of channels, consider your audience. Where do they spend their time? If you’re trying to reach millennials, you’ll be most successful with social media promotion and Instagram ads. If you’re trying to reach Baby Boomers, direct mail and a free in-person clinic on a topic related to your product will likely have a bigger impact.

An effective marketing campaign incorporates multiple channels to “touch” potential customers as many times and in as many ways as possible.

Step 6: Launch and Monitor

Congratulations! Your campaign is live—but it’s not time to celebrate yet.

Keep careful track of the results. Your tracking methods are contingent upon your end goal; if you’re trying to sell more of Product X, ask every customer who buys Product X how they heard about it and keep a running tally of the ones who attribute your marketing campaign.

If, on the other hand, you’re trying to get happy Yelp reviews, you might record how many good ones you received as a direct result of the campaign.

Step 7: Analyze the Results

Now that you’ve reached the predetermined end date for your campaign, take stock of how it went.

Here’s where having an extremely clear-cut goal comes in handy. To judge whether the campaign was a success, simply ask yourself, “Did it meet my original goal?”

These questions are also valuable:

  • Which components were most helpful toward meeting the goal? Least helpful?
  • Would I repeat this campaign? Why or why not?
  • Which aspect of the campaign was the simplest? Most frustrating?
  • What did we learn about our customers?
  • Were we operating under any wrong assumptions?

Use these insights to plan your next—and hopefully, even more effective—campaign.

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Aja Frost

Aja Frost

Aja Frost is a staff writer for HubSpot. She's also a freelancer content marketer and writer specializing in technology, business, and career and productivity advice.

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