Agile Marketing Campaigns: When Good Enough is Great


Marketing has never been easy, but it sure isn’t getting any easier. Competition is up and budgets are down, squeezing marketers who end up working longer and longer hours to produce that ever-elusive ROI their bosses keep talking about. It’s tempting to decide that it’s impossible and just get used to hearing your managers complain.

What else are we supposed to do?

Start by taking a breath, because there are ways to create marketing campaigns with demonstrable ROI without working endless overtime and straining your mental health. By focusing on doing the right work at the right time, you can work more efficiently in a way that benefits you and your stakeholders.

It starts with rethinking how you approach marketing campaigns in the first place. Otherwise, you end up pouring more hours and resources into the same processes and campaigns that aren’t getting you results in the first place.

What Is a Marketing Campaign?

At its core, a marketing campaign is a structured effort to achieve a company goal through marketing. This can be done through the internet, TV, print, etc. While it’s easy to let your eyes glaze over because that all seems obvious, even that simple definition has something important in it.

Achieving a company goal.

Too often, marketing campaigns are run in service of vanity metrics that don’t actually tie back to any of the company’s strategic goals. The result? Even if you achieve those metrics, nothing really changes for the business. It’s no wonder so many marketers struggle to get leadership to understand their importance.

What Is a Marketing Campaign

Marketing Campaign vs Marketing Program

Marketing programs are ongoing activities without a specific end date. Marketing campaigns by contrast are designed from the start to run for a set period. Often a marketing program might be something like digital ads that promote a product or service at all times, while a campaign might be intended to promote a new offering.

Importantly, most of the advice here can be applied to either marketing campaigns or programs. The key difference is that while marketing campaigns have clear end points when they can be evaluated, marketing programs require those running them to routinely stop to evaluate their performance and look for ways to improve.

So whether you’re looking at programs or campaigns, consider how the advice below can be used.

Types of Marketing Campaigns

Really understanding marketing campaigns requires understanding their many forms. 

Brand Awareness

While many companies use marketing programs to build brand awareness, campaigns are often used when new brands are launched or when leaders see an acute need to raise awareness. Getting attribution right is especially important in brand awareness campaigns, as it can be nearly impossible to prove ROI otherwise.

Search Engine Marketing

Once obscure, search engine marketing has become the bread and butter of many marketing campaigns. However, many marketers are having to rethink their strategies as new privacy regulations are changing how search engine marketing campaigns can target.

Social Media Marketing

Along with search engines, social media sites are some of the most popular places on the internet, making them a mainstay for marketers. Social media marketing campaigns face the challenge of standing out in a crowded market defined by short attention spans, but when successful these campaigns can bring a tremendous amount of earned media attention.

Email Marketing

While email marketing doesn’t get as much attention as most other forms of online marketing, it’s been a reliable tool since its inception for a reason. Email campaigns give marketers tremendous control and the ability to easily test ideas and get instant feedback.

Influencer Marketing

When companies want to break through all the noise and reach an engaged audience, working with influencers can be very effective. However, the difficulty of balancing cost and ensuring the resulting content feels natural can hold many of these campaigns back.

Product Launch

The most important time for most products is the period right after they launch, so it’s hardly surprising that many marketing campaigns focus on this time. Product launches can focus around getting pre-orders, building hype, or simply raising awareness.

Seasonal Push

Nearly every business experiences seasonality, whether it’s as extreme as something like Christmas decorations or just the typical up and down patterns of many B2B services. As a result, companies will use seasonal pushes to take advantage of that additional demand. But seasonal push campaigns can be difficult because the time available to test ideas and incorporate those learnings are more limited, so it’s particularly important to ensure this happens efficiently.

Guerilla Marketing

Often employed by companies with smaller budgets who feel they can’t stand out by simply outspending their competitors, guerilla marketing campaigns use unconventional means to raise awareness. This might be something like a viral challenge or news-grabbing public activity, but this kind of marketing is really only limited by imagination.

Rebranding

While rebranding campaigns are fairly rare compared to the others on this list, they’re critical to get right. Much like with seasonal campaigns they can be difficult because there’s less room to make mistakes and learn from them. In other words, these tend to be high risk high reward campaigns.

You are about to learn how to create an effective marketing campaign. Before you get to that, why don't you take a minute to understand if bad processes are eating up your marketing budget?

How to Create an Effective Marketing Campaign

Making more effective marketing campaigns begins with a few basic principles. Following them will ensure that your marketing campaigns focus on the right things and maximize their chance of success. That said, success is never guaranteed, but even failure can provide invaluable lessons when you take the time to understand what went wrong.

Begin with Customer Centricity

A common source of ineffective marketing campaigns is teams that have lost sight of what they’re working towards. It’s easy to decide that you want an email open rate to increase or to improve time on page for your website without asking yourself “how do those metrics bring value to customers and stakeholders?”

Customer-centric marketing ensures you keep your attention firmly focused on what matters and avoid getting sidetracked doing work that can feel important without actually delivering real value. Focusing on the customer this way has been found to improve ROI by 15-20% because of the focus it creates. 

But this requires listening to your customers and incorporating their feedback into future marketing campaigns (more on that later).

Tie Your Goals to Business Objectives

There are few things more depressing as a marketer than seeing a campaign succeed only to realize that you failed to connect that success to a business objective. Suddenly, all your hard work has gone to waste and you have to explain everything to your stakeholders.

That’s why it’s so vital to ensure the goals of every marketing campaign tie directly to a business objective. Marketing objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Avoid vanity metrics that sound great but don’t actually connect to business objectives.

Structure Your Team Effectively

Every marketing campaign requires a team to execute it, so focusing solely on the campaign itself can lead marketers to miss team problems that hurt their chances of success. One way to improve team performance is by making them cross-fuctional. This means that each team contains everyone needed to carry out a campaign.

This team structure reduces hand-offs, ensures everyone working on a campaign shares the same context, and generally allows the team to better optimize around delivery. Of course you still occasionally need to work with people outside your team. In those cases, formalizing how that relationship functions with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) helps ensure everyone is on the same page about how work should be done.

Find a Channel That Works for You

Once you’ve chosen the goals of your marketing campaign you need to find the best channel for achieving them. This starts with considering who your target audience is, where they spend their time, and how you can reach them in those places.

As you do this, don’t neglect to consider traditional channels that easily get overlooked in today’s internet-focused marketing world.

Visualize and Track Everything

As in most things, information is king when it comes to marketing campaigns. Both the information you gather in the form of metrics and the information you display to help your team manage the campaign make all the difference.

When choosing a marketing channel, be sure it allows you to track relevant metrics, as otherwise even if your campaign is a success you won’t be able to clearly demonstrate that success to your stakeholders. These metrics also allow you to run experiments and precisely determine whether a change actually translates into better campaign performance.

But besides tracking the right metrics, visualizing the work that goes into creating a campaign makes it far easier for the process to go smoothly. By ensuring everyone always has access to information regarding what’s happening, team leaders can spot bottlenecks and team members are able to step in when needed to ensure campaigns get done on time.

Test Ideas

Every marketing campaign is an opportunity to learn. That’s why, ideally, your campaigns should be designed to test an idea. If at the end of a campaign, whether successful or not, you feel like you haven’t learned anything new, then you’re not running the right campaigns. Just be sure to consider what you’d like to test before your campaign starts. Good experimental design is nearly impossible to do after the fact!

Be Ready to Admit Defeat

This may sound like strange advice but the reality is that not all marketing campaigns will be successful. When that happens, recognizing defeat so you don’t continue to throw resources into a strategy that’s not working will save you a lot of resources. Instead, spend the time you save trying to understand what went wrong and applying those lessons.

Avoid Big Bang Campaigns When Possible

One of the most common marketing campaign mistakes out there is spending months and countless hours on a big campaign without testing the ideas behind it first. While this strategy can pay off on occasion, it’s unnecessarily risky in a digital marketing landscape where testing the ideas behind a campaign on a small level is easier than ever.

So try employing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) wherever possible. MVPs are all about using the least possible amount of effort and resources to learn the greatest possible number of lessons. For example, instead of building a product to determine whether there’s demand for it, simply creating a landing page and running ads to attract signups for people interested. This might require 5% the amount of resources to teach you the same lesson.

This approach ensures you spend the minimum amount of resources to extract the maximum amount of information about what works and what doesn’t. It also means that if a bigger campaign doesn’t work out, you can more easily narrow down what aspects led to its failure because most have been tested on their own.

What to Do When A Marketing Campaign Doesn’t Perform Well

Say it with me, “failures are always going to happen no matter how much you prepare.”

Even when you follow all the best practices and throw yourself into creating a campaign, sometimes it’s just not going to reach its target. That’s when you spring into action to learn some lessons, because every failure has some and they can be worth their weight in gold!

Begin by holding a retrospective. This is your chance to gather the team and discuss what went well, what went wrong, and brainstorm ideas for improvement. Crucially, you need to transform those ideas into testable hypotheses that you can try to determine whether they work.

This process is the engine of continuous improvement. As long as you consistently turn poor performance into an opportunity to learn and test new ideas, you’re still getting value from those campaigns. When the CEO asks you about them, you can explain that while the campaign didn’t work, you did learn some valuable lessons that you’re now applying to the next campaign.

So before you panic and despair, schedule a retrospective and start thinking about what lessons you can learn.

The Key to Better Marketing Campaigns: Agile

Obviously there’s a lot to get right when it comes to marketing campaigns. Fortunately, we’ve spent years putting together a wide range of accessible courses designed to equip you with all the information and skills you need to consistently deliver better campaigns than ever before. Whether you want to develop your own skills or learn how to lead your entire marketing function towards agility, our online platform The Ropes has everything you need.

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