Planning out and then executing a successful marketing campaign can be an extremely daunting idea, especially if it’s your first rodeo! Marketing isn’t a simple case of coming up with catchy slogans and paying for a big billboard anymore.

There are countless different facets to modern marketing, not to mention more jargon than you can shake a stick at! Although it may not be the easiest thing in the world, planning and executing your first marketing campaign is necessary to your overall success. Here’s a brief guide which I hope will make the whole situation feel much straightforward.

Define goals

Your goals may seem obvious to you; you want to get people to buy your product or pay for your service, right? While this may be the overarching goal of your marketing efforts, it’s important to start off with a really clear idea of the outcome you’re working towards.

Are you a local hairdresser who wants to make sure you retain as many clients as possible, or a new mechanic who needs to attract new ones in order to get your business off the ground? After defining a task like this, you need to be even more specific with some numbers.

If you’re looking to attract new clients, for example, how many do you want? Over what kind of time period? While you don’t have to stick to set goals through the whole campaign, it certainly pays to have them to begin with.

Know your audience

Hopefully, you had a fairly clear idea of your target audience long before you went looking for this article. Again, you need to make this even more specific; whittle down your larger audience to one specific person, who will be your ideal customer. By having a clearly defined target market, you’ll save yourself from wasting huge amounts of both time and money by wandering down dead ends with your marketing.

Furthermore, defining your audience is essential to figuring out the size and methods of the campaign you’ll eventually launch. For example, if you’re running aerobics classes in a small town and there’s a few retirement homes in the local area, the best way to get the word out probably isn’t going to be through Facebook! Similarly, if you’re running a B2B tech start-up, you’re not going to get far by handing out flyers or using the village notice board!

Determine how you’ll measure success

Before you launch yourself into your marketing campaign, it’s important to spend some time considering what you’re going to do with all the insights you generate. This requires a good balance between researching your target market, and the campaign itself.

If you don’t have a clear and dependable way of monitoring and then analysing this data, then this needs to change! Without some dependable tools for keeping track of your campaign, and seeing where things need to change, you’re only going to end up with a lot of questions and no definite answers.

There are many free reporting tools available to you, many of them run by Google. However, if you want to keep track of your success with maximum possible accuracy, I’d recommend checking out more comprehensive tools like PosiRank, especially if your business is mainly online-based.

These will not only allow you to see what your marketing efforts are doing, but also come with a range of extra features such as marketing automation. Whatever the scale of your operation and whatever your needs, make sure you’re monitoring success in some way.

Scope out the competition

If you haven’t been an entrepreneur for very long, then you may think that spying on your competitors is a little cloak-and-dagger. While I see where you’re coming from, it’s certainly not cheating to do some research on what your competitors are doing. In fact, it’s pretty much a given convention of modern business.

If you’re not doing it, you can be sure that someone else is, and therefore gaining an edge! By checking out the competition through all the channels you can, you’ll have a much better idea of your position in the market. If your competitors are advertising all kinds of offers and discounts, and making sure everyone knows that they’re the cheapest option, then present your product or service as the best in terms of quality instead.

If your closest competitors are presenting themselves as having the highest possible quality, then market yourself as a cheaper option instead. Keeping tabs on the competition makes it easy to come up with a differentiator, which can make all the difference in those early stages when your business is relatively small and unknown.

Create a plan and budget for communications

All marketing campaigns should be chased up with a good communications strategy. This may sound a little complicated if you’re lacking in experience, but in reality, it’s only going to be as complex as you make it. Just create a simple spreadsheet, and write down your different advertising channels down the side column (print ads, social media, website ads, etc.) Then, plot the coming weeks along the top, and shade the cells when each tactic in your strategy is going to take place.

Similar to this, creating a simple spreadsheet for your budgeting will make it easier for you to keep track of how much the campaign is costing you over time, and therefore what your overall ROI is. The most important thing to remember here is to keep it simple. List your channels and time like I mentioned above, and then write down your forecast spend in one column and the actual amount in another.

If you couldn’t make heads or tails of your company’s marketing strategy, I hope this guide has been a big help. Marketing may seem like a broad and complex subject, but when you break it all down everything falls into place. Of course, each of these points has a whole other guide behind it, so get out there and learn as much as you can about the changing conventions and nuances of modern marketing.