This post is part of the Marketing White Belt series.

People are funny. In the absence of any map or plan, they’ll tend to follow the first person who appears to have even a marginally reliable plan of action or map, even if that map and plan is totally wrong. In order to be a successful marketer, you not only need to have a map and plan, you need to be out in front with yours, showing it to people so that they head in the general direction you want them to go. Let’s walk through the basic steps of creating your campaign plan so that you can have yours ready to go as quickly as possible.

Christopher Penn's Marketing Campaign Sample Map, downloaded from ChristopherSPenn.com
click the image for a full size version

Creating a marketing campaign plan isn’t rocket surgery. Instead of creating an elaborate 500 page document that no one will read, start with as simple a map as possible and answer these 5 questions from Journalism 101:

Who? Who is the target audience for your campaign? What demographics and behavior will you be going after? Who are your marketing partners and vendors? Who on your team will be part of your plan and who is responsible for each area of stuff that needs to get done?

What? What stuff does your plan need? Obviously, you need a product, but you should also have an offer, some campaign materials and content, a budget, and your ads.

Where? Where will you be doing your outreach? Email? Social? If social, which channels? What about display ads like the side of a bus?

When? When is the campaign supposed to happen? Is the timetable fixed or flexible? Are you competing against other marketing campaigns or events? For example, if you wanted to do a digital outreach to entrepreneurs, doing it during the week of SxSW would ensure no one paid attention to you.

How? How will you know you’ve succeeded? What are your diagnostic and objective metrics that you’ll be using to measure your goals and progress?

The sixth question normally asked by journalists, why? is a meta-question in the plan. For each of the branches and nodes in the map, be able to explain why you made each choice.

Two things kill marketing campaigns: complexity and absence. Absence of a plan is easily solved, but an overly complex plan is a greater challenge, one you need to vigorously avoid when creating your campaign plan. You can and should frame out an entire marketing campaign plan on a single page of paper. Certainly, you’d want to flesh out the details separately, or when you assign pieces of work, but creating a single overview of your marketing campaign plan is a great way to quickly make sure you haven’t forgotten anything and everyone working with you can see the big picture for the campaign. Feel free to use the example above as a starting point for your own campaign plans and maps.

The last major warning when it comes to marketing plans is based on a cliche: best is very often the enemy of good enough. A perfect plan that lays in a 500-page binder somewhere and is never executed is worthless while a mediocre plan, vigorously executed, is far better for you and your company. Make a plan, make a map, and expect there to be the occasional diversion, the occasional area that doesn’t work out. Design your plan for the shortest practical duration so that you can iterate, improve, and change things for plan 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, etc. rather than trying to doggedly stick with things that aren’t working because the massive binder says you must stick it out until the bitter end of the plan.

This post is part of the Marketing White Belt series.

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