How to run effective campaigns
Part 3 of 3 in Growth Marketing Strategy Series
If your marketing team is not setting a strategy and operating effectively, you’ll know instantly when you try to run a big campaign. Everything will break down. On the flip side, if you can pull off a successful large campaign, your marketing team is probably collaborating effectively.
For something so core to marketing, running campaigns is a complicated art that’s rarely done well.
To get campaigns right, you need combine the right marketing “fuel” with the right marketing “engine”, at the right time, for the right people.
This newsletter covers how to run campaigns more effectively. The goal is to teach you how to run campaigns that drive meaningful—or even step-change—growth.
This is part 3 of 3 of my growth marketing strategy series. Reading the first two newsletters first will be helpful, but here’s a quick summary:
Understanding the 4 high-level ways to drive growth
Analyzing and understanding the 3 marketing strategy drivers (your inputs)
Identifying and making room for big bets
How to choose channels that are a fit for your growth marketing strategy
How to determine if a channel is working
Part 3: How to plan and execute campaigns - this newsletter!
What is a campaign anyway?
My approach to running campaigns as a team of 1 or 30 marketers.
High-level examples of various types of campaigns
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Back to the subject at hand…
What exactly is a campaign?
“Campaign” is one of those words like “growth”, nobody shares a definition.
Here’s my take.
I use a pretty broad definition: campaigns are marketing initiatives that involve both fuel & engine.
Campaigns are typically focused on a specific segment or segment(s) of your audience.
Campaigns are often oriented around a “theme” (creative concept, product or content launch, event, trend, etc), etc.
Campaigns often span across channels and funnel stages.
Campaigns should have a specific goal and time horizon.
Adding more complexity and ambiguity…campaigns can originate from anyone on the marketing team–whether on the fuel side (content, brand, product marketing) or the engine side (growth, demand gen).
Product launches, content distribution, demand gen and account-based marketing initiatives, and events…all campaigns. This is convenient because you might have thought that you need completely different processes for all of these things. You don’t.
For some, the idea that an event or a product launch is a type of campaign might be new. When you think of all these things as campaigns, you’ll be more effective at creating and reusing processes and prioritizing across all of your marketing initiatives. For a list of what I consider campaign types, see the roadmap example in this newsletter.
5 principles for running campaigns that drive growth
Running campaigns is a true test of your marketing team’s strategic and execution abilities. But there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to campaigns—from how to plan them to getting the hand-offs right to determine what’s working. And where there’s gray, there’s room for error.
Here’s our attempt to remove some of that gray area and provide guidance on how to run campaigns:
You need to actually run campaigns (this one may seem obvious, but many teams don’t effectively combine fuel and engine activities )
Plan campaigns in advance—and be ready to make tough prioritization decisions
Each campaign needs a single DRI and tight coordination across all of marketing
Campaign briefs are not busywork, they’re a requirement
Double down on campaigns that work—don’t keep reinventing the wheel
Let’s dive into each…
1. Actually run campaigns
One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to campaigns is just not doing them. You can’t just create content and build out channels separately—you need to think in terms of coordinated initiatives.
Many marketing teams fall into this trap…
They never think about how to combine fuel and engine in creative ways.
They don’t plan for big moments.
They don’t think about how to reach specific audience segments–and what channels or creative work to do for that segment vs other audiences.
They don’t have a tight feedback loop between what’s being made, how it’s being distributed, what’s actually working, etc.
They have either way too much fuel, with no focus on building an engine to distribute said fuel. Or they spend all their time building a perfect engine with no fuel to drive it.
2. Plan campaigns in advance—be ready to make tough prioritization decisions
Campaign ideas come from marketing strategy work. The first newsletter in this series talked about how to build a marketing strategy that drives impact and plays into your strengths. I covered how to:
Stack rank the 4 highest-level ways to grow
Deeply understand your audience before anything else
Use your GTM motion to guide your marketing activities
Identify your marketing advantages and build your marketing strategy around these strengths
Identify your core storylines or the “perceptions” you want to drive. More on this in our perceptions newsletter.
How to use MKT1’s “4 high-level ways to grow” exercise to help prioritize campaigns:
First, stack rank the 4 high-level ways to grow as part of your quarterly planning process. Then, pick the campaigns that align to the top ways you think you will grow.
e.g. If you plan to primarily grow by reaching new market segments, choose campaigns that help you reach them, not campaigns that go after your existing audience.
4 ways to grow:
1. Go after new market segments
2. Gain more market share in your current market
3. Increase conversion rates
4. Increase revenue per customer
Goal setting & universal campaign prioritization
When you do this strategy work, it becomes much easier to figure out the initiatives that can change your trajectory as a business.
And after you do this work, you’re now ready to set goals as a marketing team–and make the tough choices as to which campaigns to include. This is easier said than done, it’s often hard to pick which campaigns are the highest leverage–especially since campaigns can impact different funnel stages.
Identify your big bets and big moments (aka campaigns!) early in the quarterly planning process.
Work together as a team to stack rank the campaigns that will have the most impact (base your definition of “most impactful” on your stack ranking of the 4 high-level ways to grow).
When setting goals, don’t just set KPI-based goals, but also project, experiment, and ops goals. Large campaigns are “project goals” and you should be planning for these initiatives in advance.
Add these to a campaign roadmap. Here’s an example roadmap:
Don’t set your campaign plans in stone
While you need to set goals and make roadmaps to prioritize the right things, the common mistake here is being inflexible. We recommend revisiting and reassessing your quarterly plans monthly. Things may come up in that planning period that drive a new campaign idea, for example:
A trend or event can surface in your market you want to jump on.
You may get a few referenceable customers from a competitor or in a certain segment and want to go capture more of that audience quickly.
You could have a lot of success with an ad campaign and want to double down on that creative type and segmentation on more channels.
In short, be ready to swap out one campaign priority for the next.
3. Each campaign needs a single DRI and tight coordination across all of marketing
Campaign ideas can come from any sub-function in marketing—whether on the fuel or engine side of the house. But as I mentioned, almost all campaigns involve cross-marketing collaboration. This can make the process of planning campaigns and executing them complicated.
To avoid that, you need a DRI (directly responsible individually) and tight feedback loops across the team. Early on, it’s typically the role of the head of marketing to help universally prioritize and lead campaigns. As your team grows, the DRI can be someone from any marketing sub-function–even if their core job is typically owning a channel or content creation.
This diagram shows what each sub-function of marketing should bring to the table (and if you are a marketing team of just 1 or 2 people, make sure you are thinking through all of these areas when planning for a campaign). The DRI needs to make sure the loops, handoffs, and cross-team collaboration happen.
4. Campaign briefs are not busywork, they’re a requirement
To get a campaign right, you need to plan for all the moving pieces. But more so than that, you need to make sure the campaign is worth doing in the first place and get alignment on what you are doing and why. And the best way to do that is with an MKT1 GACCS brief:
GACCS stands for: Goals, Audience, Creative, Channels, Stakeholders
Early in the planning process, write out a GACCS to give your work focus, set context for reviewers, and ensure that you have a plan for driving results.
Writing the GACCs will become the most valuable 10-30 minutes you spend on a campaign—and save you hours on back-and-forth later.
For smaller projects, you can make a quick GACCS brief. For larger projects, go into detail on every area of the GACCS and make sure you also include a list of assets needed.
Campaign brief template
Paid subscribers get access to a campaign template in Google Docs, that works well for product launches, demand gen campaigns, content distribution, etc.
Upgrade to a paid subscription to get access to our complete campaign brief template—and lots of other stuff too!
5. Double down on campaigns that work
The goal for most campaigns is to drive growth at a particular funnel stage. But, it’s also helpful to understand if you’ve reached a certain percentage of your target audience or accounts, if visitors coming through campaign landing pages converted higher than generic landing pages, how specific ad creative performed, etc. So, tracking campaign success can seem a bit tricky, especially if you don’t have robust analytics and reporting.
To track if campaigns are working, you need to use UTM parameters on all URLs for your campaigns and set up “campaign influence reporting” in your CRM.
“Campaign influence” means looking at the impact of all campaign activities on revenue:
“Campaign influence” is what Salesforce calls these reports, so most people just use that lingo.
Looking at campaign influence shows you which “campaigns” touched a closed-won account throughout the lifecycle.
Looking at campaign influence is a lightweight version of multi-touch attribution. Adding up all of the campaign influenced revenue will total more than 100% of revenue; it’s not mutually exclusive and assumes multiple campaigns influenced revenue.
Remember, campaigns come in many varieties and comparing results isn’t apples to apples, so have a clear idea for each campaign of what ROI you are hoping for.
When you find a campaign that works…
You don’t constantly need to come up with brand new, totally original campaign ideas. Instead, you need to double down on what works and continually add value for your audience. So when something works, create an internal playbook for it.
We think it’s helpful to create “blueprint” or “internal playbooks” for campaigns and to do that we like to create “tiers”. Tiers indicate what level of effort you are putting into the campaign and are also great for alignment. You can include this in your brief as well, or even make custom briefs for each tier.
Tier 1 campaigns: These are large campaigns and your whole team is rallying around them. You’re running a campaign for multiple segments, with multiple creative assets, across many channels.
Tier 2 campaigns: These are medium-sized campaigns.
Tier 3 campaigns: These campaigns are tests—and you start small. Your campaign may just be for 1 segment, across 1 or 2 channels. If the campaign works, you can go bigger next time.
Examples of campaigns by type
Lastly, here are high-level examples for each campaign type—hopefully this gets the wheels turning on new campaign ideas!
Campaign Fuel: Specific messaging, content, and creative for a role, company type, industry, etc
Campaign Engine: Target just those segments across channels
Success: Segmented campaigns do better than generalized marketing
Account-based marketing campaigns (note: this is just a type of segment-specific campaign)
Campaign fuel: Personalized content or creative just for accounts identified as high-value by sales and marketing
Campaign engine: 1 to 1 channels (email, direct mail, small group events, etc.)
Success: Converting those specific accounts
Campaign fuel: Content shared at the event–make sure you identify why people would attend and what you want them to take away at the end!
Campaign engine: Driving registrations through various channels and driving engagement during the event
Success: People or accounts who attend events convert through the funnel at higher rates
Lifecycle marketing campaigns:
Campaign fuel: Product marketing and customer marketing showing examples of how to be successful with the product or specific product examples. E.g. Share templates created by existing customers.
Campaign engine: Emails, in-product marketing, direct outreach from customer success
Success: Drive growth by marketing into your existing customer or prospect base–depending on your GTM motion this could be qualified leads, free users, or existing customers.
Campaign fuel: Top of funnel blog or resources content
Campaign engine: Organic and paid social, email newsletter
Success: Driving new user traffic that converts
Time or trend-based campaigns:
Campaign fuel: Explain a new regulation, trend, or change in an industry
Campaign engine: External publications like press, podcasts, etc; SEO if this trend is searched for frequently
Success: Drive forward a perception that you are the leader in this trend; drive new top of funnel traffic
Campaign fuel: Product news – create positioning for the new feature or product, make sure to explain why it’s better than the alternative way to do this
Campaign engine: Owned channels for existing users, top of funnel channels if trying to get new users
Success: Drive product usage, increase ACV or expansion revenue
Competitive switch campaigns:
Campaign fuel: Explain why your product is better for a specific audience or job to be done than a competitor, create full-funnel assets for use in marketing and sales
Campaign engine: Find a list of who uses the competitor’s product or target their followers on social
Success: Win rate in head to head sales with competitor; search traffic from competitors
The true test of your marketing team’s efficiency, ability to drive impact, and collaboration is how well you can run campaigns as you scale. Hopefully this newsletter put you on the path toward campaign excellence!
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