Where to begin? 7 tips to start your first marketing campaign

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the leap and invest in the first marketing campaign for your company!

And while marketing itself is definitely nothing new, being a first-timer isn’t as unique as it sounds. With so many new companies starting, this is an incredibly common scenario.

In fact, there were about 266,000 new businesses began during the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, according to Statista

And if you’re a team of one, planning your first campaign can feel especially overwhelming.

So, where should you begin?

Keep in mind that a marketing campaign has a budget, a specific desired outcome and starts/ends on a specified date. For example, a Facebook ad is a type of social media marketing campaign, while simply have a published website is a marketing activity but not an official campaign.

Here are seven tips for you to think through before taking the official dive into your first marketing campaign.

Outline your goals

This is the first step no matter what type of marketing campaign you want to run. 

If you don’t know what you want to achieve or how it will be measured, how will you know if you’re successful?

Think S.M.A.R.T. goals! These are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. You can base your goals on sales, customer satisfaction or even profit.

For example, you might want to gain 10 new members a week, sell 10 more products per week than average, increase profit by 10 percent in the first quarter of the year.

The bonus of setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal is that it not only holds your campaign accountable, but it can also influence what type of campaign that should be run.

Identify your target audience

A typical mistake of most first-time marketing campaigns is that the target audience is too broad.

Sure, we all want everyone to want to buy what we’re selling.

However, when our message and strategy is too broad, you risk engaging almost no one.

Think of it like casting a net. The more general the message, the larger the net, as well as the netting itself, and you really don’t capture any fish. The more specific and targeted the message, the smaller the net and the netting itself. This means that while the net is smaller, it will catch more fish.

It can be a tough concept to accept at first. Simply think of yourself as a marketing sniper. You want to be purposeful about who you’re talking to, how you’re talking to them and where you’re talking to them.

The key component of this part of the planning is deciding who you want to reach.

There are a few ways to go about this. 

If you’re a new startup, you likely have a target audience already decided in your business plan. It’s about reaching out to the ideal customer, based on market research you’ve already done. 

If you’re an existing business, you have an added benefit of auditing your own customer database. Who is your typical customer? Is it who you would expect? Are you looking to expand into a different demographic? These are key questions you should ask yourself.

Depending on the demographic you’re targeting, this can determine the methodology of your first marketing campaign (such as where you should be investing). For example, print advertising is better for reaching an older, more community-invested audience. Certain social media platforms, like Instagram, on the other hand, are better for a younger audience.

Think about the gender, age range, education level, salary, location and even the pain points that you can solve with your service or product.

Conduct research

The term “research” is being left intentionally vague because it really includes both market research and a competition analysis.

Market research is about understanding consumers’ needs and preferences. This can be discovered through a number of different methods, including surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.

A competitor analysis looks at your competition, what they offer, what they’re doing well and even what they’re not doing.

Set your budget

The earlier you can determine your budget, the better. This helps you make the best decisions for your campaign without spending more than you can afford.

Of course, your budget can be more complicated than simply an amount you can afford next month.

A thoughtful marketing budget factors in the lifetime value of each of your customers (on average). In other words, how much revenue would you typically generate from each customer over a set period of time?

Your budget should balance your company’s earning potential with the investment necessary to help it grow.

Startup companies in particular might be starting with a small budget, and that’s okay! You can easily start with something small, like a targeted Facebook ad and scale up over time.

Of course, as you scale up, you can start diversifying your budget, thinking about what portion should be dedicated to any or all of the following:

  • Your website
  • Social media management and ads
  • Email marketing
  • Online advertising
  • Event marketing
  • Print advertising
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • TV and/or radio advertising
  • Public relations

Again, your overall strategy and budget should always come back to your S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Determine your marketing channel(s)

Once you have your goals, your target audience and your prospective budget set, it’s time to use that information to decide on the method of your first marketing campaign.

Typically, if you’re just starting to dip your toe into the marketing world, it’s best to try only one method at first. 

But as you get more comfortable, you can expand out to more of a mix of options that all complement one another. 

For example, a simple email marketing campaign to your existing database could be later expanded into a Facebook ad targeting people who have not interacted with you in any meaningful way.

Building on that, you can launch a display-ad campaign to drive more users to your website, as well as a lead-generation pop-up ad on your site to capture your visitors’ contact information to include them into your email campaign, and so on.

The more pieces you incorporate, the more you should track each piece on a marketing plan calendar to keep the big picture (and strategy) in mind.

But again, start simply. This will keep you focused on the execution and goals at hand and make the measurement of the campaign’s success easier to understand.

Create your message, content

It’s important that no matter how simply you might start your first marketing campaign that you include a message that engages your target audience packaged in a way that catches their attention.

This can be an offer, such as a discount or coupon, or an enticing reason to subscribe to your email newsletter. The sky is the limit.

Once you know your message, you can start creating your content. There are a number of tools (including Canva) that can help even the biggest non-designers among us create something professional-looking.

Just remember to stay in line with your own brand and that the sizing of your content should be optimized for the platform you’re making it for. 

An email header image, for example, is a different shape and size than the ideal Instagram post or even Instagram Story slide.

Measure your success

What you’re measuring ultimately depends on your marketing campaign and the goals you’re trying to achieve.

There are a number of different KPIs (key performance indicators) you can analyze, depending on the type of marketing campaign, including but not limited to:

  • Website pageviews
  • Time spent on your website or page
  • Click-throughs and referrals from paid digital ads
  • Email opens, click-throughs and CTOR (click-to-open rate)
  • Event leads
  • Engagement actions on social media (reactions, shares and comments)
  • Reach on social media

The reason why you want to measure is so that you know whether the money you’re spending is successful or not. No one wants to spend money on efforts that are not working.

As part of your planning process, decide what metrics matter most and make sure you know how to measure them.

In the end, take everything one step at a time when launching your first marketing campaign. The most important aspect is the planning. Remember, a great marketing campaign is 80 percent planning and 20 percent execution.