Make Time For Proper Planning

The scope of marketing is evolving rapidly and marketing departments are constantly adapting to take advantage of new tools and technologies.

For instance we can now:

  • Understand so much more about our customers, including their behaviour to tailor campaigns precisely to their needs and attitudes
  • Utilise a much wider selection of media to reach and engage with them through the customer journey
  • Analyse what does and doesn't work, and adapt as we go
  • Get campaigns up and running in hours and minutes
  • React to real-time events to be even more relevant

If only that was the end of the story, but there is a flip side. And effective campaign planning can be one of the casualties.

What could be called the not enough time to..." syndrome.

Just because campaigns can be created very quickly, it doesn't mean that it is always best to rush every aspect. And good planning means that time pressures don't have to mean cutting out key elements. In fact, with so much activity interlinked, it is more important than ever to get the planning right.

So, what can go by the wayside?

Setting of meaningful objectives and sub-objectives

Before rushing its critical to agree how the campaign is going to be judged afterwards. This can be particularly important when looking at maximising. performance right across the customer journey. If awareness is the critical issue being addressed, don't then judge the campaign on trackable conversions!

Gathering all meaningful analytics and research to develop insight into the target audience and the performance of previous campaigns

Too often, reporting of results is wrapped up as insight. A proper investigation behind the figures is the only way to establish the why.

A written creative brief, so everyone knows where they stand

A classic sign of not enough time to syndrome is the lack of a clear written brief. When I discuss with creatives what their biggest issues are, the most common complaint is the lack of an inspiring brief. Too often familiarity leads to superficial instructions.

This is particularly prevalent where the creative resource is in-house and especially affected where a campaign has several integrated elements. This can make it much harder for planners and creatives to coordinate effectively, leading to a diluting of ideas. Integrated campaign planning doesn't have to mean dumbed-down creative. In fact an original idea at the centre can make every element work better.

It does mean giving the creatives the information and space to think.

Testing of key elements to optimise performance

On the campaign planning course I run for the IDM, it always amazes me how effective testing and learning is still beyond many marketing departments. Time is often given as the root of the problem. Sometimes when I ask how much testing they do, the participants gleefully tell me they do lots. But when I ask what they have learnt, and how they have changed campaigns as a result, the smiles disappear.

There are a variety of tests that can be run on landing pages, sign-up forms, social media posts, emails, PPC ads and direct mail, but it's critical to make sure the tests are valid, and the results and implications noted are shared.

I often hear marketers bemoaning the time pressure on them to deliver, and the limitations it brings on the campaigns they run.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Good campaign planning often speeds up the process and leads to much happier outcomes at the end.

To learn more about the principles of campaign planning check out David Hearn's Campaign Planning course here at the IDM.

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