Like snowflakes, no two marketing campaigns ever look exactly alike, but successful ones do have one thing in common: all the pieces are tied together by goals, a clear strategy, and a plan for execution.

As a small business owner, or the founder of a new startup, it can be tempting to view marketing as just another task to check off the list. Often, this means carrying out your marketing efforts as a series of disjointed, one-off tasks, such as firing off an email blast, launching some ads, and throwing together another landing page as the need arises. However, before you know it, you’ve got dozens of marketing pieces strewn around your business that don’t fit into your big-picture goals.

You want to make sure all your marketing campaigns support your business’s goals, determine what strategies work, and conserve your budget to focus on the most important growth opportunities.To do so, you need to focus on centering all your marketing efforts around well-planned, cohesive campaigns. Whether you manage your business’s marketing campaigns by yourself or delegate them to someone else, it’s important that the campaigns are well-planned and executed from start to finish.

Here are seven tips to incorporate into your everyday campaign leadership and management practices to increase your chances of a successful campaign:

1. Set measurable, realistic goals

First things first: start your campaign off on the right foot by getting clear about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. The importance of setting clear goals upfront can’t be stressed enough.

Not spending enough time selecting appropriate campaign goals can result in vague and confusing objectives based on subjective measures of achievement. To determine if a goal is poorly defined, ask yourself this: At the end of a specified time period, could two people independently assess whether the goal was achieved and arrive at two different conclusions? If so, the goal is not defined clearly enough.

For example, here’s a campaign goal that a marketer might initially come up with:

Increase awareness of our product by 20% by the end of the quarter.

This goal is problematic because it does not clearly define how “awareness” will be quantified or measured. Here’s a better way to frame the same goal:

Increase the reach of our product marketing to achieve 100,000 unique advertising and social media impressions, which is 20% more than we achieved in quarter one, by the end of quarter two.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when framing your goals:

Make sure they’re realistic. Although it’s wise to set challenging goals because you and your team may be capable of accomplishing more than you think you can, there’s no use in setting wildly unachievable goals. Knowing that your set goal is impossible to achieve will only demotivate you and your team.

Ensure that they support larger business objectives. Let’s say you’re using an Instagram contest to promote a new product. You might be tempted to define your goals in terms of Instagram success – the amount of views, shares, comments, etc. These are important metrics to be aware of, but they don’t tell the whole story. Your ultimate objective is not to gain Instagram popularity – it’s to sell your product, right? If your account gained thousands of followers but you didn’t sell a single product, that campaign would be a failure. Be sure to define your goals in a way that reflects what’s really important.

Align them in your marketing automation and tracking platform. If you’re planning to execute your campaign using an automated tool like Ontraport’s Campaign Builder, think about how your objectives will be translated into the goal elements you’ll place on your map to automate the customer experience. For more information on how to set the right goals in your campaigns, check out this article.

2. Outline your strategy and earn buy-in from your team

A clear, well-defined marketing strategy can guide your campaign in the right direction by promoting your brand’s mission statement while targeting the correct audience.

That said, the term “strategy” can be a slippery one. The dictionary defines it as “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.” It’s easy to get hung up on the maneuvers themselves – these are commonly referred to as “tactics” and, while they are an important part of a marketing strategy, they are not a substitute for it. The difference is that a strategy is a plan. It’s not enough to just use tactics – you must follow a plan for which tactics to use and when to use them, all with the purpose of achieving the goal you defined.

In marketing, you can think of a strategy as a comprehensive plan for how to target the right audience with the right message to drive them to take a desired action.

Once you have your strategy outlined, it’s important to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page about it before moving forward. If you don’t, you risk having your team pulling in multiple directions, which means your campaign won’t go anywhere. If you’re the business owner, make sure everyone on your team understands the strategy. This includes freelancers and any consultants or agencies you’re working with. If you work for someone else, make sure you get his or her buy-in at this point. Even if you’re fully in charge of marketing, it’s always a good idea to make sure that anyone you report to is aware of the approach you’re taking. Seeking strategy alignment both upwards and downwards on your company’s hierarchy is always a good idea.

To visualize your strategy and unite your team around the plan, you can use campaign mapping tools such as LucidChart or, or create a preview of your campaign directly inside your marketing automation software if it has a visual Campaign Builder for building drafts.

3. Delegate tasks and follow up

Once you’ve got a strategy outlined and your team’s ready to work together to execute it, it’s time to prepare for launch. Based on the strategy you outlined, the first step is to make a comprehensive list of all the assets or deliverables you’ll need to launch.

This includes things such as copy and design for landing pages, ads and emails, advertising targets or audiences, press releases, a finalized campaign map, social media posts, or anything else that you’ll need to bring the tactics you outlined within your marketing strategy to fruition. Arrange the assets in the order they’ll need to be completed, paying special attention to items that must be completed before other items can be started. Think about how you can delegate items to individuals on your team to maximize their productivity and minimize the total time required to get the items completed.

For example, say that you have one item that will take a long time to write and a short time to design, and you have another item that will not take very long to write but will take a very long time to design. Your best move would be to start with the item that your writer can complete quickly, then send it to be designed while the writer gets started on the longer task. This way, you won’t have anyone on the team sitting idle waiting for another person to complete a task.

While progress is underway, regularly check on the status of each item to make sure nothing is being held up or causing a roadblock for other work that needs to be done. Pay special attention to any tasks that have other assets contingent upon their completion. For example, if you were launching a holiday discount campaign, you’d need to know the specifics of your offer in order to create ads, a landing page, and many other pieces to get ready for launch. If you wait to finalize the specific details of the sale and the timing, you won’t be able to get started on these things. But if you make it a priority to finalize the details of your sale at the beginning, before the creative work gets underway, progress can begin on many other tasks at the same time.

Prepare all the pieces of your marketing campaigns in advance so that they’re ready to publish the second you launch your campaign. For example, you can create your Facebook ad audiences and your campaign but leave them set to “off” until the launch day arrives.

4. Review your marketing campaigns before launching

As items are completed, be sure to review them to make sure they support the strategy you outlined and your brand’s standards. Don’t settle for mediocre. Make sure to allow time for review and revisions so that you can launch the best possible version of your campaign.

When everything’s completed, run through your asset list one more time to make sure nothing was forgotten. Then, set everything in motion by publishing your campaign in your marketing automation platform, turning on your Facebook ads or sending out the first email.

Once your marketing campaign is launched, test it to be sure everything is working as expected. For example, test your order form to make sure that payments are processed as expected and your post-purchase confirmation email is sent on time. Then, you can start driving traffic to the campaign by launching your promotional items.

5. Proactively manage your budget

Once the campaign is live, you’ve hit a major milestone, but your work is not done. A big factor in your success is smart budget management to get the most return on your investment.

In addition to the fixed costs of launching your campaign (paying freelancers, your software, web hosting, etc.) there are variable costs that can change from day to day depending on changes you make to your promotional efforts.

It’s important to make adjustments to your budget plan as you gather data about your campaign’s performance. As your campaign progresses, your budget may shift between different channels depending on the success of each one.

For example, maybe you discover that YouTube is a highly effective channel, sending traffic your way for mere cents per visitor. Meanwhile, you discover that your LinkedIn ads are unreasonably expensive per click and that traffic from LinkedIn has an overall lower conversion rate. At this point, you’d want to shift your budget mid-campaign away from LinkedIn and towards YouTube.

This also applies within channels when you are promoting your campaign to multiple, distinct audiences. Let’s say you promote your marketing campaign with Facebook ads that are targeted toward three different audiences. Initially, you give them all the same daily budget but, after gathering some data about the cost per click and the cost per conversion for each audience, you discover that one of them is driving high-quality traffic at a cheaper price. Based on that insight, you’d want to increase the budget for that audience.

Measuring this data to get insight you can use to shift your budget is easy when you’re using visual performance reporting tools. You can filter your reports to compare the performance of different advertising channels and audiences. Check out this helpful resource to learn how you can use UTM variables to set up lead source tracking to get this insight.

By actively managing your campaign’s budget rather than just letting it run its course, you can squeeze more results out of your campaign without spending more money.

6. Optimize your marketing campaigns and course-correct along the way

In addition to managing your campaign’s budget, it’s also necessary to zero in on the pieces of your campaign that aren’t working well. To do this, you’ll have to track your campaign’s KPIs and run tests daily. By split testing multiple versions of your campaign assets, you can gain valuable data about what works and what doesn’t. It’s smart to launch your campaign with a split test running so you can start gathering data from day one, but even if you launch with just one version, you’ll want to introduce split tests in an effort to fix poor KPIs for certain elements of your campaign.

Let’s say the conversion rate of your landing page becomes a problem. You know it’s the landing page because your ads are successfully driving highly targeted traffic to the page, but only a small fraction of the visitors are opting in for the campaign. This means it’s time to split test your page. For the most accurate results, test only one element at a time. For example, change the headline or the location of the call to action.

Sometimes, when you are dealing with a disastrously low-converting page, the best course of action is to rewrite it or redesign it aggressively, then test the second version against the first. If version B achieves higher conversions than version A (with statistical significance), then turn off version A and start optimizing version B.

7. Report on marketing campaign outcomes and gather insight for next time

At the end of your marketing campaign, after you’ve done everything you can to maximize your ROI, it’s time to size up your performance to determine whether goals were met so you can improve the next campaign plan.

Be sure to keep an eye on important campaign numbers such as goal conversion rates and total contacts who took an action.

Go back to the goals you outlined at the beginning of your campaign. Were they met? If so, challenge yourself to a more difficult goal for your next campaign. If not, meet with your team and do a post-mortem to discuss what went wrong, how you could have handled challenges differently, and ideas for the next campaign.

There are many deciding factors that play into the success of your campaign. What have you done to make sure that your campaigns go off without a hitch? Share in the comments below.

About Megan Monroe
Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the Ontraport Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.