No matter where your busy season falls on the calendar, executing an effective seasonal marketing campaign always begins with planning.
Whether you’re looking to break into the market for the first time or grow your already strong customer base, the strategies in this guide can help keep everything in order during the planning phase.
And this isn’t just for large companies with lots of employees.
Growing businesses and solo entrepreneurs can find a great amount of value by being intentional with everything that goes into their seasonal marketing campaigns. From Black Friday and back-to-school to summer vacation season and open enrollment periods, a great seasonal campaign can take your business to the next level.
As you navigate campaign planning, remember organized action is the goal.
Each of these steps requires decisions to be made. And it’s very likely you’ll be operating with partial information or, at a minimum, less data than you’d need to be 100% confident with your plan.
With each passing campaign, you learn more about your audience and their behavior as it relates to your conversion funnel.
Step one: develop campaign objectives
These can be your overall business goals or a seasonal-specific objective. No matter what, putting words around your goals will form the rallying cry for all efforts that follow. At Lucky Orange, we often operate using a system of OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. In this case, our business goals are stated as objectives. Simply put, this is what you’re trying to achieve with the campaign.
The best objectives are significant, obvious and action-oriented. This inspires creativity and clears up any doubt of what the team is ultimately trying to achieve. Ideally, campaign objectives work within (but aren’t exactly the same as) overall business goals.
As an example, let’s say your business has a goal to increase market share by 15% in a year. Your campaign objective could be establishing new partner relationships or onboarding a new product line. By accomplishing this campaign objective, you also impact your business goal. If you add the new product successfully, you’ll increase your market share.
How many objectives should my campaign have?While having more than one objective is acceptable, it’s usually best to identify one as “primary.” Your secondary objective(s) are still vital, but may have a less direct impact on the bottom line or are more experimental in nature and, thus, less of a sure thing from a business perspective.
Step two: define success metrics
After selecting campaign objectives, you need to decide how you’ll measure success.
Within the OKR system, we’d look to Key Results (KRs). Great KRs are time-bound, specific and attainable but aggressive. If you hit the mark with your KRs, you’ll achieve success with your objective.
But, why not just make objectives that are measurable? There are two important factors to consider. First, a broader business objective like increasing market share has such a wide array of potential factors that only measuring one number may be difficult or less illustrative of what’s actually happening.
Second, using KRs allows you to be specific with the efforts of your team.
Would you prefer to tell a content team to increase market share 15% or, instead, drive 500 email marketing signups using webinars and content downloads? The latter provides a much clearer direction. Most businesses set 2-3 KRs per objective. Any more than that and you risk diluting focus and energy.
Step three: select channel mix
Which marketing channels will be the best fit for accomplishing your campaign objectives? Where is your audience spending their time online and offline?
You'll have better answers to these questions with each subsequent seasonal campaign you execute. During a busy season, customer behavior can change substantially compared to the rest of the year.
Performing a quick competitive analysis is a great way to see where leaders in your industry spend their time (and marketing budget) during the season. Are they diving into Facebook Ads or posting an increased number of blog posts? A large company with a substantial research budget has likely figured out which channels work best during the busy season.
Your campaign should include a balance of these popular channels and more innovative (higher-risk) options where your brand may see less competition.
Try your hand at Snapchat or TikTok advertising while maintaining large lead sources like PPC or digital banners.
Of course, seasonality may just mean pouring more budget or effort into the channels you already know work well. The goal here is to meet your target audience with strategic messaging in the places where they spend their time.
Step four: align content types with selected channels
Figuring out the type of content you'll create partially depends on the mediums you'll use to share your content.
It should be fairly easy to determine if an e-book, webinar or Facebook LIVE makes the most sense based on your campaign objectives. Most campaigns will consist of more than one content type, so this is also the place to talk through how the pieces work together to achieve the end result.
This blog post, for example, is originally part of a campaign around seasonal marketing.
In this campaign, we’re seeking to provide customers and prospects value through education around business seasonality.
This blog post helps support a larger all-inclusive landing page. In the end, the tone and focus of the two assets work well together and help build positive brand awareness for Lucky Orange. This can be further amplified with a promotional budget. And should we wish to tie in a community element, we can gather user-generated content to encourage social shares and beyond.
Connecting content to contextFor a campaign to have a chance at success, your content types must fit the context of your selected channels.
Without this connection, you’re spending time creating and distributing content to strangers who could care less about your product or service.
For example, a hyper-casual video ad may fit better within the confines of Instagram than LinkedIn. A quick-hitter breakdown of tips and marketing strategies may be ripe for a Twitter thread as opposed to a short blog post.
Step five: document primary and secondary messaging
Now that you’ve determined your goals, channels and content types, it’s time to figure out what you’ll actually say in each piece.
The best way to approach this is with a key messaging exercise. While it may be tempting to jump right into content development, skipping this step can lead to an unfocused campaign and poor user experience.
This exercise can be as simple as identifying your primary and secondary messages. A primary message is the "thing" the customer needs to understand no matter where they are in the campaign. The secondary messages are proof points and key differentiators.
Especially if you have a large team creating assets, documenting messaging serves to unify their focus and will make first drafts substantially closer to the final product.
When considering messaging for a seasonal digital marketing campaign, keyword research can also be a helpful tool. Emphasizing seasonal keywords annually during your campaign will, over time, build rankings and authority with search engines on the topic at hand. If nothing else, keyword research can help determine content topics and phrases to include.
Step six: report campaign performance metrics
Did you hit the mark or are there adjustments to be made? Ongoing reporting for each channel in relation to campaign objectives allows on-the-fly adjustments to messaging, testing, budgeting and more.
Once your campaign plan ends, a full wrap-up report will tell the real story of how everything performed.
Since we’re talking specifically about seasonal marketing plans, your wrap-up reporting should include adjustments to be made for the next year. Lessons learned, audience insights and channels to avoid will make your life easier when it comes time to plan the next campaign.
For many businesses, including UTM parameters in all campaign links can be a great help when it comes time to do reporting. Designating traffic by things like UTM source, UTM content, and UTM campaign will tell you which source the visitor arrived from, which ad they engaged with or that they're with the correct campaign, respectively.
If your business and team are more advanced or have a budget available to enhance your campaign, here are two more steps you can take. Each of these adds a layer of maturity to your campaign that can pay dividends if done properly.
Step seven: Create a paid media plan
If you’re not already creating media flights, start by marking up a calendar with publishing and promotion timelines.
This can be as simple as a spreadsheet with each week having its own row and then columns representing every channel you intend to use. Within each cell, you could denote active/inactive and potentially a short description of what’s being promoted during that time along with the budget allotment.
There are, of course, tools you can use to add further refinement (and complexity) to media planning.
However, the goal here is that your business is intentional with budget spend and understands approximate expected ROI from each channel.
Step eight: A/B test content, then optimize
If A/B testing is part of your normal workflow, including it as a feature of your seasonal campaign is a no-brainer.
If you’re not used to A/B testing, consider your busy season as a great time to start. There are a variety of A/B testing tools and functionality built-in to email platforms and content management systems. No matter your tools, the approach should always follow proper research methods.
Let’s say your campaign relies on email opens leading to conversions.
To create a great A/B test, develop 3-5 different subject lines and test them one at a time while always maintaining a hold-out group receiving the base email. Ideally, you see strong enough results early on in the campaign with a specific version that can be used for the remainder of the campaign.
Taking the time to plan campaigns from beginning to end will lead to a more focused output, stronger customer experience and hopefully increased revenue.
As always, this is simply one way to go about things. How did you plan your most successful campaign? Did we miss any steps? Let us know by messaging us on Twitter at @LuckyOrange.
Cover photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash