As you can appreciate at this point—especially after learning about all the available IMC methods and tools—IMC is complicated and often elaborate. Even simple marketing plans require multiple steps to execute effectively. For this reason, marketers routinely create campaign plans (also called IMC plans), which carefully list each step required to complete an IMC project. These “action plans” fit into a broader marketing plan and are used to document the actual steps that need to happen, when, and who is responsible for them.
Campaign plans help marketers to think ahead about how they will execute the promotional mix. The campaign plan ensures that the entire marketing team has a common vision for what they are working toward and what role each person will play in achieving it. By thinking through exactly which marketing communications tools will be needed and how they will be used, managers can ensure that the plan fits within budget and that they have sufficient resources to pull it off. Campaign plans provide the critical element of timing by specifying each step in the process and when it must take place, so that the whole effort is well coordinated.
In IMC projects, different touch points are designed to support and build on one another; the campaign plan helps ensure that each piece is in place when it’s needed. For example, suppose social media posts about a new product announcement include a link to a product information page on a company’s Web site. The campaign plan helps remind marketers that they must build the new product information page before the social media posts can go out.
Campaign plans are intended to coordinate a set of related activities focused on a common goal–the campaign objectives. If a marketing team is executing more than one campaign at the same time, generally it works best to create a separate plan for each one. If it’s helpful during the execution phase, team members can merge individual campaign plans into a single master plan.
Once a marketing team is focused on executing an IMC campaign, the campaign plan is the tool everyone works from. If an adjustment is needed, it’s simple for managers to make changes in the centralized plan and move forward. Everyone stays on the same page.
Campaign Plan Components
Effective marketing campaign plans require several elements that, together, paint a complete picture of what the marketing team will execute with their IMC tools. These include the following:
- promotional mix: identify the marketing communication methods to be used
- resource and budget requirements: outline the funding and other resources needed to execute the plan and explain how the plan will use the available budget
- tactics: identify the specific marketing communication tools and tactics to be used, as well as the target audience for each
- timing: clarify when each tactical step needs to take place, in order to meet the campaign objectives
- ownership: identify which team or team member is responsible for executing each step
- measurement: select the metrics to be tracked in order to gauge the campaign’s impact, and explain how the data will be captured
Different organizations use different formats for compiling all of this information into a campaign plan. The sample frameworks below provide useful examples of the types of planning frameworks used by marketing departments.
Campaign Budget Plan Framework
The first step in developing a campaign budget plan is to start with the total budget available to spend on a campaign. This budget figure works as a guardrail or constraint to keep your plans in line with the available resources. Next, think about the promotion mix you have in mind. Will there be advertising? Digital or direct marketing? Any public relations activities? And so forth. List the different methods and key tools you plan to use, and then determine how much of your budget you plan to spend on each.
Once you’ve outlined the promotional mix and how you plan to allocate your budget across different marketing communication methods, it’s a good idea to put together a detailed budget listing the specific elements that require out-of-pocket spending and how much they cost. In preparing the detailed budget, marketers should conduct research by contacting suppliers or comparison shopping online to confirm that they are accurately estimating the ballpark costs for each item. In the detailed budget, it is also useful to list employee labor and the time needed to execute the plan. This gives the managers of the organization better visibility into the total cost of executing the campaign. The following is a useful framework for developing a detailed budget.
As you go through this detailed budgeting process, you may find you need to scale certain elements of the budget up or down in order to fit within the total project budget. This exercise helps marketers think realistically about the trade-offs and how to ensure the project makes the greatest impact possible with the available resources.
Estimating Campaign Impact
Before you have conducted marketing campaign among a target audience, it can be difficult to estimate what its expected impact will be, because you are working in the realm of the unknown. However, once you have begun conducting campaigns, you have a better sense of their scope and scale and how many people you will reach. In the absence of that information, marketers can use a few different factors to estimate campaign impact:
- What are your marketing campaign goals? Marketers may simply use campaign goals to estimate the impact. This may be because they plan to adjust tactics as they go in order to meet these goals. Or it may be because once they meet the goals, the campaign will have done its job and it can be ended.
- How many people will you reach with your planned IMC activities, and what proportion of them do you expect to respond? Marketers can use a variety of figures to estimate how many people they will reach with a campaign, such as the size of an email list, a local population size, the number of social media followers, the average number of store visitors, advertising impressions purchased, etc. Based on these “reach” figures, marketers can estimate what percentage of people who are exposed to the campaign will participate and what their impact will be: new customers, increased sales, site visits, donations received, etc.
For some types of campaigns the estimated impact may be more difficult to quantify and express as a number. For example, awareness of a public heath issue or having a positive/negative perception of a candidate or brand might be an important result. Even in these situations, marketers should identify some way to estimate and measure their impact, so that they have some indicator about whether their efforts have made a difference. Survey research, social media mentions, Web-site visits, or other metrics might be appropriate proxies for estimating impact, depending on the issue and target audience.
Campaign Action Plan Framework
Once you’ve got the promotional mix and detailed budget in place, the next step is to map out key steps and milestones for executing the campaign, as well as who will execute each step. This is the campaign action plan.
For instance: If your campaign coincides with a new product launch planned for a specific date, then you need to add tactics prior to that date to support the new product launch—e.g, a Web-site update, a press release, and email campaign, etc. If your campaign involves attending a trade show, think through and list all the things that need to be in place to make that event successful: fliers, signage for an exhibitor booth, a product demonstration script, how to capture leads from the event, and how you will follow up with them, etc.
In the campaign action plan template below, note how the plan captures not only the steps that need to happen and when, but also the audience and internal owner for each step. This information helps marketers maintain a clear understanding of each campaign element, whom it will reach, and who is responsible for executing it.
Internal communication is a common shortcoming in integrated marketing campaigns, when marketers do not take the time to bring their fellow employees up to speed on what’s happening and how a campaign may affect them. Be sure to include steps in the plan for communicating internally about the campaign with fellow employees and teams who need to know about it and who may help execute the campaign, directly or indirectly. For example, all employees involved in sales should be aware of any sales promotions, so they know what to expect, understand the rules for applying them, and know how to answer customer questions.
As you prepare the campaign plan, look out for ways to integrate your marketing activities, so they build on one another to amplify your message and impact. For example, use advertising to announce a sales promotion, and reinforce both with social media posts that link to your website. Think of this plan as your blueprint for using all the tools available to you to get your message out.
Anticipating Risks and Complications
Once a campaign is defined and the action plan is in place, it’s helpful to identify any noteworthy risks or dependencies that might put your campaign in jeopardy. For example, if the campaign relies on one person to make everything happen and that person gets sick or decides to take a new job, that’s a risk that managers should know about. If the company’s Web site has been slow or has had recent service interruptions, that’s another risk. Below are a few more:
- people: being able to count on key individuals having the capacity, availability, and skills to execute the campaign effectively
- technology: knowing that the technology works effectively to execute the plan and achieve the goals of the campaign
- funding: having enough money and resources available to support the campaign; managing the campaign to fit the budget; ability to control cost overruns
- innovation: anything new and untested represents risk, such as tools, ideas, people, technologies, products, delivery methods
- competition: competitors’ activities that may gain advantages over, attack, undermine your business
- economy: economic downturns create uncertainty and instability, make consumers less inclined to spend money
- communication: communicating sufficiently to make sure all stakeholders are informed, messaging is well received, and various aspects of the campaign are well coordinated
- “acts of God”: weather, natural disasters, and other catastrophic events represent unforeseen risks and complications. Although there is always some low-level, persistent risk associated with these factors for everybody everywhere, some marketing activities might be more susceptible. For example, the success of an outdoor event may be highly dependent on favorable weather conditions.
Weaknesses from an organization’s SWOT analysis are also worthwhile considering as part of this step.
Once marketers have identified potential risk factors and complications, they can determine which ones are a significant threat and how to create contingency plans for anything that is of particular concern. By anticipating and planning for anything of major concern, marketers increase their likelihood of success for a campaign to meet its objectives, on time and on budget.