Marketing is both an art and a science, and because of the plethora of technologies and resources available to business owners today, it’s become one of the most flexible and diverse pillars of business development in the modern era. With countless channels, countless options, and financial tiers for any conceivable budget, no two marketing strategies can ever be identical.
Still, despite the tremendous diversity of online marketing campaigns available to business owners and marketers, there are a handful of fundamentals that are pivotal for success in every situation. No matter what type of marketing campaign you’re pursuing, be sure to pay careful attention to these seven core principles:
No marketing strategy can be successful if it’s built on a person’s instincts. Instincts can be good—they can help inspire your creative side and give you direction when you’re staring down a difficult crossroads—but if your instincts contradict objective evidence, it’s usually better to side with the objective evidence. Research gives you access to this objective data, which you can then use to make significant, wise decisions about your campaign. For example, if you know that 80 percent of your audience made purchasing decisions on social media, but only 10 percent made them in response to direct mail, your choice to pursue social media marketing over direct mail ads will be substantiated.
Before you launch a campaign, get intimately acquainted with your target audience. First off, your target audience can’t be “everyone.” Going broad with your audience selection may seem like a good choice because it maximizes your potential number of customers, but it also reduces the specificity and effectiveness of your message. Effective messages are ones that are carefully researched and targeted to a specific type of person. Know your demographics well in advance, and plan your campaign around them. Think about who they are, what they like, what’s important to them, and perhaps most importantly, how they think and make purchasing decisions.
Your brand should remain at the core of all your marketing initiatives. It is the identity of your company, and the persona that your customers will bond with over time. If you stray from the voice, image, or values of your brand even once in a campaign, you could alienate your target audience or cause our loyal recurring customers to question their devotion. Spare yourself the trouble—before launching your campaign, evaluate your message, your channel, and your direction in terms of how well it fits with your already established brand. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have a well-established brand, your first priority should be to correct that brand.
Each marketing channel is wholly unique, and few marketing channels are objectively better than others. Instead, each channel has distinct advantages and disadvantages that make them better for some companies and worse for others. For example, PPC advertising tends to skew toward consumer-direct brands, while LinkedIn marketing favors B2B companies. Twitter is effective at broadcasting concise messages, but email marketing is better for more detailed revelations and offers. The trick is to use each marketing channel in your arsenal to its greatest strength, and make up for its weaknesses by complementing it with other strategies.
Effective marketing campaigns are ones that have a positive ROI, or return on investment, with the investment being the amount of money you spent on the campaign. For example, if you spend $1,000, a positive ROI would give you $1,001 or more in new sales as a result of your efforts. The best way to maximize your ROI is to ensure each dollar you spend is useful. Overspending is a common problem—many new marketers dump money into campaigns they don’t understand very well, believing that marketing will turn that money into more money. But underspending is also a problem; there are many campaigns that can run well on a low budget, but cutting your resources too thin can render your campaign ineffective.
Data is what drives marketing campaigns forward, and it’s what’s going to tell you whether or not your campaign was effective in the first place. But you can only look at data that you had the forethought to measure, and many new marketers neglect to gather meaningful data and research from their campaigns. Be sure to include tracking scripts or other forms of measurement for as many factors as you can, including how much you’ve spent, how many options you’ve utilized, how many impressions, clicks, visits, and conversions you’ve received, and so on. Even if you don’t use all that data, at least you’ll have it on standby if you need it.
Finally, you’ll want to take some time after the campaign to look at your performance and evaluate your results. You may find that your campaign was ineffective, generating a negative ROI. However, this presents a valuable learning opportunity; what factors led to the campaign’s ultimate failure? In success or in failure, you’ll be able to objectively see the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign, and you’ll be better positioned to launch similar campaigns in the future. It’s an ongoing process of improvement, so don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed.
Apply these fundamentals to any marketing campaign you initiate, and chances are, you’ll find at least some level of success. As time goes on, you’ll grow more experienced, and you’ll be able to recognize less perceptible, subtler changes that need to be made for your campaigns. But your priority, whether you’re working on your first or your thousandth campaign, should be these fundamentals.