Need to know: Marketing

Anatomy of a Marketing Campaign

Boost member response to your program, product, and event marketing efforts with a solid yet simple plan.

A large part of your job, especially if you don’t have staff, is marketing—getting the word out to members about all that your association offers. In any given year, there are classes, conferences, golf tournaments, and much more to promote. A well-thought-out marketing campaign can boost awareness of and participation in any association offering. 

If you send out emails about an upcoming class, post about an event you’re hosting, or list your association’s benefit partners on your website, you are conducting marketing. Yet a marketing campaign is a bit different; it’s a targeted effort to increase awareness of a single product or service, and it has a defined duration.

Essence of a Marketing Campaign

At the root of every successful marketing campaign is a strategy. Every marketing campaign needs a plan outlining the goals, measurable objectives, strategies, tactics, and metrics. Yet many professionals try to skip this critical step and dive right into the fun, creative components. Don’t do this.

How will you ever know if how you market is working if you don’t have goals? How will you know what types of messages work and where, if you don’t analyze your tactics?

Let’s look, for example, at the marketing campaign for an event. Probably the most important element of a event campaign is a successful plan with measurable objectives. The objectives of your plan can either derail your entire campaign or make it one of your most successful. Carefully crafted objectives are key to campaign success.

One of the most widely recognized approaches for crafting measurable objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-based) framework.

Test all of your objectives using these five criteria. If your objective doesn’t meet all five, tweak or rewrite it until it does.

Most measurable objectives start with an action verb, such as “increase,” “improve,” “create,” or “build.” Similar to the journalistic principle of covering who, what, when, where, and why in the first paragraph of a news story, objectives identify the same core elements, emphasizing who is doing what, by how much, when, and where.

So one example of a well-written, measurable objective for an event marketing campaign could be: Increase member attendance at the event by 25 percent over 2016 attendance levels.  

The above objective allows you or the campaign manager to report on the success or failure at the conclusion of the campaign. For example, was a 25 percent increase obtained? To say that your event objective is simply to have members attend is shortsighted.

A marketing campaign may have more than one objective. For example, we could add the objective of attracting 10 percent more younger members. But be careful not to overload one campaign with too many objectives.

Now that the tough part is out of the way, how do you tackle preparing and implementing a successful marketing campaign? The following is a 12-step process designed to give a broad preview of what’s involved and what’s most important in the process.

12 Essential Steps of a Successful Marketing Campaign

1. Have clear goals.

Every campaign must have a compelling reason or overarching goal (a campaign should be part of a larger strategy and plan). For example, don’t just make an attractive flier for your event and put it in your newsletter. Have a goal of increasing attendance, attracting a new category of attendee, etc.

2. Know your audience.

Do your homework to know your target market, audience, product, service, competition, and anything else vying for your audience’s attention and business. The more you know, the better prepared you will be and the more successful your campaign will be. For example, if your marketing campaign is to increase participation in your continuing education classes, look at how other education providers in your area are marketing their classes. How can you make yours stand out?

3. Don’t just communicate, engage.

Develop a plan for the campaign that will build community and conversation around the item or program that you’re featuring. For example, don’t plan on just using social media as a distribution channel for your CE class campaign; post thought-provoking questions about why members should take this class. Get members thinking and responding. Use the campaign to start a conversation about how education will help members grow their career and make more money.

4. Sufficiently fund your effort.

Have a well-defined, goal-based (bottom-up) budget that includes staff hours, paid advertising, and printed material. Be realistic about how much time you or your staff will spend on the campaign and track actual time spent. This will establish a benchmark for future campaign.

5. Think multichannel.

Optimize your marketing mix to reach your audience where they are, which these days should integrate the social media channels your members use most, as well as email, and web at every turn.

6. Looks matter.

Have compelling creative with clear calls to action, using the best professional graphics you can afford.

7. Test, adjust, test again.

Preview drafts of your creative, calls for action, landing pages, and any other tactics and assets with a focus group to get feedback before the formal launch. It never fails: A focus group will always see something you missed or think of something you never thought of.

8. Don’t make your audience think.

Keep in mind the audience and their journey from message to action. Make sure that the user experience, from email to website page and registration to attendance, is easy to navigate and branded similarly. 

9. Ask members to help.

Have a plan for where and when you will run your campaign, but be careful not to spam your audience. Consider enlisting members to help you push the campaign on their own social channels.

10. Listen for feedback and answer it.

Practice active listening; in other words, seek out your audience’s reaction to your campaign. Read their replies. Is there any confusion? Look for ways to engage with members about the campaign.

11. Measure, track, measure again.

Audit your efforts at regular intervals during the campaign with an eye toward how you can tweak your message, creative, headline, and distribution channels to improve response before the campaign ends.

12. Learn from your mistakes.

Document your steps and celebrate your success at the end of the campaign with a case study to reference for next time. What worked, what didn’t, and what will you do differently next year?

NC REALTORS® has nine marketing campaigns scheduled for 2017, which all follow a similar structure and plan but vary in goals, funding, and tactics. After your first few marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to better gauge where and when your members are most receptive to your messages, which members respond, which types of marketing materials grab members’ attention, and how they prefer to respond. Armed with this data, you can more easily craft effective future campaigns.

Tracey Gould is the director of communications and marketing for NC REALTORS®. Reach her at or 336-808-4228, ext. 228.


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