An Effective Marketing Schedule Is A Simple One You Actually Use
Time to roll up your sleeves and build your marketing schedule!
You can use the campaign ideas from your homework in the previous lesson as your raw materials for this one.
Didn’t do the homework? You know what you need to do then 🙂
The key to getting this done is to keep it simple – no one wants to spend endless hours on a marketing plan that would be more at home on Wall Street – that’s just boring, and will only lead to a lack of focus and, quite likely, an abandoned project.
It’s also important not to allow technology to get in the way – there’s no need for complicated software, or to get all fancy with it.
In fact, you could just as easily do all this with pencil and paper, on a printed calendar, or by using some kind of event planner.
The tools don’t really matter as much as actually getting it done, and being able to use the finished product effectively.
Most likely, though, you’ll want to use some form of electronic means, and a good option is something as simple as Google Calendar.
Start With Your Campaign
If we adopt a top-down approach, it makes sense to start with the campaign and then work our way down to the individual task level.
There are several things to consider at this point:
- Set your campaign goals…
- Define your offer…
- Identify who you’re aiming the campaign at…
- Schedule the time when the campaign will run and for how long…
- Assemble the assets you need to run the campaign…
What do you want to achieve with your marketing campaign? Although bookings and sales are the more usual goals, the outcome doesn’t have to be purely financial. For example, you could also aim your campaign at acquiring more leads or email subscribers.
It can help a lot if you set realistic targets here. For example, “book 5 portrait sessions”, “sell 10 fine art prints”, “book 3 weddings”, or “add 100 new email subscribers to your email list”.
Setting targets will give you something to aim for, and act as a good measure of how well your campaign performs compared to your expectations.
If you’re new to this, you may not have much past experience to draw upon for making target estimates, but don’t let that hold you up. Simply make your best guess and start from there.
Obviously, no campaign is complete without an offer, and you should aim to express it as clearly and as simply as possible.
Doing so helps your audience to quickly understand what it is, and without ambiguity.
Clarity is also a critical element of any marketing message, so keep your wording simple. For example, don’t be tempted to think up cute-sounding campaign titles for the sake of being clever unless the intent is absolutely obvious.
This would also be a good time to plan out the terms of your offer such as the number available for purchase, the lifespan of the offer, and any limitations on the number of people, choice of location etc.
For example, let’s suppose your offer is for a spring family portrait mini-session.
You could design your offer as follows:
- Title: “Springtime Family Portrait Mini-Sessions”
- Description: Get the family together (max. 8 people) and join us at the botanic gardens for a 30-minute group portrait session…
- Restrictions: The location cannot be changed, and no pets are allowed in the botanic gardens. Session must be booked by March 31st but can be scheduled at any time before May 31st. Limit 1 per family + 1 as a gift.
- Cost: $100 session fee includes a $25 print credit. Digital files available only with print purchases.
Obviously, this is for your working reference only – the wording of the actual offer would be different when presented to your prospects.
Your Target Audience
Before you can start promoting your new campaign, you obviously need to know who you’re aiming it at.
It’s also important not to aim this at everyone because your marketing message will then be so generalized that it won’t resonate with anyone, and will lose its effectiveness.
Most campaigns, such as the spring family portrait mini-sessions we talked about already, will almost self-select a broad audience by their nature, but you should still consider narrowing the field to identify the prospects you most like to work with, and who you feel might best value the offer.
Start And End Dates
The vast majority of your marketing campaigns will not be open-ended, and they’ll have defined start and end dates.
It’s important to know these up front because the start date will certainly affect your timeline for creating and managing the assets you’ll be using to run the campaign.
The Material Assets Needed
This brings us to one of the major aspects of planning your marketing campaign, which is to identify the material assets you’re going to need to execute the campaign effectively.
Depending on how sophisticated your campaign is, you could include some or all of these:
- Landing pages are the workhorses of any online offer. You’ll have at least one landing page to act as your “online salesperson” for the offer, so this can be thought of as the hub of your campaign. Landing pages usually have very few distractions, good headlines, concise copy, social proof (testimonials), and a strong call to action.
- Lead-magnets are usually designed to act as an incentive for people to sign up to your mailing list, but they could also be offered as a preliminary item (in exchange for an email address) to qualify those who want to register their interest in your offer before you actually send them to a sales page (essentially a second landing page).
- Opt-in pages can be used for the single purpose of getting people to opt-in to your email list, usually in exchange for a lead-magnet. Opt-in pages are just another type of landing page (more on those in a later lesson), but they follow the same basic guidelines in terms of presentation and layout.
- Blog posts are a way to prepare your audience for your upcoming campaign and to generate interest. They can also be shared via social media and email, so are a great way to communicate the details of your campaign. Ideally, your posts should be informational in nature, and connected to the offer somehow. A blog post that simply announces an offer isn’t going to be as effective, so you need to plan these to include some form of narrative or interesting information as well as a call to action to your offer. It’s a good idea to have a short series of related blog posts leading up to the launch of your campaign, culminating in a post about the offer itself.
- Emails are necessary in order to get the word out to your subscribers about your upcoming offer. You might need an initial offer email, followed by several reminders and a final “last chance” email, each of which will require its own specific marketing copy.
- Social media posts can be used to promote your blog posts as well as your campaign landing page, and I recommend using a tool like Buffer to schedule those posts in advance.
- Facebook ads will be your best friend, especially if you don’t yet have a large list of email subscribers. If you have an aversion to investing in Facebook ads then you’ll find it hard to get much attention for your offer, especially if you’re in the wedding or portrait business. You’ll most likely create ads to send people to your landing pages and opt-in pages.
- Printed materials are other assets you could use to connect with potential clients, either as direct mailings or as promotional cards left in strategic locations, or given to new prospects from other people who are happy to refer you.
Who Else Is Involved In Your Campaign?
The most successful campaigns are often those run by a team of people, rather than just yourself, so think about who else you might want to involve in promoting your marketing offer.
- Business allies and other business owners in your community who serve the same target market.
- Existing clients who love to talk about the experience they had working with you, and are willing to refer you to others, especially if there’s an incentive involved.
- Referral partners include other photographers who may be willing to refer you to their audience because they don’t offer the same service as you, or are already booked up. This type of arrangement can be hard to set up, and it requires a degree of mutual respect and trust from both sides, but can be quite effective.
Some things to keep in mind:
Make sure you have all the relevant contact information, website and email addresses, and links to their most active social media profiles.
These people are likely as busy as you are, and may not have the time or resources to create marketing material for you. So, in most cases, you’ll need to take the initiative by creating content for them, which they can then use to promote you. This includes sample blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates etc.
You’ll also need to make sure you give these folks ample notice and lead-time for them to add any promotional activities to their own schedules.
Identify Individual Tasks
Now you have the overall details of your campaign defined, it’s time to move on to identifying the individual tasks needed to execute it.
It’s not possible to provide an exhaustive list of tasks because every campaign is unique, but here are some of the most common ones you can start with:
- Refine the details of your campaign or offer…
- Write the copy for your landing pages…
- Write the copy and do the layout for any printed materials…
- Write blog posts…
- Create any necessary graphics and images…
- Write and schedule social media posts…
- Prepare your series of emails…
- Schedule and write the email sequence…
- Develop any Facebook ad creatives…
- Discuss the offer with partners, allies, and referrers…
- Prepare and send the necessary resources needed by your co-promoters…
- Estimate how long each of your tasks will take to complete (be conservative)…
- Launch the offer…
- Close the offer and remove or redirect landing pages as needed…
Add Your Tasks To Your Marketing Calendar
By this stage, you’ve got your campaign details all fleshed out, you know who else will be involved with you, and you have a list of tasks needed to create and run the campaign.
All that’s left to do now is create your actual marketing schedule or calendar to help keep you on track.
As I mentioned at the beginning, you can do this on paper or electronically, whichever system works best for you – the important thing is to just do it!
One simple electronic solution is to use the Google Calendar. Not only can you access the calendar from your computer, you can sync it to your smartphone, and you can get at it anywhere you have access to the Internet.
If you want to keep your marketing calendar separate from your booking calendar, you can create a new custom calendar just for this, and then toggle the view on or off in your browser.
When adding tasks to the calendar, I suggest naming them in a standardized format, such as campaign name followed by task description.
For example, “Spring Minis: Write landing page copy”.
You can then assign various colors to distinguish between tasks of different types.
For example, red might be for copywriting, blue for blog posts, green for start and end dates etc.
To add tasks to the calendar, I would create them as appointments spanning the estimated time you think the job might take. This could be anything from an hour to several days, depending on the complexity.
You might want to set the time slots for these “appointments” to “available” or “busy”, whichever one best suits your needs.
Of course, you don’t want to risk forgetting to do these tasks, so remember to set reminder notifications as necessary.
Putting all of these tasks onto a calendar quickly reveals any areas where you haven’t allocated sufficient time, or opportunities to run a couple of tasks at the same time. It also gives you an easy visual reference for tasks that may be dependent upon the completion of prior jobs.
Use The Calendar
Creating your calendar for the first time might feel a little awkward and will no doubt involve some kind of learning curve, but it should get easier the more you do this.
Of course, you have to remember to use the calendar you created, and stick to the tasks and deadlines you’ve set for yourself!
However, please don’t over-schedule yourself – you need to leave room for life and unplanned changes!
Nobody can operate at 100% all the time, and I recommend you don’t schedule your days more than 40-60% full. That way, when something unexpected crops up (as it undoubtedly will!) you have room in your calendar to take care of it without sending your entire marketing campaign into a mad spin.
Your homework for this lesson should be obvious, right? 🙂