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Marketing Campaigns and Tactics: An Introduction to the Basics

Each of us probably thinks we know what “marketing” is. After all, we’re engulfed in it day by day. In fact, according to Forbes, the average American sees 4,000-10,000 advertisements daily. And yet when you start to use words like “campaign”, or “tactic”, or ask someone the difference between, it becomes clear most can’t define the elements of the messages that surround us. Let alone even begin to know how to generate some of their own.

Whether you’re a budding marketer with a business you’d like to attract some attention to, or simply someone who’d like to understand the world of promotion a bit better, read on for an overview of the basics and perhaps a better understanding of some words you thought you already knew.

Image of someone pointing at a whiteboard with notes

What is a campaign?

A marketing campaign is a collection of elements that represent a finite and executable portion of an overall strategy usually organized by a unifying offer or theme. A campaign is likely to be comprised of:

  1. A measurable, finite goal

  2. An intended audience

  3. An associated offer

  4. An available path for customer conversion

  5. A theme that ties it together

Then what are the tactics?

If we think of a single campaign as one of many finite representations of an all up marketing strategy, we can think of the tactics as the executed elements of that specific strategy - the actions taken to get the campaign into market. Tactics may include executing campaign-based messages into various channels such as email, social media, or search engine marketing, but tactics can also include activities unrelated to deploying a specific message, such as optimizing a landing pages conversion rate, testing the same message across a few distinct variants of an audience, or developing an app to support the campaign-specific offer.

An example

It might help to walk through an example. A local florist in Portland, Oregon has a successful marketing strategy: They attract local customers with unique floral arrangements at affordable rates by sharing photo-heavy content with new, existing, and prospective customers alike.

The holidays are coming up, and our fictional florist friends are getting ready to design their holiday marketing campaign. They did well around the holiday season last year, and want to beat revenue by 6%. They believe their most likely customers will be folks hosting friends and family for the holidays, and that their biggest seller this year will be arrangements designed for dining room tables. They’ve crafted an offer for the occasion: 20% off those products, and coupon code folks can enter online at checkout.

Now it’s time for them to decide on their specific holiday marketing campaign tactics. They know from experience that photos of their arrangements lead directly to sales, so our friends have decided that tactics will include Instagram posts with sponsored placements targeting social media scrollers within a 20-mile radius of the store, photo-heavy Facebook posts for existing followers, an email to previous purchasers and email opt-ins with photos of arrangements that will be available, and of course, each touch includes the discounted offer, a link to the website to order, and the coupon code to redeem.

At the end of the holiday season, our florist friends can review their numbers - orders placed with the discount code in place - to see if they’ve hit their goal. They can even look at the response by specific tactic, and get learnings to use in future campaigns. No matter the outcome (though we hope for their sake, it’s good) the holiday campaign is complete, and it’s time to move forward with whatever campaign design may be next; perhaps something celebrating the new year, or straight onto Valentine’s Day.

We can think of the whole thing as a cycle, with the most enduring and slow evolving piece - the marketing strategy - at the onset, the tactics - the fastest moving and most swiftly evolving elements always running, and the campaign as the seasonal or otherwise finite embodiments of each comprising the space in between.

I hope these definitions and our faux friends the florists help you understand marketing campaigns and tactics a little better, and perhaps give your own strategy, campaigns, and tactics a little review. Need help deciding where to go with your own marketing? We’re here to help however we can.


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