Bulletproof marketing campaigns

When building a marketing campaign, where do you start?

We used to start with the channel.

Now we start our campaigns with the customer.

It’s a subtle shift with hopefully some big benefits. Here’s how we’re doing it and how you can do it, too.

At Buffer, we now think of marketing campaigns in this order: Mission > Customer > Campaign > Messaging > Channels. It’s backward from how we’re wired to think and how our team is organized: channel-first. We have a blog editor, a social media manager, a PR person, etc. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on our channel, then the customer and the message.

However, starting with the customer near the front of the process helps us ensure that we’re speaking to the customer’s experience and not forcing whatever message is convenient for the channel. It’s the difference between making the world’s best sandwich by shopping only at CostCo (because you’re there already) versus shopping anywhere you want and at all the best spots because that’ll give you the best chance to succeed.

Here’s the simple five-step process we use:

  1. Step one: Choose your highest-level marketing goals. Set a mission and a purpose.
  2. Step two: Identify your customer personas or jobs-to-be-done. Choose one to target.
  3. Step three: Come up with a campaign idea. What do you want to promote?
  4. Step four: Write the copy and messaging.
  5. Step five: Choose the channels.

In his post about designing marketing campaigns, Myk Pono of Aptrinsic talks about some of the benefits to this customer-first approach:

Organizing teams around channels creates a culture where no one looks at customer experiences and customer lifecycle as a whole, instead focusing on their own initiatives, which leads to fighting over budgets, messaging and inconsistent marketing strategy.

I tend to be quite channel-focused. I grew into marketing management from a role as a content writer, so a lot of my past experience has led me to see campaigns through the eyes of a channel (in my case, a blog).

How different it all seems from this more holistic perspective.

This campaign frame of mind is still quite new to me, so we’re just getting the chance at Buffer to put it into practice. If this kind of thinking resonates with you, here’s exactly what our process looked like this first time around. Feel free to steal the template.

Blank template [Google Doc]

Sample template (how we filled it out) [Google Doc]

How we run marketing campaigns at Buffer

We try to run a small handful of campaigns every few weeks. The channels and messaging vary depending on the campaign, though the jobs and customers are most often based on the following.

For our mission of helping people succeed on social media, we used the Jobs-to-be-Done strategy to identify these five jobs where we can help:

  1. Strategy
  2. Planning
  3. Publishing
  4. Analyzing
  5. Engaging

For our mission to promote the future of work, we have taken the more traditional customer persona path:

  1. Company builders (C-Level)
  2. HR and People teams
  3. Managers

For this current cycle, here is what we’ve chosen as campaigns, based on the customers we feel we can impact the most right now with the product benefits and marketing resources we have today.

Campaign name

Mission > Customer/Job

Social media team of one Social media > strategy
Higher education Social media > publish
Social care Social media > engage
Inclusive workplace Future of work > HR & People teams

And here’s how each campaign breaks down specifically:

Social media team of one

Message: “Develop and execute a distinct social media strategy. You can do it! We’re here to help.”

Channels: 

Higher education

Message: “Enjoy a greater voice on social media. Create a consistent presence, easily, in order to reach more of your audience.”

Channels: 

Social care

Message: “Set yourself apart on social media. Respond directly to your customers, every time.”

Channels:

Inclusive workplace

Message: “Create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and included.”

Channels:

As you can see, there’s still some work to do in order to bulk up the full funnels for each campaign. At the very least, we’re more organized. Case in point, after coming up with these campaigns, we’ve since been able to schedule some events and plan content that’ll be more focused on these jobs and personas in particular.

Your thoughts

Is this similar to the way that you or your team approach campaigns? I’d love to hear your experience!

(Oh, and if you’re interested to learn more about the Jobs to Be Done framework that we use, here’s a great post from Intercom. And in terms of channels, I have found the channel list in the book Traction to be a good starting point that covers a lot of ground. Happy campaigning!)

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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