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How to structure an effective campaign plan to win more customers

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 25 Apr, 2024
Essential Essential topic

What are the six essential parts of a campaign planning template?

Today's marketing campaigns are complex since they need to reach and engage audiences across a range of digital and traditional channels as shown by our RACE growth system visual. Omnichannel customer lifecycle

In this article, we'll step you through an effective structure for briefing marketing campaigns to an agency or in-house team that has been used by tens of thousands of businesses in different sectors including financial services, retail, travel and consumer brands. I will also answer some of the key questions about marketing campaigns.

I originally developed the template for structuring one-day training courses on Creating Effective Marketing Campaigns that I ran for the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK.  We emailed the Word template to course participants after the training so that they could adapt it to their planning process. For the last 15 years, the template has been made available to Smart Insights members around the world to download. Unsurprisingly it's one of our most popular member downloads since every business needs marketing campaigns.

What is a marketing campaign plan?

A campaign plan is a short-term integrated communications plan to generate leads or sales. Its purpose is to engage audiences, it typically has a content marketing focus and an integrated media schedule.

The purpose of marketing campaign planning is to identify relevant, integrated, marketing activities and channels to reach campaign objectives as well as influence customers. An effective campaign plan has an engaging, shareable, campaign concept that utilizes both online and offline marketing communications tools and digital media channels.

What is meant by campaign planning?

Campaign planning is the process of setting your goals for a campaign, understanding your audience, defining an engagement strategy and creating a budget for investing time/money into different types of media including content.

A solid marketing campaign plan has:

  • Clear, realistic goals that you can be confident of hitting
  • The best strategy to achieve these goals against your competition
  • Sufficient details of the tactics and actions needed to translate the strategy into action
  • A method to check you are on track with your plans

What is an integrated marketing campaign?

Research shows that effective campaigns use integrated communications across channels so that the campaign delivers on these goals for communications:

  • Coherence – different communications are logically connected.
  • Consistency – multiple messages support and reinforce, and are not contradictory.
  • Continuity – communications are connected and consistent through time.
  • Complementary – synergistic, or the sum of the parts is greater than the whole!

How do you create a marketing campaign plan?

Luckily, there are a number of templates out there to guide marketers in planning and structuring their campaigns. Our free marketing plan template recommends a campaign brief structure of six parts that we outline below.

When to use a marketing campaign plan?

Your marketing campaign plan should be used in order to maximize the reach of online campaigns and acquire new customers. Retention campaigns are used in larger organizations. Campaigns should be used and designed with specific goals in mind, such as:

  • A branding campaign to build brand awareness, favourability, and familiarity
  • Launching a new product
  • Distributing a new content asset as part of a content marketing lead-generation initiative
  • Increasing sales of a current established product
  • Promotional campaigns to increase sales by offering a seasonal discount

What size of businesses need campaign planning?

Marketing campaign planning isn’t just for big marketing departments. Organizations of any size, type and at any stage of existence can utilize a marketing campaign plan in order to achieve an effective campaign. Today, with the wide use of content marketing by businesses, a campaign plan to launch your content makes campaign planning more relevant to all businesses.

A marketing campaign plan does not need to be lengthy or complicated. Creating a simple campaign plan with clear actions can ensure that both small and larger organizations are focusing on their goals and the overall success of the business.

How should a campaign plan be structured?

The stages of marketing campaigns and key issues that need to be included and answered in your campaign plan are:

  1. Campaign goals and tracking.
    What are we trying to achieve through our campaign and how will we know when we achieve it?
  2. Campaign insight and targeting.
    Who are we trying to reach and influence?
  3. Key campaign messages and offers.
    How are we trying to position our company, products and services?
    Which campaign or product offers will engage and convert our audience?
  4. Campaign media plan and budget.
    Which media channels will you use to reach and influence your target audience?

    What will be the sequence and integration of media activities?
  5. Campaign asset production.
    Managing the assets to form the campaign
  6. Campaign execution.
    What needs to be tested before the campaign is live and adjusted during the campaign?

Smart Insights Business Members can use our ready-made Microsoft Word marketing plan campaign template to build, track, and present their campaign plans and briefs using this structure. It features a one-page summary for the whole campaign in these 6 parts and then, for larger businesses or campaigns, 1-2 pages detailing each part of the campaign.

Campaign plan example

A campaign plan template typically includes defining the following:

  • Relevant customer profiles or personas to target
  • The value proposition of the product or service
  • The primary or hero offer which is the call to action (CTA)
  • The promotional channels for raising awareness and encouraging action
  • How website landing pages and customer journeys will feature the offer
  • The timeline and action plan
  • The budget required
  • The mechanics for how leads are generated will be nurtured and followed up through offers
  • How results will be measured and reported

How to create your campaign strategy

We recommend applying our RACE Framework to inform your campaign strategy. RACE is a practical strategic framework to help manage and improve results from your digital marketing.

If you're still establishing the scope of digital marketing within your organiziation, you can read our definitions of digital marketing, and 18 recommended digital marketing techniques, in Dr. Dave Chaffey's free blog 'what is digital marketing?'.

Ultimately, our RACE Framework using best practices across digital marketing techniques to get more commercial value from investments in digital marketing. It's used by large corporations, individual founders, marketing managers, consultants, and everybody in between.

So, if you think your campaigns would benefit from a RACE strategy approach, download our free digital marketing plan template now to discover how you, too, can optimize and manage your marketing strategy across an integrated RACE funnel.

What is the RACE Framework?

The RACE Framework covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel from acquisition to retention as shown in this infographic showing the goals for each part of RACE and how you can measure them.

You can use our RACE lifecycle diagram to track your marketing activities integrated across the reach, act, convert and engage stages of your customer's journeys from discovery, to purchase and loyalty. As shown below.

  1. Plan.
    This initial phase of plan involves creating the overall digital strategy, objective setting and plan. It's likely that your campaign sits within a wider marketing plan, with strategic goals and KPIs. Our planning tools help integrate all your marketing campaigns to align the your marketing activities with your wider business vision.
  2. Reach.
    Reach involves building awareness and visibility of your brand, products and services on other websites and in offline media in order to build traffic by driving visits to different web presences like your main site, microsites or social media pages. It involves maximizing reach over time to create multiple interactions using different paid, owned and earned media touchpoints.
  3. Act.
    Act is short for Interact. It’s a separate stage from conversion, encouraging interactions on websites and in social media. For most businesses, the main aim of Act is to generate online leads. So, it’s about persuading site visitors or prospects to take the next step, the next Action on their customer journey when they initially reach your site or social network presence.This may mean finding out more about a company or its products, searching to find a product or reading a blog post. You should define these actions as top-level goals of the funnel in analytics. Goals can include “Viewed product”, “Added to Basket”, “Registered as a member” or “Signed up for an e-newsletter. Act is also about encouraging participation. This can be the sharing of content via social media or customer reviews (strictly, part of Engage).
  4. Convert.
    This is simply conversion to sale, online or offline. It involves getting your audience to take that vital next step which turns them into paying customers whether the payment is taken through online e-commerce transactions or offline channels.
  5. Engage.
    This is long-term customer engagement and communications that is, developing a long-term relationship with first-time buyers to build customer loyalty as repeat purchases using communications on your site, social presence, email and direct interactions to boost customer lifetime value. It can be measured by repeat actions such as repeat sales and sharing content through social media. We also need to measure the percentage of active customers (or email subscribers) and customer satisfaction and recommendation using other systems.

2022 RACE Diagram

Why use the RACE Framework for campaign planning?

The RACE Framework will help simplify your approach to reviewing the performance of your marketing campaigns and taking actions to improve their effectiveness:

  • RACE is practical and action-oriented – it focuses on tactics you can implement in your marketing communications and on your website and mobile apps
  • RACE is customer-centered – it follows the established customer lifecycle of relationship building or marketing funnel from creating awareness; generating leads from new prospects; converting prospects to sell online or offline and encouraging loyalty, repeat sales and advocacy such as social sharing.
  • RACE integrates performance evaluation – It defines KPIs that marketing campaign planners should include at each stage for setting targets and reviewing results using analytics and summary dashboards.

Find out more about the RACE Framework, with our dedicated marketing training and templates. Our marketing solutions guide you through the step-by-step process of planning, managing, and optimizing both your marketing campaigns and your marketing business as usual.

The RACE Framework is proven to drive growth. Find out how Smart Insights membership can boost your marketing performance across the board.

Applying PR Smith's SOSTAC® to RACE campaign planning

To make sure your marketing campaign plan has all the essential features, I recommend also applying the SOSTAC® structure developed by PR Smith—Dave Chaffey’s co-author of the printed book Digital Marketing Excellence.

SOSTAC® is a great framework for structuring business, marketing or digital marketing plans since it’s relatively simple and logical, so it’s easy to remember and to explain to colleagues or agencies. SOSTAC® is a strategic planning process framework that gives you a clear structure to work through to create and manage your plan.

So, what does SOSTAC® stand for?

Situation analysis means ‘Where are we now?’ For marketing campaign planners, questions include:

  • Who are our target customers?
  • What are their typical characteristics?
  • What campaigns have been used by our competitors?
  • How are they meeting the needs of our target customers?
  • Which creative and messaging tactics are they using?
  • How can we achieve differentiation?
  • Which data about customer and competitor behaviour is available to inform our campaign?

Objectives mean ‘Where do we want to be?

  • What are the SMART campaign goals including the number of leads and sales based on reach?
  • What are we trying to achieve through our campaign and how will we know when we achieve it?
  • Is our focus customer acquisition, retention and growth or creating brand awareness?
  • What are the timescales?
  • Who are we trying to reach and influence?
  • Which are the customer personas?
  • Which customer insights are these based upon?

We recommend you create a conversion-based campaign forecasting model for your campaign so you can be more confident that it will reach the audience needed to give the required levels of business outcomes, i.e. leads and sales.

Strategy means ‘How do we get there?’ Strategy summarizes how to fulfil the objectives. It is the shortest part of the plan, but arguably, the most important, as it gives direction to all the subsequent tactics. It answers questions including:

  • What are our campaign messages and offers?
  • Which campaign or product offers will engage and convert our audience to the goals identified?
  • How will we connect with and convince our audience using content marketing?
  • How will we position our company, products and services?

Tactics are the details of the strategy. They highlight on a marketing campaign plan exactly which tactics occur when. Your chosen tactics should support and adhere to your customer’s journey. Questions include:

  • What is our media plan and budget?
  • Which media channels will we use to reach and influence our target audience?
  • What will be the sequence and integration of media activities?

Campaign planning tactics for marketers

To drive reach online to achieve your campaign goals I recommend you consider these 6 channels defined in this diagram.


Action is the detailed planning of tactics.

  • Who does what, when and how?
  • What processes and activities are required to make things happen?

Control identifies what you need to measure when and what happens. The Control section of the plan ensures you know if you are succeeding or failing – and you can make adjustments– before it is too late.  How you measure the success of your marketing campaign activities will be based upon the overall marketing objectives detailed in your marketing plan.


Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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