What makes a good marketing campaign?

In my capacity as a judge in the MPF (Managing Partners Forum) Awards “Best Marketing Campaign” category (see www.mpfglobal.com) I had the pleasure today of reviewing the short listed entries along with my fellow category judge in advance of the imminent judges’ dinner to discuss the winners in a few weeks time. As usual, the standard of entries – from law firms, accountants, property and other consultants – was impressive.

However, what struck me was that even within some of the most outstanding marketing campaigns of the year there are still some real basics that we must not forget. So my thoughts on what makes a winning campaign are below:

Clear objectives – How can you embark upon a campaign with confidence and assess the relative merits of investing in one initiative rather than another without having defined clear objectives on what you expect to achieve? And don’t those marketing and communications objectives need to underpin the firm’s overall goals, strategic aims and brand positioning? Surely you should have an idea of what results you expect – even if it is in terms of the number of web visits, new contacts made, additions to the database, existing clients contacted, number of appointments generated or the number of proposals submitted. No wonder partners are sometimes disappointed with their marketing teams if objectives are not set that manage their expectations about the quantity, quality and timing of the anticipated results.

Target market – There are occasions (for example, when embarking on general branding and positioning campaigns) when the exact market might not be precisely defined. But in most situations you must surely have a clear definition of the nature and size of the market you are trying to reach? And within commercial markets the number of potential targets – and those where there is an existing relationship – must be limited. What happened to segmentation strategies?

Integrated campaigns – Of course there is a time and place for a campaign that uses just advertising or just PR or just digital marketing. But what happened to integrated campaigns where each marketing communications tool is used to do it’s job through the cycle of awareness raising, credibility building, positioning and differentiation and then creation of an opportunity to meet face to face and then to convert interest into action and then business? And how about blending the wonders of digital marketing with more traditional approaches? I love to see the real skill of a marketer come to the fore in a carefully crafted campaign that blends profile raising, brand building, thought leadership, proposition clarity, targeted approaches and calls to action backed up with a planned sales and relationship development pipeline management approach.

Innovation – There is a lot to be said for tried and tested approaches such as issues based research followed by a report and then media coverage and seminars. Yet there is merit in thinking about unusual and different ways to communicate with your target audience. Like using Second Life, preparing an electronic game, collaborating with an unusual partner or doing something rather daring. Yes, it is particularly difficult within the professions to persuade the partners to try something new but it nearly always pays off. The risk otherwise, of course, is that clients get weary of the same old things and stop taking notice. And innovation plays such a big part in developing new services and entering new markets.

Monitoring and measurement – And surely an essential part of any campaign are clear controls and information systems to monitor the effective implementation and measure the results – even if the sales cycle is somewhat protracted? Doesn’t anyone invest part of the campaign’s budget in measuring results these days – particularly where profile, awareness, branding, new service and new market development are the primary goals.