Workshops are like a magic trick. They allow teams to design better products faster, help align cross-functional teams on a common challenge, and aid in making informed strategy calls.
Traditionally, workshops are seen as a skill which is a must for UX, Product Designers or Product Managers. But can you effectively use them for other business areas as well? For challenges like defining marketing strategy, organizing promotional campaigns, or crafting strong content ideas?
We dare say...yes! In fact, Jake Knapp himself (the inventor of one of the most effective workshops–the Design Sprint!) mentioned that...
“I like to use workshops for marketing campaigns whenever possible, even when the main question is about the product. Getting the marketing right is crucial to getting the product right. In fact, you should figure out the marketing first before you figure out the product.”
But how exactly do you design and run a successful marketing workshop? That’s exactly what we’re going to be sharing with you today!
Campaign Booster Workshop Overview
Workshop outcome: A clear, well-defined and prioritized list of marketing activities and actions with clear next steps
Time: Approximately 3-4 hours
Materials needed: A whiteboard or a flip chart, a few blocks of square sticky notes, laptops (for one of the exercises!), sharpies, and voting dotes. Or a well set-up digital whiteboard 😉
Minimum participants: 2
Maximum participants: around 10
Introduction to the Marketing Strategy Workshop
The core of Campaign Booster uses the exercises from tried and tested Design Sprint method, while adapting it to the specifics of working on a marketing challenge. This workshop combines several powerful exercises and techniques, which makes it an all-rounder tool for marketers!
Here are just a few examples of what Campaign Booster can be used for:
- Defining the overall marketing strategy for a product
- Crafting high-converting landing pages
- Devising efficient advertising campaigns
- Planning out full-circle marketing plans for a product launch
- Giving your brand a re-fresher
...and so much more!
Let's jump right into the workshop so you can see how it works.
Step 1: Gather the Right Team
Just like with any other workshop, it’s crucial to get your team right if you want to achieve solid outcomes. Marketing is not a stand alone discipline, so you’ll likely need to gather a cross-functional team. And while there’s not one-size-fits-all team set-up, you can use this list as a reference:
- Decider. This is the person who has the authority to make the calls on the project you’re working on. Inviting a Decider to the workshop helps ensure the outcomes of the workshop get immediate buy-in and don’t get shut down after.
- Marketing Managers. It’s a good idea to invite a wide range of marketing managers: those who specialize in performance marketing, content, affiliate, PR, collaborations–even if they don’t have a direct connection to the project at hand. Marketing managers rarely (if ever!) work in isolation, and having robust perspectives in the room will only do your workshop good.
- Designer. Instead of just passing on a creative brief onto your designer after the workshop is over, include them into the workshop and make them a part of the decision making process. This will ensure your designs are not just ‘pretty looking’, but embody the strategy you’ve agreed upon and drive the target action you need.
- Customer Support. Good marketing is allll about the customer. And who knows your customers better than the people who interact with them all day? Make sure to include a representative of customer service into your workshop, and you’ll be surprised how many insights will get uncovered, and assumptions overturned.
- Experts. What if you’re launching a new product or service which you frankly have ZERO idea about? Should you just go for it with the assumptions and wild guesses?! Not exactly. Make sure to invite experts whose know-how you need to your workshop. They don’t need to join for the whole duration of the session, but make sure you’ve allotted time for them to share their expertise and insights.
Pro tip: Keep your team size to 10 people per one facilitator maximum. Any more than that, and you run the risk of the workshop feeling messy and disjointed.
Step 2: Introduce the Challenge (Approx.10-15 minutes)
This is a great place to start planning your marketing campaign, considering you already know which challenge you need to focus on and just need a hands-on action plan on how to best execute it.
However, if your challenge still feels fuzzy and you can’t succinctly describe it and why it needs solving to the team, we recommend you try the Problem Framer workshop, a quick and simple way to help your team go from a broad range of undefined issues to finding the right one to concentrate on.
Let’s assume you already ran a Problem framer session, and have crafted a HMW statement of the challenge you’ll be focussing on. To better illustrate how Campaign Booster works in practice, let's pretend your challenge revolves around crafting a promotional strategy and creating a high-converting landing page for your seasonal Black Friday campaign.
Step number one in kicking off your workshop is to introduce the challenge you’ll be working on to the team. Even if you think they’re aware of the challenge and its context, we highly recommend you reiterate and explain again why you chose that particular challenge and what impact solving it will have on your team.
You might feel like you’re repeating yourself, but repetition is what really allows for the information to sink in. Plus, this will give your team the opportunity to ask extra questions before you dive head in into planning, and will allow you to catch any misalignment and misunderstanding early on.
So don’t skip this step!
The best way to lay out the challenge is to follow this formula for clear instructions: What, Why, How.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet often we forget at least one of these three things!
This usually happens because of a thing called the ‘Curse of Knowledge’: because we are familiar with the challenge, or a way a certain exercise is done, we omit important details that are obvious to us but aren’t to someone who’s new to the concept.
We say what we’re about to do, then how, but leave out the why. Or we say what & why, but forget to specify how.
Pro tip: As you’re preparing for the workshop, make sure to run your material for every exercise against that formula and make sure you have all 3 elements covered. This will ensure your team understands what you really mean from the get go and chances of misunderstandings fall.
So for example, if you would explain the above challenge, it should sound something like this:
Hey everybody, today we’re going to do work on our seasonal Black Friday campaign. Black Friday is very important for us, because it brings in 30% of yearly revenue, and allows us to expand our customer pool and reactivate parts of our old audiences. (What)
We’re doing this workshop because Black Friday is a hyper competitive time of the year, and we won’t only be competing with our direct competitors, but with all the deals and offers available out there. That’s why it’s crucial for us to create an attention grabbing campaign, an offer that’s going to deliver the most value for our audience, and ensure 100% alignment to achieve maximum efficiency. (Why)
Here’s our plan of attack for today: we’ll start out with Lightning Demos to gather best practices and get inspired by cool marketing strategies, then go straight into sketching the concepts for our ad creatives and the landing page. After that we’ll do the User Test Flow exercise to help us create a cohesive campaign plan, and will wrap up by assigning actionable To Dos and responsibilities for the campaign deliverables. Don’t worry if you don’t know some of the exercises yet, I’ll be explaining how to do them in detail as we progress. (How)
Get an introduction to facilitation and workshops
Step 3: Lightning Demos (Approx. 30-45 minutes)
As the saying goes...“It’s all been said and done before.”
But guess what? That’s not a bad thing! In fact, we often don’t need to come up with ideas from scratch or reinvent the wheel every time we look for solutions to our challenge.
Lightning Demos are a great way to get your team’s creative juices flowing by looking at examples of how other companies (not necessarily in your industry) are trying to solve the same problem.
What tools, tricks, and workflows are they using? Why do you like that? What can you adapt for your campaign?
Reflecting on the way someone else has solved a similar challenge is great for getting into the solution mode, while taking the creative pressure off. It also allows you to capitalize on great ideas while giving them your own spin.
We actually have an entire video explaining how to run the Lightning Demos exercise in detail! Give it a watch below:
No time to watch it just now? We got ya. Just follow the instructions on how to run a Lightning Demo session below.
1. Start by explaining the exercise to your team (using the ‘what, why, how’ framework we mentioned above!)
The goal of the exercise is to find as many great examples of other products, companies, or things that are solving a challenge similar to yours, as possible. You can think of this exercise as a short research session that will help the group gather valuable information on how others solve similar issues. Note: you’re not restricted to your industry only, and can draw Lightning Demos from any industry or company.
The crucial step in the exercise is showing those examples to the rest of the team, making newfound ideas tangible. Group members will be presenting the Demos they found, not just telling about them. That’s why they should jot down their main ideas on a post-it, and save their Lightning Demo as a link, screenshot, or a photo.
We recommend you give your team an example of how a Lightning Demo works in practice by demonstrating a feature, product, or idea you find cool and how you would document it on a post-it.
2. After you’ve explained the exercise, set the timer to 15-20 minutes and let the group get started with their Lightning Demos research. Tell them to use their devices to look out for 1-3 products, companies, services or people who solved a similar problem, or came up with an innovation in an inspiring way.
Lightning Demos are run in ‘together alone’ mode–that means NO discussion, and NO information or idea sharing is taking place in the research phase! It’s your job as the facilitator to reinforce this rule and gently remind your participants of it if the discussions spark up.
Working in silence without talking to each other might feel weird for your team, so to make the atmosphere less awkward, you can put on a non-distracting playlist (we have just the right one on Spotify!)
3. Once the time is up, check everyone has found at least one Lightning Demo and they have captured it on a sticky note.
4. Give each participant 2 minutes to present their Lightning Demos.
It’s best if you have a TV, a monitor or a projector in the room, so that each participant can present their ideas on a bigger screen for everyone to see. The presenter shows the group one or two key screens of each Lightning Demo and elaborates what and why they find interesting by reading out the bullet points from the sticky note to the group.
You can encourage the rest of participants to take notes while others are presenting to capture ideas or elements they find interesting to make sure they can incorporate them into their concepts later.
5. At the end of the presentation everyone sticks up their Lightning Demo sticky notes on the wall so that they can re-visit them and get inspired later on in the process.
Pro tip: You can capture the outputs (as a photo or a screenshot) and share them with your team after the workshop as a record of what you did, and to showcase the work!
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Step 4: Concept Sketching (Approx. 60 minutes)
Prepare your Sharpies, colored pens, scissors, and tape… it’s concept sketching time!
But what is a concept exactly?
In this exercise, a concept is an illustrated idea which requires no further verbal explanation and can demonstrate a solution to the challenge we are focused on. One way to think about this is as a short pitch deck that clearly communicates the idea and it’s most important features.
It’s a good idea to sketch out the most important asset of your campaign: the place where your customers will either see the product for the first time, or the place where they need to complete your desired target action. So in our example of planning a Black Friday campaign, you could be sketching out the examples of the ads and the Landing Page for your promo.
A few important things to remember and emphasize to your participants before you start the exercise:
- You don’t need to be “creative” to come up with a concept! Workshop participants are often worried about sketching because they “can’t draw well”, but the point of this exercise is not to create a pixel-perfect concept! Most often the best concepts are put together by people who best understand the challenge, not by those who can draw the best pictures.
- Your participants might also feel worried because they “don’t have creative ideas”, so make sure to emphasize that the goal of the exercise is NOT to come up with the most original idea. Quite the opposite, you should be drawing inspiration and ideas from the Lightning Demos you did earlier in the day and combining elements that stuck out the most to you.
- The concepts will be presented anonymously. That means participants won’t be presenting or explaining their concepts later on in the workshop, so the drawings need to be self-explanatory! To help with this, participants should write the actual words out on the concept, instead of drawing squiggles. This won’t be the final text but it will give the concept depth and reduce the need to explain certain parts of it. The participants can also add annotations on sticky notes and stick them on the relevant parts of their concept to explain or give further context.
- Because each concept is anonymous, your attendees should give a concept a catchy title (the sillier, the better!) and stick it on top.
Concept Sketching is an easy exercise to run, all you need to do is set the timer to 45 minutes, and announce to your participants how much time is left at 30, 10, and 5 minute marks.
This is also the exercise that tends to go overtime, so build in a little buffer in your planning to give the participants extra time if they need it.
Step 5: Voting (Approx. 60 minutes)
Woo, you’re done with the concepts! Give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve done a big chunk of work and we’re halfway through the workshop. Now it’s time to decide on which concept you will go forward with, and which concept will become the center point of your marketing campaign! Prepare your round voting stickers (or digital dots if you’re workshopping remotely), and let’s dive right in.
Voting is a crucial step in this workshop because this decision will impact your entire campaign! To ensure you make the best decision for your team, the voting process is multi-layered and is split into 3 different stages:
- Heatmap voting (20 minutes)
- Straw Poll voting (30 minutes)
- Decider voting (10 minutes)
Let’s go through each of the stages one by one.
Heatmap Voting (20 minutes)
The Heat Map exercise is a great start when you need to select one big idea among many, and each idea has a lot of details (like selecting a concept to move forward with!) So rather than asking participants to make a big decision right off the bat and try to hold all the information in their heads while they evaluate the different options, a Heat Map will serve as a great visual summary of where the best parts of each big idea are.
The point of this exercise is to make sure that the participants go through every concept (including their own!) and use the voting dots to call out good parts that stuck out to them. Participants can use as many dots as they want in this exercise. Tell your team to be really generous with dots: if a particular idea or part of the concept resonates with them, they can use 3, 5, or even 7 dots!
Unlike other voting exercises, the Heatmap vote is not binding. So your participants shouldn’t pour over which idea to give their votes to. The main idea is not to make a decision just yet, but to ensure that your participants have carefully read and considered every concept (sneaky, we know!)
Once you’ve explained the exercise, ask your participants to walk up to a concept or big idea and start placing red dots next to any piece of text or part of a sketch that they find interesting.
Throughout the exercise, encourage everyone to use all of their dots even if it means putting multiples on the same area to show interest. Encourage the team to think back to the initial challenge or purpose of the workshop and leave more votes on the parts of concepts that address it.
Straw Poll Voting (30 minutes)
Once the time is up and your participants have registered their interest by generously placing the voting dots on the concepts, it’s time to move on to the next stage of voting: Straw Poll.
This is a binding final vote that your participants will give to the one concept they think will best solve your initial challenge. Unlike many other workshop exercises, Straw Poll voting is not anonymous: Each participant will get a big voting dot with their initials written on it, and will also present their vote and the rationale behind it to the Decider. We recommend going with a different color than you used in the heatmap vote to avoid confusion.
This voting exercise requires a bit more facilitation than the Heatmap, here’s how you do it:
1. Ask participants to take around five minutes to scan the room and quickly scan each concept or big idea to decide which one they want to choose for their Straw Poll vote. As they do so, ask them to hold on to their votes and not cast them just yet. Instead, they should write the rationale for their vote on a sticky note so they can present it to the group later.
2. As the participants are doing this, remind them again to make their decision based on what they believe will best solve your challenge, and not simply vote on an exciting idea that may not address the biggest challenge. So following the example of running this workshop to plan a Black Friday campaign, you’d ask your participants to pick the concept that they think will be the most effective in attracting and converting your Target Audience.
3. Once the time is up, it’s time to cast the votes! To help avoid group bias the participants will cast their votes in a synchronized manner. So count down and ask your participants to silently place their voting dot on the concept they have decided to go for. Make sure to tell your participants that they’re allowed to vote on their own concept!
4. Once all the participants have placed their votes, ask them to briefly pitch the concept or big idea they voted on to the Decider using the sticky note they wrote earlier. This step helps the Decider understand the reasoning and rationale behind each member’s decision.
Decider Vote (10 minutes)
You’re getting closer to the final decision that will define how your campaign will look like. Exciting! The Decider Vote is a critical milestone in this workshop because the decision made in this step will affect all the work that comes after it. This decision won’t be changed, rolled back or back tracked, you’re committing to the course of action 100%!
Give the Decider one final vote dot with their initials on it that they will use to select the winning concept, and 2-3 additional ‘star’ votes that they can use to select individual ideas and bits from other concepts that they think should be added into the final concept.
We suggest you don’t add more than 3 ‘extra’ votes, because then you’ll be running the risk of losing focus and going too wide when you should be narrowing down the scope instead. A good facilitation tip is to start out by giving the Decider just 1 or 2 extra votes, and adding a 3rd one only if they really need it.
To run this exercise…
- Hand out the voting dot(s) to the Decider and give them 10 minutes to think about which solutions they wish to pick. Allow them to consult with the team until the 10 minutes are over, after which a decision has to be made.
- When the Decider is ready or the time is up, ask the Decider to place their dot(s) on the items they picked and ask them to briefly explain their decision to the team.
And there you have it! You have picked the concept that you will use to move forward with your campaign.
What’s left now is defining the logistical details and sequences to make sure your great campaign ideas actually get executed!
Step 6: User Test Flow (Approximately 15 minutes)
This is the part of the workshop where your strategy will really start coming together! User Test Flow is the perfect exercise to help you define the sequence of all the important steps in your marketing campaign.
Each participant will individually write down the key steps they think a customer would go through in your campaign.
Here’s how you run this exercise:
1. Start out by creating the matrix: take six blue sticky notes, number each of them from 1 to 6, and put them on a wall in a horizontal line, above eye level and evenly spaced out. This row will represent the number of steps in your sequence. Feel free to experiment with the number of steps, but we recommend you don’t go below 5 or above 10. Anything less than 5 tends to be too high level and lacks the necessary detail, and sequences with more than 10 steps tend to be too granular.
2. Then, take one blue sticky note for each participant, and label each one alphabetically, starting from A. Put them in a vertical line on the wall next to the horizontal line so that every participant has a row with six steps, marked with a letter, just like so:
3. Explain the exercise to your participants and give them an example on how to complete it. A good way to start this exercise is to define the start and end points first. That’s because we usually know how a potential customer enters our marketing campaign, and know what target action we want them to take! The first sticky note should define how the flow starts; e.g. how your Target Audience will discover our offer. The last sticky note defines the end of the flow, for example a purchase or a sign-up. The sticky notes in-between describe the steps the user has to take to get from the entry point to the ideal ending.
4. Set the timer to 10 minutes and let the group get on with deciding which steps they want to include in the marketing campaign. The exercise is done in ‘together alone’ mode, so make sure to nip any discussions in the bud. Once the time is up, each participant should briefly present their User Test Flow and put the sticky notes up into one of the rows.
5. Once everyone has presented their User Test Flows, you can start collating them into a single timeline: remove any duplicates, and place the rest of the sticky notes in a logical chronological order.
Pro tip: As you compile the final campaign timeline, you can start noting down all the deliverables on a different color post-its. This will help you save time in the next step where you’ll be assigning tasks and To Dos to the team.
And there you have it! Your campaign is already taking shape and form, there’s only one quick step left before you can plunge into execution mode.
Step 7: Assign Responsibilities (Approximately 15 minutes)
Here’s the thing: you might have the coolest, most original marketing campaign planned out, but it’s worth nothing unless it gets executed the right way: thoroughly and on time.
One of the most surefire ways to ruin an otherwise well-planned campaign is to not assign a task owner to your campaign To Dos. It might be obvious to you that the ad copy should be done by the copywriter, but don’t just assume they will do it. Maybe they think this responsibility falls into the performance marketer’s lap!
To avoid confusion and late deadlines, assign a responsible person for every single deliverable you’ll need: every ad image, email, social post, video, copy, landing page, and blog post!
If you’ve done the prep in the previous exercise and noted all the deliverables you need for the campaign, this exercise is super quick and easy to run. You simply take the sticky note with the deliverable, place it under the corresponding event in your campaign flow, and appoint a responsible person plus the deadline.
By the end of the exercise you should have a timeline with all the deliverables, tasks owners and deadlines defined aka your entire campaign planned out!
And there you have it! In just a few short hours you have planned out an entire marketing campaign, including it’s timeline, all the deliverables you’ll need (plus who is responsible for them), along with a concept for your most important asset. What normally would have taken hours of open-ended discussions, multiple excruciatingly inefficient meetings, and endless back and forth was completed with ease and oomph. Not so bad if you ask us ;)
Just like with any other workshop though, having the right exercises and sequences is just one part of the puzzle. What’s probably even more important is using the right facilitation techniques to ensure a smooth experience for you and your participants. Being confident in your facilitation skills and having the right tools to shortcut circular discussions, deal with troublemakers, and reactivate the group when the energy slumps is really going to make your workshops a delight to be in and will increase their outcomes manyfold. Learn more about facilitation tips and tricks in our free Facilitation Guidebook and let us know how your workshop goes!