Whether you're establishing a visual language or choosing a color palette, great planning is key to any successful visual marketing campaign. But with so many marketers under pressure to produce more and more content, many don't feel they have the time to make a marketing plan.

What they don't realize is that this type of planning can save you a lot of time (and money) in the long term. This is especially true if you're creating a multimedia visual campaign -- and let's be honest, every marketing campaign today needs to incorporate a variety of visual content if it wants to truly engage.

So how can you kick your next visual campaign off right? Try these six essential steps.

1. Determine what audience(s) you want to speak to.

There's no way to determine what types of content you want to produce or where you want to post it without first knowing who you're trying to reach.

So to begin, draw up a profile of your target audience. In addition to the metrics included in a traditional buyer persona, consider:

  • Their preferred platforms and modes of engagement

  • Their favorite types of visual content (video, GIFs, infographics, etc.)

  • Why your product/service is right for them

Once you know how your audience likes to communicate, you can better cater your campaign to their preferences.

2. Identify your goal.

Notice I didn't say "goals." A campaign that aims to achieve more than one goal tends to split its efforts and not really achieve any of its goals.

Still, even if you have more than one goal for the entire campaign, each individual piece of content must only have a single goal, and aim to reach one segment of your audience.

Imagine a mini-infographic created for Facebook that tries to both launch a new product and build excitement over your older products. Audiences might not know where to look, or what to pay attention to. Likewise, a video that tries to speak to both senior citizens and teenagers isn't likely to appeal very much to either.

Keep it simple. That way, interaction, excitement, and engagement will be simple, too.

3. Know your platforms.

Not all marketers pay enough attention to platform-specific best practices when it comes to sharing visual content. They'll post the same video on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, when in fact, these platforms vary widely in terms of how that content displays and how people interact with it. That's why the same segment of your audience might still interact in very different ways depending on what platform they're on.

So now that you know what audience you're targeting, figure out what platforms they're on and what types of visual content they're most likely to engage with on those platforms. Then optimize each piece of visual content for each platform you're posting it on.

4. List the individual assets you'll need.

Now it's time to make a list of all the pieces of content you'll include in your campaign. This will of course be informed by all the information you've gathered over the course of steps one through three.

Here are a few types of visual content you may want to include:

5. Define your visual language.

A visual language defines the design style, color palette, font treatments, photography usage, etc., for the entirety of your campaign.

Why do you need a visual language? Because it will ensure your entire campaign has a consistent look and feel -- making your brand look organized, driven, and on-message.

What's more, a visual language will save you a lot of time in the long run. You won't have to plan the visual direction of every piece of content from scratch. Instead, you'll be able to hit the ground running with a clear, pre-approved direction.

6. Write text-based content.

Everything that I've outlined here is part of what's called the Visual-First Method. It lets the visual communication needs of the project determine its creative direction, rather than letting text drive design choices.

That's why only now in step six will you begin to write text-based content for your campaign. This text may be used in an infographic or as voiceover in a motion graphic. But text should only be used to complement and elevate your visual content -- not to stand in where visuals could have told the story better.

It's only after this step that the wire-framing and design process for individual assets will really begin. But if you follow these six steps, you can rest assured that everything you produce will achieve a higher quality, and be better suited to help you achieve your goals.