It’s all too easy to spread confusion about your brand, products and services, especially if you keep sharing a mixture of ad hoc information with your target customers. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to ramp up your marketing efforts and create a consistent marketing communications strategy.
An effective marketing communications strategy (marcomms strategy) should leave your target audience in no doubt as what your brand is all about. A good strategy will help align your products with your messaging and help you carve out a unique place for your company within your industry.
What should a marketing communications strategy contain?
A marketing communications strategy enables you to reach your target market via numerous methods of communication. It needs to include:
- Your message (what you want to say)
- The medium (where it needs to be said)
- Your target market (the prospective customers you want to see your message)
In this post we’ll look at how to develop a marketing communications strategy that directly addresses your customers’ pain points, aligns your messaging across each channel and delivers what your target audience expects from those channels.
An integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy needs to address the following:
Choose channels that are the best fit for your business. For example, if you sell electronic components that are used in vehicles aim to build relationships with journalists working in your industry press. So, for example, think Electronic Product Design and Test and not publications that are about the vehicles because that’s not your audience. You need to reach the designers of vehicles.
By reaching out to journalists and influencers relevant to your industry you’ll gain more traction with customers via a sustainable, organic approach. This has the added advantage that it won’t break the bank.
You need to be everywhere your customers are, so pick channels where you know your customers will be present. If you’re targeting company CEOs, focus on social media platforms like LinkedIn and not Instagram, for example.
Select marketing channels that fit within your budget. If your budget is large, you can probably afford to run several campaigns at the same time. For instance, to boost awareness you could run ads on social media, PPC ads, and paid-for blog posts on relevant sites. If your budget is smaller stick to a few well selected channels to reach your customers.
Steps to creating an integrated marketing communications strategy
While your marketing communications strategy will differ from any other company’s these steps should lead you through the process of developing an IMC strategy:
1. Understanding your target audience
Before you can get started with a marketing communications strategy you need to know who you are formulating your plan for. Your marcomms strategy needs to define the needs and characteristics of your target customers. You can do this by looking at your existing customers. What you need to find out is:
- What do most of your customers have in common?
- Why are they buying your products or services?
Once you have the answers to these questions you can start to create targeted messages that resonate with your ideal customers. One way to access this information is to send out a customer survey. Or, better still, ask a few of your customers if you can do case studies about how you have helped them. Case studies are valuable marketing collateral anyway. Asking some market research questions as part of the interview process makes sense.
2. Define your unique selling proposition (USP)
A USP is the cornerstone to your IMC plan. It needs to be reflected in every message you send out across all your communication channels, from PR and direct sales to content marketing. Your USP ensures your brand message is clear and consistent and, over time, becomes recognisable.
Develop your USP by asking yourself why a customer should choose you over the competition? What is it about your products or services that makes them preferable to what others are offering? Also, examine whether there are any areas in which your competitors outshine you?
3. Decide on your marketing communications mix
You need to determine the combination of channels you’ll use to reach out to potential customers. These could include online advertising, e.g. Google AdWords or Facebook, offline print advertising, direct marketing, direct selling, events, content marketing and sponsorship.
Larger organisations tend to have dedicated teams allocated to each activity, while smaller firms or those without a developed marketing communications plan may only choose two or three. A word of warning though, it can be tricky to identify which channels are right for you without support from a marketing communications specialist in your industry.
4. Define elements of branding
Branding is an important part of your IMC strategy and it usually includes your website, apps, social platforms, sales and marketing collateral, direct marketing campaigns, business cards, signage, ad campaigns etc.
Your branding is at the very core of your business identity and tells people what you stand for. Your identity needs to be consistent across all your online and offline marketing materials.
5. Define how you’ll measure marketing communications strategy success
Once you’ve selected your marketing mix and message you need to plan which success metrics are the best to use. For example:
- Measure the number of mentions on various channels and blogs
- Record number of website visitors or downloads of an article
- How many backlinks were acquired
- Website visits from social media shares
Each component of the communication mix needs to be measured so you can determine whether you’re fulfilling the objectives of the marketing communications plan. Always use metrics that are useful, for example leads acquired, rather than number of tweets, since people who’ve signed up for something have indicated that they’re highly involved.
Creating an effective marketing communications strategy is not easy for the uninitiated which is why it often makes sense to work with a marcomms agency. Look for an agency that works with companies like you – because they will understand your target market and be able to identify the best marketing channels for your brand.