Unless prospective customers know about your products you won’t be able to sell them. It really is as simple as that. And to make prospective customers aware you even exist you must communicate the benefits your products to them using marketing communications.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines marketing communications as
“all the methods a company uses to communicate with its customers and possible customers, for example the internet, advertising, etc..”
Marketing communications (marcomms) should play a fundamental part in every company’s marketing efforts. It includes all the various media and messages used to communicate with a targeted market – or to the market in general.
Marcomms activities are different from general marketing activities because they relate to an individual element within the gamut of the marketing mix.
Marketing communications is the ‘promotional’ part of the marketing mix
The marketing mix traditionally comprises the ‘Four Ps’ of marketing: Product, Price Place and Promotion. Of these, marketing communications are all about the promotional part. It’s the message your company conveys to your target market.
Marcomms can comprise anything from your online presence, advertising and direct marketing to sponsorship, social media, sales promotion, public relations, appearances at trade shows and direct sales (not to mention branding and packaging).
The objectives of marketing communications
There are basically two objectives of marketing communications:
- To create and sustain a demand and preference for your products
- To shorten the sales cycle
Creating a preference for your products is a long-term effort and requires the use of communication tools to position your products or brand in the minds of your target customers or clients. Brand positioning is time consuming and requires a consistent approach both in terms of communication efforts and with regards your product pricing and distribution.
This element of marketing communications necessarily requires a significant level of investment. But the rewards are great. By establishing a preference for your product and building your brand you will bring long term value to the company; value which could reveal itself in terms of market share and profitability. Brand building can also help you grow your talent pool.
Shortening the sales cycle means helping sales to identify, engage with and convert a prospect into a customer. Understanding your customers’ purchasing journeys – and they won’t all be the same – will bring you essential insights into how to shorten the sales cycle.
Effective marketing communications can speed up the sales cycle
By using market research and feedback from your sales team, a marcomms manager (or your marcomms agency) can identify how to speed up the sales cycle. In the case of high-tech products, providing customers with plenty of education can help early on in the sales process.
The marketing communications team’s aim should be to focus on creating and delivering relevant information at the right times to prospective buyers.
Marketing communications tools
The tools you use will depend on your industry, types of product / service and target market. To help spread the popularity of your products you could use:
Direct marketing can still be effective if delivered to the right target market. They can include lots of information and are cost-effective compared to online advertising. They can help to build leads within a localised market.
Emails are a powerful marketing communication channel – they’re an instantaneous form of communication and can be a cost-effective way to spread awareness. Email newsletters are a powerful way to nurture leads, by providing recipients with targeted messages. This helps to push them further down the sales funnel and keeps them engaged with your brand.
Advertisements whether online or in print are an effective way to reach a large audience in the shortest time frame. They are useful in creating brand awareness and help to increase consumption among current buyers.
Social media positive ‘word of mouth’ can generate organic growth. Social media is a personal ‘one-to-one’ marcomms channel (as are online marketing, personalised microsites and email marketing). Social media is a good place for providing your potential customers with information about your products and values. It’s a way for prospects to find ‘social proof’ about your brand as they’re researching – and an opportunity for you to establish your company’s ‘human’ face.
Exhibitions and trade shows are opportunities for your prospects to meet with your brand. Trade shows, seminars and webinars are excellent tools for addressing issues, generating leads and introducing new products. They provide a personable experience for potential customers and they offer you an opportunity to establish your brand as a thought-leader within your industry.
Press releases can help elevate awareness of your brand and represent your company in the best light. PRs are mass communication tools that help to spread the word about your products to a wider audience.
Whichever marketing communications channels you decide to use, what’s important is that they are integrated and are used simultaneously to promote your products effectively.
Marcoms managers need to be expert in all aspects of marketing planning, media selection and placement, audience segmentation and advertising messaging. It can be challenging to maintain brand consistency when, for example, preparing for a large trade show, whilst keeping up with all other ‘always-on’ campaigns. It is important to rise to the challenge though, as opportunities at the event will be missed if your brand is underperforming and, similarly, you cannot afford to ease off your other marketing communications.