Before the Internet became a popular marketing communications channel, traditional media channels such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television, direct mail and the Yellow Pages were the only options. Back then, it was easier to develop a marketing communications strategy for a company. This strategy was most likely determined by the marketing budget and resources available to a company.
When the Internet became a viable marketing communications channel, smaller businesses could compete in a much larger market. For a much lower cost, you can now reach your ideal customers across a larger geographic area and in more ways.
However, while the Internet has given us more opportunities, it has become more complex to decide on the best marketing channel strategy to deliver company messages to a target audience. It’s also become challenging to build stronger relationships with these people. With all of these options at your disposal, the priority should be to select the appropriate media channels for your business, whether it’s online or offline.
In this article, we will look at steps for creating a marketing communications strategy. Before we do that, let us look at some marketing communications channels you can use to deliver your message.
A marketing communications channel, also known as a media channel, is a vehicle to deliver your company’s message or offer to its customers. While this is only one part of a successful marketing campaign, it’s a crucial one. The right channel can help you connect with your ideal customers and encourage them to do business with you when combined with the proper messaging and creativity. While you can use any type of media, keep in mind that all of them have the potential to fail. It all depends on how well you integrate and execute the key components of your marketing campaign. Traditional media channels include print publications, radio, television, billboards, signage, telephones, and events. Digital marketing is also becoming a popular way to advertise businesses. Some examples of digital marketing channels include websites, blogs, podcasts, social media, email, video, mobile, and webinars.
When you’re doing marketing communications, your marketing budget generally dictates which channels are best for you. The good news is that these days you can do large-scale online marketing on a smaller, more manageable budget. The same budget that would buy you a Yellow Pages ad back in the day can now deliver massive results with online marketing. If you want to expand your visibility online, you can benefit from a multi-channel marketing strategy. Although all of these strategies are viable options in a company’s marketing plan, not all of them will apply to you.
Let us look at some options for your marketing communications strategy.
1) Inbound marketing
Inbound marketing is a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness, generating leads and converting these leads into paying customers. Most small businesses should include a mix of search, social, and content marketing in their marketing strategy.
2) PPC advertising
Depending on what your company sells, PPC can drive conversions. If you own a small business, PPC advertising can be effective at generating leads. The majority of people who click on a search result ad are doing research and looking to buy. If you decide to run PPC ads on Google Ads, Facebook, or other social media platforms, you should hire someone who knows what they’re doing. A poorly designed campaign can cost a business lot of money while yielding little to no results.
Many people who are looking for solutions will be interested in watching videos on YouTube. You can create a high-quality channel with a variety of educational videos to help you establish your brand as an expert in its field. You can also use videos to engage and educate your audience on Facebook and other social media platforms. Don’t fret if you don’t have a professional setup for recording videos. You can use your phone or tools like Zoom.us to create high-quality videos.
4) Email marketing
Email marketing campaigns can deliver a high return on investment if you take the time to build and segment your mailing list. You must create a campaign strategy to ensure you can manage and segment your list. Once you’ve refined your mailing list, create a compelling email with a call-to-action, include a landing page specifically for the campaign, and test it to ensure it works. After you’ve run your email campaign, it’s important to analyze the results and determine whether you’ve gotten an acceptable ROI.
5) Event marketing
You can hold branded events both in person and virtually. Web conferencing software has become more affordable, allowing even the smallest businesses to host webinars and virtual events. Using tools like Zoom.us, you can record your webinars and make them available as lead magnets within your content strategy using tools like Zoom.us.
6) Word of mouth/ referral/ reputation management
By attending in-person networking events and connecting with your target audience on social media, you can benefit from a word-of-mouth strategy. Online reviews and recommendations can help boost your online visibility in your local area. It’s useful to create a referral strategy that includes asking customers to leave reviews on Google and other review sites. Remember to follow each review platform’s terms of service.
7) Direct marketing
The success of direct marketing via postcards, letters, phone calls, or email varies by company. In most cases, telemarketing isn’t very effective these days. However, controlled postcard and letter campaigns can help you reach homeowners with news of services they may have forgotten about.
Successful marketing campaigns usually employ strategies across multiple channels to ensure that the company message reaches the ideal audience. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that not all channels are equal in terms of the quality of connections they generate. For example, someone who joins your company’s email list is more valuable than someone who follows you on Twitter or likes your Facebook page. Knowing your marketing goals is critical in determining the best channel for your needs.
You may be wondering why it is so essential to know which channels are the best to reach your target audience. The answer is that using the right marketing strategies isn’t enough. You need to know where to find your customers to deliver your brand message to them. In order to develop a quality marketing communications plan, you must first comprehend the following: the goal of your campaign; the target audience you wish to reach; the value your product or service provides; the message you want to communicate and of course, the best communication channel that makes the most sense to your company’s target audience.
Now that we have looked at the different marketing communication channels let us look at the steps you need to take to create an effective marketing communications strategy.
A good communications strategy will help you use the right forms of communication to reach your target market. Your communications strategy should highlight your company message (what you want to say). It should also cover the medium (how you want to say it), and the audience (whom you want to reach). Since “marketing communications strategy” is a mouthful, most people call refer to all of this as “public relations”. Good public relations includes identifying relevant journalists, pitching suitable stories, and earning free media coverage using online channels and software. Typically, a PR strategy entails creating awareness about a product or offer among your ideal customers.
There should be three guiding principles for any integrated marketing communications strategy; brand alignment, customer alignment, and budget alignment. The brand image you’re projecting should be the same regardless of which marketing channel you use. Additionally, you need to build relationships with journalists from publications relevant to your brand. Secondly, you should follow the oldest marketing rule: “be where your customers are already.” You should target channels where your target audience is already present. If you want to reach younger millennials, you should advertise on Instagram rather than on Facebook or daytime television. Lastly, make sure your strategy is one that you can afford.
Steps to creating a marketing communications strategy
1) Understand your target audience
You must first comprehend your target audience before developing a strategic communications plan. Any marketing communications strategy must be tailored to a specific customer group. Your Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) must be designed to meet the target audience’s needs. The simplest way to do this is to conduct research on your current customers via surveys, interviews, and other tools.
These consumer insights are critical for crafting highly targeted marketing messages that resonate with your buyer persona. An integrated marketing communications plan for a company should always take an outside-in approach which should be based on extensive customer research. Even if you are doing business-to-business marketing and believe you already know your customers well, you should invest time in staying in touch with changing customer needs. Avoid using an inside-out approach that does not devote enough resources to customer research and analysis. A marketing communication mix built on sloppy research is doomed to fail.
2) Define Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The unique selling proposition (USP) is the cornerstone of any integrated marketing communications strategy. Every message your brand sends out across all communication channels should include the USP. This applies regardless of whether the message is for PR, sales, or content marketing. Your brand image will be apparent, consistent, and recognizable if you have a clear USP. Developing a clear USP will also help you to craft compelling media pitches.
A SWOT analysis of the company from the perspective of the target audience will help in formulating your USP. As part of your SWOT analysis, you should poll existing customers about their purchasing intentions. In order to understand how you’re performing in relation to meeting your customers’ needs, you must comprehend the rationale behind the typical consumer decision-making process.
3) Determine marketing communications mix
The marketing communications mix uses a combination of channels to reach out to potential customers. Your marketing mix could include online advertising on AdWords and Facebook, offline advertising on print media, billboards. You could also consider TV, direct marketing, personal selling, events, sponsorships, content marketing, and an annual sales promotion.
Ideally, these activities would be handled by dedicated teams within a large corporation’s marketing/sales division. However, if you’re running a startup or small business, you should choose two or three of these marketing strategies to focus on. Paying equal attention to every strategy on this list will only result in you stretching yourself thin if you don’t have a large marketing department. Instead, you need to identify the marketing initiatives that will provide the best return on investment for your goals and focus your time and energy on those ones.
4) Define branding elements
The importance of branding in your IMC cannot be overstated. At its most basic level, branding refers to your company’s online and offline marketing materials, such as its website, apps, social platforms, sales collateral, direct marketing campaigns, advertising campaigns, business cards, and other materials. All of these should have a consistent look and feel. However, on a deeper level, branding is about your company’s core identity. Your brand image is all about what you stand for and how you want to be remembered. Every piece of communication that your organization sends out should highlight this identity, whether you’re doing PR outreach, launching a new advertising plan for a sales promotion, or developing a personal selling campaign. Apple, for example, is known widely for its cutting-edge technology that is also highly user-friendly.
Developing a brand image that is memorable will help you to stay top of mind among your target audience. When you are top of mind, customers are more likely to come to you when they need the product or service you’re selling before they go to any of your competitors. As you can see, developing a robust brand image seems like such a little thing. In reality, the right branding could make all the difference for your marketing strategy and help boost your online presence. With just a few tweaks to your marketing, you can create an unforgettable brand that customers feel an emotional connection to.
5) Define success metrics
Once you’ve decided on the elements of your IMC you must define what metrics you will use to measure your success.
Your public relations efforts, for example, can be measured by a variety of outcomes ranging from brand awareness to sales. Here are a few metrics to consider: the number of mentions from different outlets and blogs, number of website visits or signups from each article, number of backlinks acquired, website visits from social media shares, and the number of leads or sales that can be attributed to PR.
These metrics will determine whether your communications plans are meeting their key objectives. Regardless of the communication platforms you’re using, you must ensure that the metrics you choose add value to your business.
For example, you should not use vanity metrics like likes or retweets to evaluate your social media outreach strategy. Instead, you should focus on metrics such as website visits, leads generated and other indicators of increased engagement from your target audiences and potential customers.
Whether you call it an integrated marketing communications strategy or PR strategy, having one is an absolute necessity if you want to gain media coverage. It is not just about creating content but about knowing what channel to use to reach target audiences. If you don’t do both and back them up with sufficient research, you will find that you’ve wasted time and energy on your marketing campaign.
Do you need help executing your marketing communications strategy? Pressfarm’s team of account managers, writers and PR specialists can create world-class content and design a strategy to push it out to leading journalists in your field. If you’d prefer to do your own media outreach, you can use our custom media lists as well as our media database of over 1 million contacts to connect with journalists. Check out our packages and start generating publicity for your brand today.