Marketing communications strategy is the strategy used by a company or individual to reach their target market through various types of communication. It includes your message, the medium, and the target.
Your focus as a business leader is to drive sales into your company and to generate high overall profits. The marketing communication strategy is fundamental in that goal, because marketing communications gets consumer attention and entices consumers to reach out to your company. Consistent sales rarely happen without a strong marketing communications strategy. The process to develop this strategy starts with targeting the right consumers based on consumer need and how you fill that need.
The marketing avenues open to small businesses are more abundant than ever, but the principles of effective marketing communications remain essentially unchanged. Whether you create an email campaign, plan direct mail marketing with letters or postcards or simply intend to distribute fliers and business cards to prospective customers at a trade fair, you want to convey a message that gets results.
Any integrated marketing communications strategy (IMC) should have three guiding principles:
- Brand alignment: Whatever marketing channel you choose should have the same brand perception as yours. For example, if you sell luxury watches, build relationships with journalists from TIME magazine, not those writing in your local newspaper (unless you live in the Hamptons!).
- Customer alignment: Follow the oldest rule in marketing ‘be where your customers already are’. Pick channels where your consumers are already active. If you’re targeting younger millennials, advertise on social media platforms like Instagram, not Facebook, and certainly not day-time TV!
- Budget alignment: Choose a marketing channel that fits your budget (obviously). If you don’t have a budget, getting a print ad in WSJ will be out of your reach. But perhaps you can get a free press mention on WSJ’s website by reaching out to the journalists (as I’ll show you below).
Steps in Creating an Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy
Keeping the above principles in mind, you should create an annual or bi-annual Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy (IMC). Here are the key steps to follow.
- Understand Your Target Audience: Before you can create a strategic communications plan, you need to understand your target audience. Any marketing communications plan has to be formulated for a specific group of target customers. Your IMC has to define the needs and characteristics of this target audience.
- Define Your Unique Selling Proposition: Marketing today is a very crowded space with consumers constantly hearing the “noise” of different marketing messages. It’s on television, radio, print and all over the internet. When consumers are constantly being pitched different products and services, you need to make sure that you stand out. This is best accomplished by determining what you do best or differently from others. It’s called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
- Be Consistent in Messaging: Make sure that your target market knows what you want to sell them. Too often, small business owners try to get too many messages out, sometimes in one ad. If your demographics research is done properly, you should be able to craft messages on websites, sales copy, emails and advertising that consistently conveys your message. Use language that your target market uses and design the messaging to fit their unique needs.
- Use the Right Marketing Avenues: There are a lot of options you can choose from as a business owner. Don’t jump into every avenue of marketing just to flood the market. While this is good for branding, it is really a shotgun approach to getting sales. Instead, go where your target market goes. Younger generations are on social media, phones and apps. Use those areas as a central starting point. Some home-service providers find that weekly mailers or coupon books get consumers attention in this demographic. Find out how your customers buy, and find out what they read, and then track the success to see if any specific campaign has a better return on investment than another.
- Manage Leads and Client Data: You know your audience, you’ve built your brand and you’ve told your story. People are interested – now what? A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a database of your contacts (customers, prospects, others) that allows you to organize information (contact info, records, files, calls, emails, etc) to streamline and scale sales and marketing processes. This will help you better understand how clients move through the sales funnel and help you close more leads.
Successful marketing communications efforts are much more than a shot in the dark. Each of these seven steps needs to be explored to the fullest in order to gain the greatest return on investment possible.