Imagine that Apple, Inc. or Microsoft’s approach to marketing communications is similar to many small to mid-sized businesses (SMB’s). That is, they developed and designed advertising, flyers, social media postings, and promotional collateral first, then went back and created the marketing communications strategy to justify these tactical elements. The result would be inefficient and confusing to their target audience and customers. Unfortunately, this is how many SMBs approach marketing communications and most never bother to create the strategy, even after, deploying tactical marketing communications.
Strategy is how you “get there.” A marketing communications strategy is a high level plan that provides the roadmap for “getting” to your objectives. Once a marketing communications strategy is developed, then the communication vehicles, or tactical marketing elements, used to deliver your message are created. These are the flyers, email marketing campaigns, web and traditional content, and so forth.
Developing a marketing communications strategy does take some time and research. This is perhaps why so many SMB’s avoid the strategy and go directly to tactical execution. Other’s may not know the process for developing a strategic marketing communications plan. Therefore, the focus of this article is to provide tools to help you get started on thinking and developing a strategy first philosophy.
6 Steps for Developing a Marketing Communications Strategy
Segment (or Divide) Your Market
Whom are you trying to “reach”? Identify your potential market or customers by their needs, wants and/or demands.
As an example, if you are a local dentist working on building your patient cliental, you could consider focusing on segmenting your market by identifying potential customer needs in a business district versus residential neighborhoods. You can focus on the latter in a different campaign.
How you segment your market will determine your service offerings and value proposition and communication message.
Target your Market
Once you determine your market segment, identify your ideal customer. Using the same dentist office business example, let’s assume that your target audience are middle aged families with mid-level income and who have young children.
With this information, you will identify the locations this target audience lives, shops, or plays (entertainment) and deliver your message via advertisement to them in these areas.
Set your Goals (Objectives)
What are you trying to achieve with your marketing efforts? Do you want to increase revenue? Perhaps you want to increase the amount of patients you see in a given day or week. Maybe you are looking to increase business in the area of dental cleaning over other areas of dentistry.
Position your Product or Service
The positioning statement is an internal guide that provides a concise description of your target market. It also helps create a story or visual of how you want your target market to perceive your brand.
The positioning statement is also where you state your value proposition for your service or product.
Check out eCornell’s site for more about writing a good positioning statement. See sidebar, below, for writing a value proposition.
Customers do not often make purchases based on a single piece of communication. That is, you need to develop stages to guide your potential customer through the buyers journey. How will you accomplish this?
Your first piece of communication may be an awareness piece in the form of a postcard. Perhaps the second piece is a landing page on your website that helps further explain your process of cleaning teeth. And maybe the last stage of the journey is a promotional discount for trying your service for the first time.
Identify ways you will integrate your communications message. Some options may include direct-mail pieces, like a postcard, PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising online, content marketing, and YouTube Videos or local cable television advertising.
The final step in developing your marketing communications strategy is to identify the communication vehicles you will use to deliver your marketing message and value proposition.
Tools may include:
- Print Advertising
- Direct Mail
- Website landing Page
- Vehicle Wraps
These are just a few examples of communication vehicles. There are many, many more!
Developing a marketing communications strategy can take some time and research. However, if you spend the time to create a meaningful marketing communications strategy for your marketing campaigns, you will find that marketing your product or service is easier, more cost effective, and yields a greater return on your marketing dollars.