The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends spending between 7% and 8% of your company’s gross revenue on marketing and advertising efforts.
Yet, before you make that commitment and invest those resources, it’s important to understand the kind of message you want to send out into the world. Unless you have a thorough marketing communications strategy in place, it’s easy to lose your voice and skew your efforts.
What impression do you want to make? What do you want to say and how should you say it? How can you want to position your company in the sea of competitors?
Marketing communications can help you answer all of these questions, and then some. Today, we’re taking a closer look at this concept, along with how your business can reap the benefits.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
What is Marketing Communications?
Think of every piece of marketing collateral you’ve ever produced or distributed on behalf of your company. This might include printed materials, your website, your social media presence, speeches, direct marketing, sponsorships and more.
Collectively, these work together to give your brand identity. They are the outward expression of your corporate goals, visions, and plans for the future. Yet, they don’t exist in silos.
A marketing communications strategy ties all of these expressions together to unify your brand.
There are three basic pillars of marketing communications, including:
- The message (what you’re saying to your audience)
- The medium (where you’re saying it)
- The target (who you’re trying to reach)
Why should you prioritize this effort and how can your company benefit?
There are two reasons:
- Marketing communications can shorten your sales cycle.
- Marketing communications spurs audience demand and interest in your brand.
Let’s take a closer look at these two objectives.
Shortening Your Sales Cycle
Your sales cycle refers to the process that your sales team and channel partners must undergo to help convert a prospect into a paying customer. Throughout this process, there are various touchpoints for sales involvement, including the identification, engagement and delivery stages.
While each customer’s individual journey has its own nuances, most tend to follow the same general path, defined as:
- Step 1: Recognize a problem
- Step 2: Look for information on solutions
- Step 3: Evaluate the options
- Step 4: Make a purchase decision
- Step 5: Complete a post-purchase analysis
Your sales team should already be well-versed in the above process. Yet, without marketing communications, there is no interaction between your brand and the customers you’re trying to reach. How, then, can you help them understand that your product or service is the best fit for their needs?
Consider high-tech products, for example.
Steps 2 and 3 in the buying process (information searching and option evaluation) become critical in this case. Unless they’re highly tech-savvy, most customers require a substantial amount of education while they’re searching for a solution.
This is where your marketing communications efforts can make a major difference.
If you can create, package and deliver the relevant, helpful information that shoppers need, you’re one step closer to securing their business. This is especially true if you continue this approach throughout the entire journey, delivering value at every turn.
Spurring Audience Demand and Interest
While a focus on marketing communications can help quicken your sales cycle, it also helps generate long-term demand and interest in your brand. This is the kind of loyalty that can turn into long-term client relationships, boosting your reputation along with your bottom line.
The reality is that every piece of information your marketing team produces has an influence on your target audience. Whether it pulls them closer to your brand or further away is the critical deciding factor in your success.
A marketing communications plan gathers all of your outbound messages and aligns them. This way, you can make sure they’re consistent and convincing to convert as many on-the-fence prospects as possible. As your brand performs bold, eye-catching outreach, it gains visibility and attention along the way.
How to Create a Marketing Communications Plan
Do you have a firm grasp on all of your marketing and advertising efforts? Do you know how they work together and if they’re serving their intended purpose?
If not, it’s time to create an integrated marketing communications plan. Let’s take a look at the basic steps you can take to get started.
1. Define and Understand Your Target Audience
Imagine speaking into a broken microphone in a loud stadium buzzing with thousands of people talking at the same time.
That’s what happens if you don’t define a target audience for your brand. Your message might be incredible, but if you’re pitching it to absolutely everyone, it will get lost in the noise.
Instead, take the time to consider who would benefit the most from your product or service. Then, analyze your sales statistics to understand their needs and preferences. Which items are they drawn to and which are falling flat?
You can also survey or interview your customers to gain even more insights. This can help you identify their shared pain points, along with the reasons why they’re patronizing your brand over others. You can use this data to refine your marketing communications strategy.
2. Highlight Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
What sets you apart and makes your company unique? What do you do better than anyone else in your space? This is your unique selling proposition, or USP.
Whether you say it explicitly or only hint at it, every piece of marketing communications you create should communicate your USP. This includes your sales, PR, and content marketing efforts. Before you begin designing your print or digital media messages, be sure that your team understands this USP and how to reflect it.
3. Choose Your Channels
Yes, your marketing communications plan hinges on sharing your message with your audience. And, there are myriad channels through with you can do so. However, not every single one will make sense for your business.
To stay within budget and maximize your efforts, it’s wise to choose a select mix of channels that complement your strategy.
A few of the options that you can use to define your marketing mix include:
- Offline advertising (print media, television advertisements, billboards)
- Online advertising (Facebook ads, Google AdWords)
- Social media marketing
- Video production
- Event advertising
- Content marketing (blogs, website, guest posts)
- Annual sales promotions
If you’re a large enterprise, you might dedicate separate teams to head up most of these channels. However, most businesses can fine-tune their strategy by focusing on only two or three in their communication process.
4. Make Your Branding Consistent
Marketing communications isn’t just about what you say. It’s also about how you say it.
To that end, what sort of branding do your prospects and clients see when they interact with your company? Does your website look like your business cards, and do those look like your magazine ads?
You don’t have to say the exact same thing across all channels, but it’s important to make sure all of your messages have a consistent look and feel. This applies to your online materials, including your website, apps and social content, as well as your offline ones.
Over time, consistent branding helps cement your brand in the minds of your audience. They won’t only remember your logo, colors or tagline. They’ll also begin to associate these elements with what you stand for and the image you evoke.
5. Set Key Performance Indicators
What good is strategic marketing communication if you aren’t sure your work is paying off?
The final step in your plan should be to establish Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These are success metrics that help you define where you’re soaring and where you’re falling short.
Each channel in your marketing communications mix (Step 3) will have its own set of KPIs.
For instance, you might measure a successful content marketing campaign by the number of different media outlets that share your blog posts. You could also look at your number of acquired backlinks, or how many website visits or newsletter signups trace back to your web articles.
Make sure the metrics you’re following add value to your organization at a deeper level and aren’t just for vanity purposes. For instance, social media “likes” and retweets might boost your ego, but they’re shallow forms of engagement. The deeper connection (and potential) lies in website visits, acquired leads and more.
A Marketing Communications Strategy That Delivers
Are you ready to strengthen and improve your approach to marketing communications? Doing so can help propel your brand from an unknown entity to a respected name within your niche.
When you carefully consider what your message entails, along with how and where to say it, you help unify your various outreach efforts. You’ll also create a powerful platform for further engagement.
Want to take this next step together? We’d love to help.
We offer a comprehensive array of marketing communications services that can help you achieve a higher return on your investment. Contact us today and finally get your voice heard.