How To Create A Marketing Communications Plan
Marketing communication matters. Having a marketing communication plan matters. It’s not enough to just rely on social media or content marketing or any one communication channel alone. It won’t get results. To achieve results, you need to be able to fit all the different jigsaw pieces together into the big picture vision you are trying to inspire customers and prospects to buy into.
That requires a plan.
So how do you put a marketing communications plan together?
I’m glad you asked my friend. It’s a common question so I wanted to make it a simple as possible with clear action steps that you can go away and take today.
Side note: Hey : ) I know my posts tent to be a little more conversational but there’s a lot of information here so I wanted to really keep it focused. We are going straight for the details on this one. Break each step down into one manageable chunk, you don’t have to do it all at once.
How To Put Together A Marketing Communications Plan
STEP ONE: Company Background
Set the scene by giving a background to the organisation, product, service or event.
What To Include:
Include the overall vision and the big why behind the business/product. Your ultimate goal is to get your current customers and prospects emotionally invested so if they can connect and are inspired by the vision, that gives you a really solid message that you can build upon.
In no more than 200 words, provide a background into your company/vision and what you intend to do.
It’s not a history lesson so keep it short, concise and relevant to the end consumer.
STEP TWO: Mission /One Desired Outcome
This is the goal for your campaign. Think about the key message you want to communicate. It’s your reason for launching this specific marketing campaign. It’s a lot more focused and make the desired end result really clear.
What To Include:
Try to focus on one desired outcome. That way, it’s easy to reverse engineer the rest of your communication to support that. Sometimes we can be focused on two many outcomes and ultimately dilute our message and our results. You always want to ensure that your one desired outcome can be directly linked to your overall company vision and business strategy.
Examples may include:
- Build Awareness
- Sales / Consistency in Sales
- Public Relationship Management
- Media Attention
- Attract Sponsorship
- Joint Venture Opportunities
Decide on your one desired outcome and write it down in the form of a clear mission statement of no more than 50 words.
Focus on the most important outcome. Ask yourself ‘If I could achieve one thing from this campaign, what would it be?’
STEP THREE: Target Audience
You need to know the exact group of people you are trying to communicate your message with so that they’ll resonate with that message and take the desired action.
What To Include:
Be as specific as you can. One of the big fears people have is that they are reducing the likelihood of sales by focusing in and niching down but in truth, the opposite is truth.
If you are talking to everyone then you are talking to no one. This is because when you are too general, you are unable to hit on customer pain points and create that emotional trigger that encourages them to take your action on impulse.
People buy on emotional and justify with logic but in order to create that initial trigger, the end consumer has to feel as though you are speaking directly to them, on an individual level. That means being laser targeted in your approach.
Start with audience segments/groups and then hone in on each group looking at geographics, demographics and psychographics.
Define your target audience by breaking them into audience segments. Once you have that, start writing down specific geographic, demographic and psychographic factors to consider for each audience segment. By the end, you should have customer avatars.
Remember to niche it down as much as you can. Look for commonalities because it’s these crossovers that will help you to relate to your audience when communicating your message.
STEP FOUR: S.M.A.R.T Objectives
Your SMART objectives act like a roadmap that take you to their end destination. They break that overall mission/one desired outcome into smaller, manageable objectives. In doing so, you gain clarity and direction in terms of how you are going to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
SMART stands for:
You are far more likely to achieve SMART objectives because they are accounting for all the different factors you need to consider if you are to reach that one desired outcome.
When looking at SMART objectives, it’s helpful to also establish critical success factors and key performance indicators.
Critical Success Factors help you identify the exact steps that must go right in order to achieve your objectives. Key Performance Indicators act like milestones helping to ensure you are on track to reaching your objectives.
Working back from that one desired outcome, establish 3-4 SMART objectives for your campaign.
Take your time and really think about what you want to achieve. Your marketing communication mix is formed around these objectives. Like every aspect of your marketing communications plan, everything should be integrated tightly to help you support your overall mission.
STEP FIVE: Resources
Resources can come in the form of time, tools, people and finances. It’s important to establish what resources you need ahead of time to ensure your campaign can be implemented correctly and effectively.
- How much time do you want to invest in this campaign?
- How will this time be broken down into tasks?
- Does the time invested correlate to the expected return on investment?
- How will this time be tracked?
- What tools do you require in order to implement your plan?
- How will this tool help you achieve your objectives?
- Will this tool encourage a higher return on your investment?
- How do these tools impact the financial resources you have available?
- Who will be implementing this plan?
- What is their role and responsibility in this campaign?
- What is your expectation of them?
- What are their expectation of you?
- What is the financial requirements for implementing your marketing communication plan?
- What’s your budget for your marketing communications plan?
- Where do you want to allocate your financial budget?
- How will this financial investment impact your return on your investment?
- How will you track the return on this financial in?
Identify the resource requirements for each category. You may want to do your research ahead of time. It’s worth doing this as it means you can avoid shiny object syndrome later down the line.
Sometimes it can be more effective to establish your resources after looking at your marketing communications mix especially if you have the resource capabilities in place. However, if you are a small business owner trying to keep things lean, it can be easier to establish capabilities ahead of time so that you don’t develop a marketing communications plan that you can’t actually implement.
STEP SIX: Strategies
You need to be able to account for all the important factors that will impact the success and implementation of your marketing communications campaign.
What To Include:
Take time to go through the traditional 7P Strategy focusing on the influencing factors and key information related to:
- What are your products/services and how can you improve them? Consider the features, availability, use, quality, branding, messaging and even things like the warranties you include.
- What is your pricing strategy? Think about how you are positioning yourself, how much you will charge, what payment methods you will accept etc.
- How do you deliver your products/services to your customers? Think about your distribution channels and support systems in place for the different market segments you are trying to reach
- What channels do you intend to use to communicate your message? Consider online and offline channels and account for these channels integrate with one another.
- Do you have social proof? Think about ways that you can eliminate risk and reassure customers. It’s all about consistency and the customer experience you provide before, during and after. It’s about trust.
- Do you have processes in place that account for each stage of the customer life cycle? How can you ensure it’s an enjoyable experience for your customer? Think about their needs at each customer touch point and address any obstacle that may stand in their way e.g. customer support, design features, IT support.
- How can you best serve your people? It’s important that you consider your internal customers (employees), external customers (people who pay you) and your stakeholders. It’s important to keep all groups happy and working in synergy. It’s the only way it works.
Outline the key information points of the campaign based on the 7P Strategy in a simple one page document.
Try to be specific. If it’s not clear in your mind then it won’t be clear in your customers minds either. If it’s not clear, they won’t connect or take the action you desire.
STEP SEVEN: Marketing Communications Mix
Establishes the specific communication channels you will use in your marketing campaign. It will layout out how each communication channel will be used, the exact steps that need to be taken and how it each channel will integrate to support your SMART objectives.
Channels may include:
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Blab, Anchor. )
- Traditional Media (Tv, Radio, Print)
- Video Marketing
Identify the marketing communication channels you would like to use. Provide a reason why you are using this communication channel and how it will bring you closer to achieving your SMART objectives. From there, think about your specific approach to each communication channel identifying the key steps that you need to be taken on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis.
Think about how you can take your core message and share in a way that is native to each communication channel. Once you’ve done that, considering integration, identify the key action step you want consumers to take. Knowing this will help form your strategy.
STEP EIGHT: Budget
Gives you control over financials and the ability to track your return on investment.
Include an overview of all your anticipated costs to follow through on your marketing communications plan. This includes all resources; people, tools, creative costs, licensing, fees, other charges.
Try to be as accurate as you can when it comes to your costings. Try to get specific costs where possible.
STEP NINE: Track and Measure
You need to be able to track the campaign to measure how successful it has been. In order to answer questions such as why or why a campaign hasn’t achieved the set out goals and objectives, you also need to be able to measure the individual elements that make up your campaign. This way you can adjust, adapt and improve. After all, once you know better, you’ll do better.
Take time to reflect on your strategy to date and using your goals and objectives as the end destination, work backwards to establish what elements of your campaign should be measured, how often, how you will collected the data, who will be responsible and how will it be accessed, collected and analysed?
Think about what you will track but also how frequently you want to track these metrics. This can have a huge impact on your success. You need to give the strategy time to work. By the same token, you need to keep a close eye on things so that you can get back on track quickly if things start to slip. It beats waiting until the end of campaign when it could be too late to make any difference.
STEP TEN: Timescales
Creates a structure that keeps you accountable for the action steps that need to be taken.
Decide on how you want to manage the timescale for you plan. Once you’ve done that, start putting together timeframes for the planning, development, delivery and tracking elements that make up your plan.
Keep it simple. You can use project management software or you can stick to a basic one sheet of paper with each month laid out in boxes for you to fill in. It really depends how simple or complex your marketing communication plan is. It also depends on the tool that works best for you. You may want to go ahead and create a GANTT chart but you don’t have too. It needs to be something you’ll stick too.
Reverse engineer the process if you are struggling. It’s easier to start with the big building blocks then break each section down into more specific information.
STEP ELEVEN: Analysis Review
(Consider this your next steps before implemention)
This provides an overview of the key factors that are going to influence and impact the success of your marketing communications plan.
Carry out a basic SWOT analysis based on factors that are likely to impact the implementation of
your marketing communications plan. This looks at:
- Strengths (Internal)
- Weaknesses (Internal)
- Opportunities (External)
- Threats (External)
Ideally you will have also carried out additional research to back up all the different areas of your plan. This is an overview of the key factors to consider and monitor on an ongoing basis.
Try not to guess this bit. If you can anticipate based on research, that’s fine but flat out guessing could be just as inaccurate as doing nothing.
I know this is a lot of information to take in. We only really scratched the surface of each section, mainly because it’s a lot to take in, especially if you’ve never put together a marketing communication plan before.
This is an overview, at least, that was my intent in writing this post. It’s designed to get you thinking about those core factors that impact your marketing strategy. Often, we forget then wonder why we don’t get results. Often this is why. Just being mindful of these elements. Having a plan in place that you can refer too will make a huge difference to the success in implementation.
Adapt it. Make it your own. Remember that it can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it.
I truly hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions
or would like me to go into more detail on anything, please do let me know.
Much love from my heart to yours.