What makes a good marketing communication plan for a business?
It’s something that many new startups don’t put enough thought into before beginning on their new venture, and can be what makes or breaks a business, so we’re going to explore the purpose and makeup of a good marketing communications plan – why you need it, what’s in it and what you need to consider for each section. It should act as a guide for you when creating your own plan, and we’re always here to help if you need any further guidance.
Each marketing communications plan will be different – obviously – as each business is unique, however, the principles remain the same.
The very question of “why you need one” will be a good place to start!ˆ
Lets start at the top: You have a business plan yes? Without the plan, you won’t have a road map, a direction for your business to take. The marketing communication plan is the same – it’s the direction for your business to meet the goals of the business plan. It’s not a separate identity….it’s strongly linked to the business plan. Marketing communications is the direction for the marketing for your business – and how it will achieve the goals and objectives of the overall plan. Without a plan, you’ll be (perhaps randomly) carrying out Marketing activities with little direction or purpose.
So what’s in a marketing communications plan?
The answer is – a lot! Like any good plan, it takes time and effort to do it properly, and it shouldn’t be rushed just so you can get to the implementation (the bit most people jump to). After all, a bad plan won’t yield the results (Return on Investment) of the precious marketing budget – and quite frankly is a waste of time! So let’s take it step by step:
Start with the objectives
This one is fairly easy, you need to ask yourself what’s needed from your marketing communications? Set some goals for Marketing in these objectives, without goals, how will you know if you’re succeeding? If you’re a shop it will be revenue, if you’re starting a new website it might be traffic. Depending on your business this will change, whether it’s new customers acquired, brand awareness and share of voice are all options – but think about what you are trying to achieve overall.
Value Proposition / Your Offer
As a business, what is your main offer to your customers (your purpose for being in business) and why should someone choose you over your competitors? You need to think of your USP’s (Unique Selling points), for example; isev are a full-service agency specialising in web development, design and digital marketing, that’s what we offer, our USP’s is our expertise in what we do, and our focus on bringing innovation and customer satisfaction.
Target audiences: It’s likely there will be a few. Whether it’s consumer or business marketing, it’s more than likely you’ll have multiple target audiences.
For example, if you’re targeting a business, there’ll be parameters within this – demographics, location, persons within this business, and their influencers.
Influencers are vital to your audiences. Influence the influencer and it’ll be an easier sell – using celebrities are a good example of this within consumer marketing. When a celebrity endorses something, it suddenly becomes a “hot commodity” (obviously if you pick the right celebrity).
Brand: Your brand is more than a logo. It’s your entire identity for your company – and it should make you different from competitors. Yes, the logo is part of it, but your brand identity is how your customers will perceive you. If you want to be known as a “prestigious” brand, it’s not a good idea to have a price-led marketing plan.
You should consider a “value added” / emotive approach to your marketing communications. Within your brand, consider your tone of voice, colours, names, key visuals, graphics, and brand hierarchy for your products and corporate branding. Define your value proposition and brand strategy clearly and this will come across to your audience.
Messages: There are 2 types: Macro and Micro-messages. Macro are the high-level messages, micro are the more detailed (the “how”). For corporate communications and for product communications, both are important.
Example: Corporate communications macro message: Committed to Sustainability.
Micro-messages: Committed to efficient use of energy by doing XYZ.
Tools & Channels: This is the implementation part – the part most businesses focus on and jump straight into. What tools and channels will you use to get your messages across to which audiences? This should include all tools and channels available and whether you’re going to use them (or not) – more importantly HOW you’re going to use them.
Using all channels to target all audiences with every message isn’t a smart move. It’ll cost a fortune and probably won’t work as it could be confusing – you need to segment! Each channel / tool should be linked to a target audience and message(s) – using segmented offers, channels and messages will ensure you are making the best use of the budgets and the right messages are going to the right people – making it far more effective and successful.
Schedule of responsibilities: Who’s doing what part of the plan – everyone should know what they’re responsible for and what’s in it – and, this should help you decide what resources you’ll need to carry out the plan. A plan which needs 100 people to implement when you have 10 isn’t going to work!
Budgets: What will it cost to carry out the plan? Don’t worry a good plan can justify the budget, but make sure you negotiate well!
Measurement: Measurement is linked to the objectives and the entire plan. If you meet the business objectives, you’re part way there. Measurement of the channels, tools, brand, messages and budgets are all important – and there are other factors which can affect whether you meet your objectives that have nothing to do with how good (or bad) the plan is!
Measuring the marketing communication tools and channels will not only help you know if you’ve been successful, but it’ll help you learn and to make a better plan next time. Without appropriate measures in place for things like digital marketing (which is very measurable), how will you know whether to include it next time – and make it even better?
Finally, a few things to consider
- Include an executive summary: Particularly for the high-level bosses. In my experience, they won’t want to sit and read the entire plan (maybe yours will), so this should give them everything they need to know without reading the entire plan – pull out the key points.
- Add appendices – for example, for media, add the media schedule as an appendix, same with PR plan and digital marketing plans. Ensure there’s enough information on the main body of the plan, but the full schedules can go in the appendices.
- Ensure everyone is aware of the plan – particularly if they’re expected to carry any of it out (which most people in the business will be). Never underestimate the importance of internal communications. People are a part of your company, they form part of your brand identity – whether it’s customer facing or within their own family, they’re be portraying your company image to someone. If an employee isn’t aware of your brand proposition, they can’t be blamed for not implementing it.
- Take time to create a good plan. It’ll be worth it in the end. It’s not as scary as it seems…Once you’ve done one, they do get easier and they are invaluable.
You’re not alone. We can help. If you’d like more information on how isev can help you to create an effective communication plan, get in touch.