Although integrating marketing communications requires some up-front effort, it delivers many benefits. It helps to create competitive advantage, boost sales, strengthen relationships while simultaneously saving time, money and stress. Conversely, un-integrated communications send disjointed messages which dilute the impact of the message and brand. This may also confuse, frustrate and arouse anxiety in customers. Developing an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan need not be too daunting, and using one presents a reassuring sense of order.
Role of Integrated Marketing Communications
The nuances of a sophisticated IMC Plan can be subtle and deep – all the way through to multiphase communication and the artwork in the foyer.
However, following a clear process can deliver a simpler, practical and effective plan.
In fact, in KINSHIP’s experience sophisticated plans often end up being less effective than a simpler plan. This is because a simpler plan can be more readily understood by more of the people doing the work.
The fundamental goal of IMC is to optimise and leverage all communications and content activities across the firm. This typically embraces:
- Public Relations;
- Brand Marketing;
- Line of Business Marketing;
- Own Social Media;
- Influencer Engagement;
- Online Advertising;
- Social Media Advertising;
- Email Campaigns
- Direct Messaging Campaigns e.g. SMS, Messenger
- Offline advertising and advertorials.
This is usually further complicated by the fact that different external groups are engaged to produce content for these different purposes. As if it was not hard enough to communicate internally, the consistency of communication across all stakeholders is often lacking.
A good IMC Plan provides a basis for cross-functional communication and for producing content that can be re-purposed by other relevant stakeholders. This is one of the ways it contributes to the best ROI on communications and marketing activities. Content is shared, and shared purposefully across the organisation, optimising costs.
The audience – who and why
The first step in developing a Plan is the most vital – in order to set up on the right foundation. This requires (not necessarily easy):
- Defining your audience or audiences (the target market);
- Defining the typical buyer’s journey for each audience e.g. are they direct, indirect, impulse, long sales cycle, nurtured as strangers or as prospects?
- Defining the communication objectives for each audience. Are you looking to drive revenue, build brand awareness, develop customer affinity, or expand your reach?
- Defining the relevant metrics for measuring the communications objectives. Try mapping them as SMART goals (as described by HubSpot) – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
Needless to say, it is extremely important to get this done as well as possible. If you cannot accurately define your audience(s) and you don’t know what drives them and how they make decisions then it hardly matters what you communicate.
However, in saying that, there is a typical problem that bogs people down at this stage.
Avoid this typical problem
The problem is paralysis by analysis and trying to over-segment the audience. In theory, we are told to be as detailed as possible and to segment into fine niches. This is meant to allow us to be very effective with very micro-tailored content and messages.
The problem is this: having more audience segments requires the production of more customised and focused content. But most organisations struggle to produce enough content.
Therefore it is not going to be practical to require that even more content be produced to target more detailed audience segments. In reality, it just won’t happen. So match the depth of audience segmentation to the practicalities of content production.
The content – who, how and when
Next, focus on the content aspects of the Plan:
- What content is being produced now, by whom, and is it suitable for the new audience definitions and objectives?
- How will new content be produced, by whom, at what cadence – for each audience?
- How will the content be distributed – across what channels?
- How will content be differentiated across the different channels e.g. distinctly different content for different channels, or re-purposed, or both?
Clearly, once the audiences and goals are defined, the practicalities of content production are the biggest operational issue to solve. This is where the Plan ultimately lives or dies.
Consistency is King when it comes to achieving results.
That means not just that your content publication cadence should be regular and predictable, and that your brand should translate well across all channels.
It also means consistently creating clear and compelling content that connects with your specific target audience. At the same time, the content must provide that audience with a congruent experience when they follow links and explore the rest of your digital presence e.g. your website.
In other words, if your messages attract people to dig deeper then make sure that what they find makes them feel that they have come to the right place. If they find incongruent branding and messaging then that will most likely result in a bounce. That’s money wasted.
But don’t be too ambitious – make a roadmap
In KINSHIP’s experience, some IMC Plans die because they are too ambitious from day one. They try to boil the ocean, which fails, and things fall back to the old ways.
That’s why we recommend two more important steps to round out the Plan. These two steps are:
- Definition an implementation roadmap, step by step, not trying to be overambitious from day one. Develop a 12-month timeframe.
- Identification of obstacles or roadblocks to successful implementation, and their mitigation. This is a simple risk analysis and plan – a plan for success.
The implementation roadmap may have to take into account reorganisation of service providers, new briefings, training of internal staff, and testing of the new content against the audience segments. This takes time and that’s why it is a plan and not big-bang on day 1.
The risk analysis examines what could go wrong – the roadblocks. What are the chances of those happening, and what would be the impact of each potential roadblock on the Plan’s success?
Using an Integrated Communications Marketing Plan ensures that all communications add value to your brand, and develop stronger relationships and trust with stakeholders.
An effective Plan can be developed by following the steps outlined – one which can be implemented in steps, will optimise sharing, and result in an improved marketing ROI.
Contact Us for social media audits, strategy, social customer care, and for augmentation of your customer experiences enhanced by social data – and to help you develop an effective Integrated Marketing Communications Plan.