Creating a Marketing Communication Plan



Your Marketing Communication Plan is an extension of your overall Marketing Plan and is also a customized blueprint specific to your situation. Your product, service or idea and the prevailing market conditions will determine your optimal Marketing Communication Mix as well as define your target audience and the right message and media to reach them with. The basic question you are answering is what you are going to communicate to who, how and when.

Successful Communication Planning can be broken down into a three-step process entailing Analysis, Strategy and Implementation. These are covered below as part of a comprehensive process of building a comprehensive Marketing Communication Plan by drawing on the various elements that are pertinent to your business situation and in line with your overall marketing approach. Rather than force your Marketing Communication Process to adhere to a strict formula, you should pick and choose what areas of this overall template are appropriate for you.


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Marketing Communication Plan: Analysis

There are two facets to the Analysis section of Communication Planning: Customer Analysis and Communication Process Analysis. The purpose of your analysis is simply to determine who your customers are and how they buy. It is crucial to answer these questions before proceeding as they will form the basis of your overall Marketing Communication success.


Customer Analysis

Throughout the sales and marketing process you should return again and again to your customer: Who are they? What are their needs? What motivates them to buy? How do they perceive you? Remember that learning about your customer is an ongoing process. While it is important to have a picture of your ideal customer in mind as you shape your Marketing Strategy, bear in mind that this picture will change over time and that experience should be key in determining who your customers really are.

Don't fall into the trap of marketing to the wrong set of customers. It is not uncommon for a business to spend time and effort reaching out to a class of customers who in fact do not turn out to be the ideal customer. For example, a dry-cleaning business may have in mind to tailor her efforts and approach to busy executives whereas over time the bulk of its customers may turn out to be everyday middle class clients living in the neighborhood. It is easy to get caught up in fantasizing about the wrong kind of customer which may lead to the wrong kind of marketing communication plan approach.

As you narrow down on who your customer is, put yourself in their shoes and try to think like them. Talk to them and get to know them if you can. What are their day-to-day lives like? How do they spend their time and money? What are their major preoccupations? As you being to understand the mindset of your customers you will naturally evolve to meeting them at their level in both your personal and professional communications. The key to successful Communication Planning starts with knowing your audience.


Communication Process Analysis

This part of your Communication Plan analysis revolves around rethinking the elements of the Marketing Communication Mix in terms of your customers. The goal is to formulate an understanding of which Marketing Communication tools should be part of your Marketing Communication Process in reaching out to customers most effectively. How do your customers buys and what is the best way to reach them?

Communication Process Analysis at this stage will lead into the next section of Marketing Communication Strategy where you chalk out specific strategies to build on what you have discovered in your analysis stage. The difference is that during your analysis you are fact-finding and in the next stage you develop your plan based on what your research uncovers. Ask your customers how they buy and engage in ongoing experiments to determine which forms of marketing communication they are most open to.


Marketing Communication Matrix

A matrix is an invaluable way of tabulating the results of your Marketing Communication analysis. The matrix should consist of a comprehensive list of marketing communication tools checked against various criteria that enables you to evaluate their feasibility during your Marketing Communication Planning. Here is an example of a matrix designed around the traditional components of the Marketing Communication Mix:


This Marketing Communication Matrix is itself a template and should be expanded as necessary. In particular, the criteria of Time - how long each effort will take to design and over what timeframe it will be implemented -, Reach - how many prospects you will reach per dollar spend – and Range - what subset of your total target customer group you are reaching – should be elaborated on and added to as necessary. What is important is being able to compare the various marketing communication tools at your disposal in building an optimal Marketing Communication Plan.

Your Marketing Communication Matrix should be expanded to include specific communication tools that are part of the Marketing Communication Process such as e-mail, flyers, mailing lists, newspaper and magazine ads, Yellow Pages, merchandising and packaging, trade fairs and events and eMarketing. In listing these out and thinking about them you will begin to come up with ideas around the best ways of engaging your customers based on your analysis. You will also have the opportunity to investigate associated costs and other considerations.

As a final point, don't at all feel limited to just these two approaches to analyzing the enormous mix of resources at your disposal in Communication Planning. Another approach might be to perform a high-level analysis where you compare communication approaches in terms of Written, Spoken, Physical and Multimedia. The goal of the Analysis is to get you thinking about all the ways you can and should communicate with your customers and what components of the Marketing Communication Mix you will subsequently focus on in the Strategy and Implement phases.


Marketing Communication Plan: Strategy

The Strategy section of your Marketing Communication Plan can be broken down into discussions around Objectives, Message and Media. Although this is a high-level discussion it comes after Analysis simply because understanding the customer should always come first before any other activity in sales and marketing. Once we know who our customer is and we have an idea of how we should communicate with them, we can formulate goals and a general philosophy around how this communication should take place.


Objectives

It is only after analyzing your customers and their communication process that you can develop strategic Marketing Communication Planning objectives. While we generally like to put objectives at the beginning of any plan, in marketing our strategy should first and foremost be defined by our understanding of the customer and their needs. This is especially true in creating your Marketing Communication Plan and so even if you do create a formal plan document that begins with a high-level Introduction and Objectives, make sure to revisit goal setting in the strategy section.

What segment of your target audience are you going to focus on? Now that you understands the size of your potential customer base are you looking for a specific conversion rate in terms of sales leads produced through your Marketing Communication Plan? Perhaps your objectives are more qualitative and you simply seek to increase awareness and educate customers and prospects. Do you have specific calls to action or a most wanted response you are trying to generate as a result of your Marketing Communication Planning?

These are just some suggestion of what kind of strategic objectives you can have in creating Marketing Communication Plans. Quantitative results can of course be tracked allowed you to adjust your approach in future iterations of your plan. On the other hand, depending on your stage in the product and market lifecycle, a more subjective approach in shaping consumer behavior and attitudes is called for. However you choose to approach the question of strategy and objectives do remember that you are in business and the end result of your Marketing Communication activities should be to engage customers, build quality relationships and make sales.


Message

The Marketing Communication Plan revisits aspects of creating your overall Marketing Plan and this should indeed be the case. It is important to come back to the basic questions of creating value and creating customers that are central to business. From a sales and marketing perspective, it is important to readjust your approach to these questions as your understanding of your customer and their needs increases. This is just as important in the question of your Marketing Communication Plan message as elsewhere.

It is more important today than ever to have a customers first approach to sales and marketing. It is not good enough to product a product or service and then hope people will buy it. The marketplace is simply too competitive and customers today are far too discerning and downright fussy over their purchasing choices. Rather, your approach should be to understand first, then act. This applies to creating a valuable product based on your customers' needs as well as understanding what they are looking for in your product and crafting your message accordingly.

Your Marketing Communication Plan message begins with how you position your product, service or idea. After understanding your customer's needs and general market conditions you can design your product and messaging to answer to those needs and thus create value for customers. Your message simply communicates how your positioning strategy aligns your product or service features with the benefits your customers seek through using your product. Using the dry cleaning business example, a quick turnaround benefits busy customers with little time.

A common mistake marketers make is creating superficial marketing communications that are nothing more than fanciful announcements that do not engage nor impress customers. It is the same mistake that salespeople make when they sell too hard. Rather, marketing without marketing just like you should sell without selling. Common sense coupled with a customer-centric helpful, personable approach will work. Sterile marketing pitches will not. Think like your customer and communicate to them in a way that you yourself would be open to if you were them.

Visit Copywriting Information for more on creating an engaging and effective Marketing Communication Plan message. Some final considerations are making sure that your message resonates with salespeople, customers and employees and can be applied across all communication channels. Your message should speak to the customer - ”you” - directly, addressing their needs in their language.


Media

What communication vehicles are you going to utilize as part of your Marketing Communication Planning? You have done some basic research in the Analysis phase and now is the time to flesh preliminary thoughts out into a full-fledged plan. In creating a Media strategy, keep in mind how you can keep your message unified throughout all of the components of your Marketing Communication Mix so that you use a single voice, that of your Marketing Personality.

A key goal of your Marketing Communication Plan is to create strategies and tactics around each of the stages of the Sales Process. As your customer progresses through the various stages in the Marketer's Journey from Unaware to Aware, Interested, Evaluation and Purchase, the message and communication tools you use at each stage needs to tie into where the customer is in the journey and what kind of information will help them progress to the next stage.


Marketing Communication Plan: Implementation




The Implementation section of Marketing Communication covers the tactical day-to-day aspects of putting your plan in action. Anything to do with the how of making your Marketing Communication Strategy work should be elaborated on here in as much detail as necessary. Just as with your overall Marketing Plan, use your judgment and discretion in deciding how to schedule and plan activities, calculate costs and measure progress.


Budget

How much money will it cost to implement your Marketing Communication Plan? You should by know have a breakdown of costs associated with each of the tools of the Marketing Communication Mix that are of interest as well as a strategy guide to how each of these tools should be utilized via various Marketing Communication programs and activities. How long and how much of each communication method will be balanced against your Marketing Communication budget and worked into a specific timeline of activities.


Schedule

In creating Marketing Communication Programs you must now ask who needs to to what and when in ordre for your Marketing Communication Plan to succeed. Whether you use Excel spreadsheets or Project Management software like Microsoft Project to create these plans of activity is up to you. What is important is having a sufficient amount of detail to ensure that the various activities tied to your specific plan can be carried out successfully.


Tracking

As well as monitoring and managing the ongoing rollout of your Marketing Communication Plan is is important to have a feedback process to track results. If you are seeking to effect specific customer actions, how can you record these to adjust your approach for greater success? Can you use surveys, formulas or other forms of information capture at the point of transaction? Where is this information stored, how is it analyzed and how often.

In implementing your Marketing Communication Plan, just as with all planning, follow the general formula of Plan, Implement, Track and Adjust An ongoing cycle of progressively refining your Marketing Communication Strategy based on a continuous loop of feedback and monitoring is what will assure your success more than any one other aspect of Marketing Communication Planning.


Get help with your Marketing Communication Plan!

GO TO:
Marketing Communication MixAdvertising Marketing PlansMarketing Communication StrategyIntegrated Marketing CommunicationMarketing Communication ProcessInteractive Marketing Communication"You" MessagingEmail Marketing StrategyMass Email Marketing Basics35 Email List Marketing TipsEmail Marketing ListsChoosing an Email Marketing SystemBusiness Email TipsMarketing Communication Plan Consultant




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