Seven Steps for Strategic Marketing Communications That Grow Business

By Amy DeGeer Roten

You’ve developed a great product and accomplished the Herculean task of starting a business. But ultimately, the success of your business will depend on your ability to convince people to choose you over the competition. Growing a business comes down to the ability to sell. A comprehensive understanding of your products, your competition, and your consumers will help you create strategic marketing communications that inform, educate, and convince.

A marketing communications strategy will summarize how to reach your customers. It will help define the messages that will create engagement and build a loyal customer base. Essentially, it establishes a path between your company and the markets you want to penetrate, i.e., your customers. It builds your ideal customers’ top-of-mind awareness for your products or services and defines the actions by which to market your products.

Whether you’re going to hire an agency or hunker down and write the strategy yourself, the seven tips below will help you get organized and ready to move forward.

#1: What: What does your business do? What do your customers care about? Answer those two questions with a short phrase that summarizes what you do, and how you are special, different, and better than the competition.

This phase is your Unique Selling Proposition. It will help you develop a strategy for your brand that aligns with what your customers want and need. The USP is the foundation for your marketing strategy, key messaging, copywriting, target audience identification, and more.

Here is an example of a strong USP:

Death Wish Coffee

We strive for the best tasting and highest quality organic and fair-trade beans in every bag. Our processes are USDA certified and we have committed to sustainability throughout our products. We offer a 100%, no-BS guarantee: If this isn’t the strongest coffee you’ve ever tried, we’ll gladly give you a refund.

#2: Who: Who are your customers and your competition? Customers: Identify who your customers are to create groups that have specific characteristics in common, including why they spend money with you. These are your target audiences. Once you know your target audiences, who they are, and why they buy your product, you know what to talk about to keep them engaged and coming back for more. You will also find out if they’re not happy with you, and what you might want to change to meet their needs.

Competition: Who else does what you do? Why and how are you better? You cannot beat the competition by offering the same thing. Gather data and background on your competition so you know what to do and what not to do. Find the gaps or holes your competition does not fill and fill them.

#3 How: How are you going to sell your product? Brick and mortar storefront?

Will you sell via eCommerce such as your website, Amazon, or Facebook? Different customers shop in different places and will require different strategies. Understand where your customers shop and place your product in front of them.

#4 Where: Where do your target audiences prefer to get information? Where and how will they find you?

Email? Social Media? Publications? Television? Radio? Find out how your customers or potential customers prefer to receive communication so you can regularly talk to them.

#5 When: When is the best time to communicate? Timing is everything. When to communicate should be just as strategic as where to sell and what to say.

Is your product or service seasonal? What affects supply and demand? When are budgets planned? Do you have a loyal customer base or are people just learning about your business? The answers will help you build a strategy around “when” and “how often” to communicate.

Consistent message distribution will educate and inform customers, and establish a presence, build a reputation, and create brand recognition. Groups of message bursts, i.e., bi-weekly social media posts, will promote a target product, service, or event.

#6. Set goals. Marketing communications is not just fluff. It should do work. What do you want your communications

to do? Depending on the stage of your business, your answer may be to generate awareness, increase sales, increase event attendance, or move a product into a new market.

Here’s an example of high-level, marketing communication strategic goals:

Purpose:

To create awareness of the value and benefits of an XYZ company, and build interest, excitement, engagement in the product offering to boost holiday sales.

Goals for Q2 and Q3, 2021:

Improve online (web and social media) engagement by 3%

Increase website visits by 5%

Increase sales by 2%

#7. Analyze, evaluate, and update. The last step in the process is to analyze and evaluate the impact of your marketing communications – did it work? How well did it work? What didn’t work and why? Make adjustments to the tactic and try it again.

A marketing communications strategy is a living document. Target audience characteristics and needs change. The business environment changes. The economy changes. Consumer behaviors change. The marketing strategy must reflect those kinds of changes.

These seven steps will help you get organized and ready to pull a marketing communications strategy together.

If you hire an agency to write the strategy for you, working through the seven steps will put you way ahead of the game by eliminating the “discovery” phase. This will save you money and allow your agency to get straight to work.

For more resources on strategic marketing communications, contact aroten@mbami.org.

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