It’s a ques­tion that’s been asked many times: If all of your friends jumped off of a bridge would you?

From major cor­po­ra­tions to small busi­ness­es, jump­ing on a new trend with­out con­sid­er­a­tion for the inte­grat­ed mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions (IMC) strat­e­gy is a com­mon occur­rence. Each time this hap­pens, I have a very dif­fi­cult time not quot­ing my par­ents.

Hav­ing an IMC strat­e­gy is the dif­fer­ence between adver­tis­ing on pur­pose and get­ting lucky. An effec­tive IMC will out­line a core mes­sage, high­light your com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, address the appro­pri­ate tar­get mar­ket, and tai­lor the mes­sage to fit sup­port­ive media chan­nels. Essen­tial­ly, the mes­sage remains con­sis­tent, but the method of deliv­ery will vary across plat­forms.

Hav­ing an inte­grat­ed mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­e­gy is the process of resist­ing a small­er yet imme­di­ate con­nec­tion in order to receive a stronger or more endur­ing rela­tion­ship lat­er. Mar­ket­ing is like a game of chess, which isn’t won in a sin­gle move; strat­e­gy and cir­cum­stance also con­tribute to the out­come. Out­lined below are the sev­en steps that we have adopt­ed at Twist­lab Mar­ket­ing:

Iden­ti­fy cam­paign goals and poten­tial lim­i­ta­tions. Which part of the mar­ket­ing fun­nel are you address­ing, and what resources do you have access to? Is the pur­pose of your cam­paign to boost con­sumer loy­al­ty or are you look­ing to build aware­ness for cus­tomers who don’t know about your brand? Decide exact­ly what you want to accom­plish with your efforts.
Define the tar­get audi­ence. Always ask your­self, “If I would be charged a dol­lar for every per­son who would watch my ad, who would I choose to show it to?” Remem­ber, a large slice of the mar­ket is bet­ter than bits and pieces of the full pie. In the words of Whit­ney Wilkin­son, assis­tant pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Salt Lake Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege, “Select­ing a tar­get audi­ence is sim­i­lar to the choice faced by Goldilocks. The most effec­tive tar­get audi­ences are not too big, as to lose focus and spread resources too thin, and not too small, lim­it­ing poten­tial mar­ket size. Defin­ing tar­get audi­ences who are; acces­si­ble, recep­tive and prof­itable – is just right. This can be achieved by using con­sumer insights uncov­ered in the research process, think­ing strate­gi­cal­ly, and using a data-dri­ven approach.”
Gain some insight. One of the best ways to do this is with a SWOT analy­sis. Ana­lyze your strengths, weak­ness­es, oppor­tu­ni­ties and threats from the per­spec­tive of your tar­get audi­ence. In oth­er words, do your best to answer these ques­tions: What makes you spe­cial from your consumer’s per­spec­tive? What doesn’t? What are some exter­nal fac­tors and trends that could help or threat­en your busi­ness?
Under­stand your com­pe­ti­tion and iden­ti­fy your com­pet­i­tive edge. Per­form a SWOT analy­sis on the com­pe­ti­tion from the per­spec­tive of your tar­get audi­ence. Note that a good com­pet­i­tive advan­tage has a high bar­ri­er of entry. The hard­er it is to dupli­cate what sets you apart, the bet­ter off you are.
Get cre­ative. Cre­ativ­i­ty is a hard thing to define. Peo­ple look at it as some­thing you either have or you don’t. I hon­est­ly don’t think that’s the case. Cre­ativ­i­ty is the process of brain­storm­ing a strat­e­gy after being well informed about the con­tribut­ing fac­tors. Emma Farr, mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist at Utah Food Ser­vices, said it best: “Cre­ativ­i­ty is a rid­dle, and often­times the solu­tion is sit­ting right in front of your face. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber while in the brain­storm­ing phase that there are no bad ideas. Try not to pro­tect your idea to the point you become inflex­i­ble. The more you’re will­ing to dig deep and chal­lenge why an idea will work or not, the faster you are to find­ing your big idea.” Com­bine things, be adven­tur­ous, and have fun with the process.
Check your “big idea.” Once you come up with your big idea, dou­ble check it. Ask your­self, does this appeal to my audi­ence and fit my strat­e­gy? Does it set me apart from my com­pe­ti­tion and does it have a last­ing impact? Would it be hard for my com­peti­tors to dupli­cate? If you answer yes to these, you’re prob­a­bly in good shape.
Com­mu­ni­cate. Con­sid­er how you can tai­lor your idea through dif­fer­ent medi­ums while main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal mes­sage. In oth­er words, how would you address your Twit­ter and Insta­gram fol­low­ers dif­fer­ent­ly? Cre­ative­ly think of ways to com­mu­ni­cate and present your idea through dif­fer­ent medi­ums while main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal mes­sage. Is the mes­sage being clear­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed across your chan­nels? Is your mes­sage con­sis­tent­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed across all plat­forms? Are your employ­ees and col­leagues aware of and com­mu­ni­cat­ing your mes­sage? Con­sis­ten­cy is key, and your employ­ees aren’t exempt from this; your mes­sage is the voice of your com­pa­ny and should be com­mu­ni­cat­ed through­out every depart­ment.

Don’t jump on the new trend and don’t set­tle for the errat­ic clever idea. Peo­ple love cre­ativ­i­ty; it’s the most appeal­ing part of adver­tis­ing. Resist the temp­ta­tion and put your cre­ativ­i­ty on a leash until you solid­i­fy your IMC strat­e­gy. Once you have it, find the joy in being cre­ative around the research and mon­i­tor your audi­ence’s engage­ment and inter­ac­tion as you build a strong brand that revolves around your com­pet­i­tive advan­tage.