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.