Before you decide to spend money on advertising; or any other kind of external communications; or indeed, how much to spend; you need to know if your choice of communications are the best way to meet your marketing objectives. It is often the case that advertising budgets can become a solution looking for a problem.
You also need to ask, are communications the priority? Do other aspects of your marketing mix needing fixed first?
There is no point in spending thousands advertising a new feature of your product if consumers are complaining about how terrible your after sales service is.
Sort those issues which are a priority, then think about your communications mix.
Your communications strategy must reflect your organisational goals and the critical success factors you set.
When choosing your mix of communications tools (PR, TV advertising, print, social media, etc) you need the appropriate mix of push and pull media. Push media is pushing your product into the minds of consumers e.g. traditional advertising. Pull media is getting consumers to demand your products from retailers and other suppliers (this could be media like social media and PR).
A strategy that is all push and no pull; or vice versa; is unlikely to succeed in modern markets.
And you cannot rely on past methodology. The world of communications is constantly mutating. In the 1950s most communications were broadcast monologues. Today, the aim of communications is often to create two and three way communication. Communications is about conversations; between companies and their customers; between existing customers; and between customers and prospective customers.
The level of advertising and communications spend do not automatically lead to results and simply trying to match the share of voice of a market leader may be a process in wasting scarce resources.
Definitely do not choose communications channels out of habit.
The best way to decide on your communications mix is:
- Match communications tools based on their strengths and ability to match the purpose of the communications. For example social media is a step towards creating electronic word of mouth and a brand community (although other communications tools will be needed to meet those objectives). Social media is not a proven sales channel. Remember the mnemonic DRIP (Differentiate, Reinforce, Inform, Persuade). Depernding on the purpose of your message different communications tools will be appropriate. For example, advertising may be the priority if you are aiming to differentiate your offer from that of your competitors; print media and PR may be the best way to inform your customers of product attributes; Social media may be a good way of reminding existing customers of your products; Sales Representatives may be the best way to persuade your target customers to buy.
- Match your communications profile to the expectations of your target audience. So if you aim to sell fashion to the under thirties, social media and digital communications may be the priority in your mix. If you are selling stairlifts to pensioners, direct mail and television advertising may be the priority. it is not by accident that daytime TV is filled with adverts for over-50’s pension plans and disability aids. Tesco will show families with children in their communications; BMW will show male professionals and executives. Look for archetypes, not stereotypes.
- Integrated communications campaigns work better. Promotion and other communications should be part of a wider customer journey. It is a mistake to put all your communications in one channel. I see small business after small business heavily investing in social media as their sole communications channel thinking they have found a silver bullet to solve their communications ills; they haven’t, they simply could be wasting their finite communications budget. It is best to integrate communications channel that work well together and which compliment each other. Choose channels that are synergistic and may create a greater whole than individual channels.
You need to map that customer journey from their first awareness of your brand through to them being repeat purchasers and then habitual purchasers.
Commercial communications are increasingly two way interactions. You should reflect this in your communications strategy. Do not shout a monologue into the void. Focus on conversation, duologue and dialogue. Increasingly getting target customers to talk to each other is a top-level aim of commercial communications.
We live in an over-communicated society. Consumers are bombarded with commercial messages every day. It isn’t a case of being the one who shouts loudest, be the one who shouts differently. Stand apart from the communications churn.
To do all this you need a communications and advertising plan which:
- Sets a budget
- Determines your target audience
- Determines the content of communications
- Decides your media mix
- Decides on advertising frequency
- Defines how communications will be classed as successful
Your advertising objectives should be to:
- Convey information
- Alter perceptions and attitudes
- Create desires
- Establish connections
- Direct actions
- Provide reassurance
- Give reasons for purchase
- Demonstrate product/service features
- Generate enquires and footfall
Those objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound)
And remember the Six I’s of Digital Communication:
- Integrate across media channels. It is not by accident that Amazon, Uber, Just Eat, Trivago and other internet-based retailers and service providers all use traditional advertising channels.
- Create Independence of location: think remote marketing and remote delivery.
- Think Industry restructuring: Digital is often about disrupting existing market models.
- Think Individualisation: We live in a world where new technology and just in time supply chains mean mass customisation and micro-targeting of communications
- Think Interactivity: Conversation not monologue
Increasingly, communications are as much about creating a brand community as pushing products onto consumers. The communications models of even twenty years ago are no longer appropriate. Look to the future of communication, not the past.