Marketing Communications Help You Achieve Your Business Goals

As a career field, marketing has a number of specialized functions. Marketing communications is just one of those specialties and focuses primarily on targeting a particular audience and making them as aware as possible of your product or message. A communications specialist can help you gain the attention of the right fraction of the population in order to increase your sales or other business success measures.

Designing your communications to fully achieve your goals is more challenging than it may immediately appear. After all, those communications can take on a wide variety of forms. Creating communications that are uniquely appropriate for each target audience and the media in which it is delivered is just one challenge. Ensuring that all of those various marketing messages mesh well with one another is also important.

Achieving the right mix of marketing media and still maintaining a comprehensive and cohesive marketing communications program can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re running a small to medium size business in which you and your employees where several hats.

Without a dedicated marketing communications specialist, you may be missing out on a great deal of potential business. Your reputation may not be out there, or if it is out there in the market, it may not be the reputation that you really want.

Achieving your business goals requires dedicated time and effort, including a lot of research, strategizing, and creative thinking in terms of your marketing ventures. A marketing specialist can help you bring your business up to speed with the competition by making your overall company’s communications as professional, attractive and goal driven as possible.

They can also help you eventually blow the competition out of the water by designing a marketing communications program that beats out all of your competitors’ schemes. By developing a program that is more comprehensive, better designed and extremely recognizable, a specialist can elevate your company’s brand identity to a new level.

The manner in which you approach different forms of marketing related communications varies depend upon a number of factors. The market segment you’re trying to reach is one. The avenue by which the message is delivered is another.

For example, a marketing related email newsletter is going to require a very different approach than would a clickable ad strategically placed on an industry website. The style and theme of both should communicate the overall character and motto of your business while still being uniquely appropriate for the venue in which the marketing materials appear. Finding that balance can be extremely difficult but a marketing communications specialist can greatly assist you in your efforts.

Midsized Company Marketing Communications Budget Planning

This is the time of year when most companies, brands and nonprofits are involved with developing their marketing communications plans and budgets for next year. This is not an easy task in any year but, whether you’re already deeply involved in the process, or just starting, the task is even more challenging this year given the continuing global and economic uncertainties.

More than ever, increased accountability and scrutiny of the decision-making process is a necessity for improving marketing communications ROI. Customers, whether existing or new, have a multitude of choices for evaluating and selecting a product or service, so it’s extremely important to be on the same page with them.

What follows recommends a three-pronged approach to help you develop a budget and plan to profitably impact your marketplace.

Understand Your Customer Target Audience
Like most managers, you probably believe you fully understand the wants and needs of your customers, as well as their knowledge of your brand. But with so many new methods available to customers for comparing your brand to competition, are you really sure?

Is it smart to plan and commit your precious marketing communication dollars to what you think you know about customers? Maybe it would be a lot smarter to learn directly from them what they want, and how you stack up to their needs.

Ultimately, that means market research. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or a nonprofit marketer, now is the time to learn from your customer.

  • What attributes or qualities are important to them in selecting a brand? Beyond price, what other factors influence their purchase decision?
  • How do they rate your brand versus competition? What are your strongest and weakest attributes, and what do you need to improve?

Wouldn’t you feel more secure in your decision making if you had concrete answers to these questions before you develop, much less commit to, budgets? And don’t forget about making sure you understand your employees or distributors. They’re your first line of brand advocacy. Their beliefs may not line up with your customers’ beliefs, and could lead to lost opportunities or lost sales. Look before you leap.

A Marketing Communications Audit Can Sharpen Your Message
Once you completely understand your customer, the next step is to focus on your message. The single greatest source of leverage you have is the quality of messaging, whether it’s a television commercial, a post on a Facebook page, your website, articles, blogs or whitepapers. When messaging fails to deliver, it’s usually not the platforms that fail, but rather the lack of integrated focused brand communications.

A marketing communications audit, conducted by outside consultants who don’t have a vested interest or an ax to grind, can – like a financial audit – be an enormous benefit. It will tell you whether all of the creative elements you employ – subject matter, graphics, copy, and tone and manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message to your customers, as well as your employees.

An additional benefit of a marketing communications audit is its ability to help determine your communications mix and resulting budgets. For instance, based on customer needs, perhaps more should be spent in content marketing, with articles and blogs, and less in paid advertising, consumer promotions or coupons. Just make sure all of your messaging is saying the same thing to meet those customer needs. It’s a matter of reinforcing the image you want to convey and trust in your brand.

Consider Marketing Communications Consultants
No one is doubting that smart, dedicated people have been involved in developing your marketing communications budget and plan. But, if you’re like most midsized companies, your people are probably stretched to the limit.

Consider partnering with an established, senior level consultant to help your team develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement your programs. Above all, make sure a consultant has extensive experience across disciplines, industries and brands, and isn’t trapped by “this is the way we’ve always done it” thinking. An apolitical team, with a willingness to “tell it like it is”, with fresh eyes can be a major asset to your profitable growth.

In today’s unsettled environment, an upfront focus on developing budgets and plans can go a long way to improving marketing communications ROI.

Tactics To Improve Nonprofit Marketing – Your Anniversary And A Marketing Communications Audit

With revenues at nonprofit organizations increasing by only 0.9 percent, to $298 billion in 2011, according to Giving USA, it is no secret how difficult fundraising has become in today’s environment. Add to that the possibilities of an upcoming fiscal cliff and the loss of tax deductions for charitable contributions and you wind up with a very daunting picture.

Your advisory board, committee members and staff all want to help, and look to organization leadership for direction. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the development of a meaningful marketing communications plan to profitably improve your fundraising efforts.

As you develop your plan, and evaluate various directions and opportunities, I suggest you consider two tactics that have proven successful for improving marketing ROI.

Market Your Anniversary
Your anniversary offers a unique opportunity to rekindle enthusiasm and galvanize all of your constituents to the relevance, importance and needs of the organization. It gives you the chance to tell your story, not just about your past, but more importantly, about your plans and goals for the future. And don’t think that an anniversary has to be only in multiples of 25 years. Your 33rd, properly marketed, can be as meaningful as your 50th.

Some communications tactics to consider in marketing your anniversary include creating:

  • An event or events to provide the maximum amount of interaction among existing and potential donors, volunteers, staff, foundations and the local community. But make sure your event doesn’t isolate your various constituencies. They want to talk to one another, not be lectured. Interaction leads to engagement.
  • A special theme and logo. But also consider a historical book and CD, or a one of a kind commemorative piece of artwork (that can also be used on your website). And employ a meaningful mix of both traditional and new media to create excitement.
  • A corporate – nonprofit partnership. Your anniversary can provide the trigger point for new collaborations with business partners, bringing in real rewards for both organizations. And these new relationships can last for many years.

These examples are just a start. But we encourage you to start thinking of your anniversary as a 12 to 18 month marketing communications program and branding tool to improve your ROI.

Conduct A Marketing Communications Audit
As was recently pointed out by Tom Buday, head of marketing and communications at Nestle, the best source of marketing communications leverage in the for profit world is the quality of the messaging. It’s not the media vehicle that does or does not deliver, rather it’s the quality of the messaging.

Applying this to nonprofits means that it is imperative for you to evaluate your program and its elements. Invariably, nonprofits employ a media mix of direct mail, events, newsletters, public relations, social media, emailing and advertising in some combination. A marketing communications audit can help you determine how your program is working as a whole, while also evaluating how each message is performing against your established objectives.

This type of audit will help you determine whether the elements of your creative approach – graphics, tone and manner, and subject manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message. Ultimately, the results of an audit will not only improve the quality and integration of your messaging but also help you determine how your media mix and budgets should be tailored.

Whether or not you take advantage of marketing your anniversary, a marketing communications audit can make a significant difference to your programs and ROI. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your programs before your commit significant dollars and time behind them?

Marketing Consultants Can Help
If you’re like most nonprofits, the majority of your time, talent and treasury is devoted to your passion for the people, programs and services you provide. The same is probably true of many of your most committed volunteers.

Given that, does your organization have the marketing and marketing communications talent and experience to develop the strategies, plans and tactics that are necessary to help you succeed in today’s environment? Trying to find this among your already overworked and underfunded staff or your volunteers doesn’t make much sense.

Your budgets are tight but can you really afford not to bring in outside help? Look for marketing communications consulting partners to help you and your team develop and execute these programs. Above all, select consultants with broad scope and extensive senior level experience across industries and brands, in both the for profit and nonprofit arenas.

Importantly, they should be media neutral, not selling one particular marketing solution, and willing to “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish. Their fresh eyes will go a long way when it comes to improving your ROI.