By R. Lynn Burkholder
While several factors are changing the face of today’s marketing communications, “Know your audience and focus your message” remains a sound communication principle. After all, what’s important or of value to me may be very different from what’s of value to you.
In this digital age, consumers are better informed and more empowered. Rather than relying on product marketing materials, consumers can use the internet to gather information. More importantly, they can easily connect with other consumers to exchange information or even create their own marketing messages.
As a result, marketing strategies must also change. Today, more marketers are adopting the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) to engage customers and communicate value. IMC calls for recognizing all touchpoints where the customer may encounter the company and its brands. Such touchpoints may include sales representatives, reservation or customer service agents, editorial about the company or its products, email, and social media.
Using IMC, marketers carefully deliver clear, consistent, and compelling messages about the organization and its brands across all channels so they work in harmony. This can be challenging when communications are coming from multiple sources inside and outside an organization. This is why IMC requires planning that includes identifying the target audience, determining the communication objectives, crafting the message, selecting the appropriate communication channels, and collecting feedback.
Marketers must begin with a clear target audience in mind. The audience may be potential customers or current customers. While they may be old school or internet savvy, the target audience drives decisions about the message, how and when it will be delivered, and by whom.
Once a target audience has been defined, the marketer must decide the objective or desired response. In most cases, it is to make a purchase; however, one needs to know where the target audience is in the buying process. Perhaps the target is in the research phase. An informational message will be much better received than a promotional one.
Having defined the objective, the marketer must then develop an effective message and the channels of communication. Ideally, the message should get (and hold) attention, stimulate interest, and result in some kind of action. Using an IMC approach, the marketer will rely on communication across multiple channels to achieve the objective. Finally, after sending the message, the marketer must research its effect on the target audience to identify any necessary adjustments. This can be accomplished through either the sales or customer service staff, or informal or formal research.
When used properly, IMC leads to a comprehensive marketing communications strategy aimed at building strong customer relationships by showing how the company and its products can fulfill customer needs.
R. Lynn Burkholder is president of RLB Marketing LLC, a business development firm specializing in strategic planning for the hospitality, entertainment, travel, and professional services industries.