Making the Most of Your Marketing Communications

From a marketing communications perspective, the conventional wisdom used to be “throw some money at advertising and marketing to create awareness and sales will follow”. Marketers were more interested in building awareness and brand recognition and there was no linkage between sales and marketing. Lots of assumptions were made and there was little accountability.

All that has changed. Now sales and marketing are inextricably linked and it’s all about return on investment — ROI. Marketing budgets are now scrutinized to squeeze the most value out of media plans and PR activities. So how do you get good ROI from your marcom budget when you’re trying to reach a specific target market with information about your product or service?

ROI in marketing communications is all about taking the time to really understand who you are trying to reach and what it is that they really want. It also requires finding the most cost-effective way to reach that very specific target audience. No longer can the strategy be spray and pray, identifying the largest trade magazines and industry websites in your market and then hitting the biggest audience with a general message, assuming that you’re going to benefit from trickle down. Traditional vehicles like on- and off-line trade publications are suffering from some of their lowest advertising revenue in years, which translates into reduced readership and effectiveness. So, despite some very attractive deals out there, chances are industry trade publication advertising right now doesn’t offer very good ROI.

Identify your target customer accurately.

So what do you do? You practice something called guerrilla marketing. You find multiple, more focused ways to reach a highly qualified, targeted audience. And you start by doing your homework on who you really want to reach. For example, don’t say your target audience is engineers. Go that extra mile to confirm that the person you really want to talk to is the senior design engineer who’s driving specifications for board-level components. Target, target, target.

Now you can concentrate on how to most effectively reach your highly qualified target. Because you’ve selectively reduced the audience to a critical few, think about generating case studies, white papers, and press releases containing relevant keywords and specific “long-tail” search terms that potentially would be used by your target customer, with helpful industry links as well as appropriate anchor text and links to landing pages within your own website. Then make sure you have more complete, relevant information on your landing pages and an interactive contact form that enables them to query you and provide some details on what they really need.

Keyword every page in your site using those long-tail terms specific to your niche; for example, instead of a generic keyword such as “fabric”, use “waterproof, ripstop fabric.” Ten well-qualified leads are much more valuable than a hundred less-than-qualified leads.

Tweak your web site to contain a wide range of links out to appropriate trade pubs and industry or trade association websites, and try to get them to post a link to yours on theirs. All these things cost very little money, yet they can go a long way toward creating visibility for your company and product or service.

Use social media wisely.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media networking these days. One thing that is true, though, is that a thoughtful, appropriate presence on major sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can boost your visibility and help you open conversations with potential customers.

If you don’t have an account with these social media, get one. Join relevant professional groups on LinkedIn and start discussions there (almost every major industry has at least several professional groups on LinkedIn). Start a company blog and Facebook page, get a Twitter account, and have your comments posted automatically to all three (they all have mechanisms that enable, say, a LinkedIn comment posting to appear automatically on your Twitter page). There are lots of helpful, easy-to-find blogs, websites, and consultants that can help you explore social media networking more fully.

Five tips for achieving marketing communications ROI:

Know your target customer

Do your homework and research who REALLY would buy your product or service. Avoid generic job titles or descriptions as much as possible and try to drill down to the job responsibilities and purchasing needs of the person you’re trying to reach.

Hone your message

Focus on customer pain – the thing or things that really present a challenge to your potential customer and that your product or service will “cure”. Avoid the trite and hackneyed and communicate with clarity. Talk about what concerns your potential customer, not your company.

Disseminate your message creatively

Don’t blindly rely on traditional methods that may or may not work for your specific circumstances and in these economic times. Seek alternative methods, such as using social media networking and free article directory sites to post industry-related comments, key-worded case studies and press releases that can be found by industry bloggers and e-publications looking for content.

Find ways to “get found”

Generate case studies, abstracts, and articles that can become search-optimized content for industry publications, all pointing back to you. Make sure your website is updated regularly to include new and better content and links for increased visibility. Foster online relationships with industry marketplaces, trade journal sites, and professional organizations. Position yourself as an industry expert — line up speaking engagements and conduct seminars, webinars, and podcasts where possible.

Repeat

Once you find the right mix of message and media, repeat as often as possible. Stay on-message and on-target by producing key-worded content on a regular basis for outside publication and your own website. Create new content more easily by expanding upon previously-covered topics and updating older pieces with new information.

Good ROI for your marketing communications efforts comes from doing your homework, understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, and setting goals. Do this, and you can sleep easy, knowing your marketing communications program is working as hard as it possibly can.

Can One Kind of Marketing Communications Survive on Its Own?

Marketing Communications is a very important aspect in every brand’s marketing strategy. For any kind of strategy can’t survive without it being communicated to the target market. As you plan for which strategy you are going to use, bear in mind that one strategy can’t survive without the other. There is a mix that you need to consider so that you can get the full benefits of your marketing communications strategy.

Take for example your company’s website. You need to have it optimized so that you can get the kind of traffic that you want in your site. You may opt to have a blog that could serve as a place for you and your market to stay and talk. You should always remember that you have to be able to talk to the people who matter to you – your consumers. It is a very important that you be able to give them the kind of information that they want and the kind of information that they see as relevant for their needs. Create a strategy that would be able to influence their thinking and make them realize about some issues that matter to them. Your strategy should be able to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question.

Your consumers are like normal people who would always want to know how they could benefit from your product. By making them aware of your existence and letting them know that choosing your product over the other would be beneficial for them then you have better chances of capturing your target market. If you are not able to communicate this information to your market, how then can you convince him to try your product out.

Getting to know your market cannot be emphasized enough. Know who they are and what makes them tick and you are well on your way to improving your brand standing.

Optimizing your site should make you link with others. The internet is a vast expanse wherewith you can meet your market and your potential market as well. So don’t be content with just having a website, but make sure that your site is being linked to sites with the same market in mind. Visit blogs and forums and drop relevant comments. Make the people see that your brand is intelligent and worthy of their patronage.

Remember that marketing communications isn’t only about having an online campaign. There are a lot of other aspects that goes with it. You branding strategy is a part of it, your product design, packaging and promotion among others. So as you can see, it is a really big task that you need to focus on each strategy little by little. It is a proven fact that using only one way of communicating will not work. You need everything to work together and be united. Whatever element of your marketing communications you would use, think about it as a part of a greater whole.

The Queen’s Sombrero and Marketing Communication

If you have not taken the time to sit back and think about how much marketing communications has changed, you should. The changes are astounding from Dallas to New Delhi, and the rules have changed significantly from even five years ago. One important change is the actual decentralization of marketing communications and publishing.

The days are over when only the Forbes and the Hearsts published business and consumer material. Today, everyone that is pushing written material through the various Internet channels is a publisher. That means you. When you are not in the role of the soccer mom or proud papa posting pictures of little Bobby on Instagram, or exclaiming your pride that Susie made the cheerleading squad on Facebook, you should most likely be following more formal rules when communicating as your role and audience are most likely very different. You’re wearing a different hat.

When you are not tweeting about the family, or posting some anecdotal story online, more than likely you are publishing business and professional information such as marketing communication. And, the hat you wear is different, the rules are different and operations should be different. When you are publishing business communication, remember these rules:

1. Wear the right hat. Remember you are not writing poetry or posting a personal status when you are writing professionally. You are communicating as a professional to other professionals. And, with that comes some formality in your style and execution. That is not to say you cannot write business communication with expression and catchy headlines. In fact, marketing communication sometimes requires that. It simply means, when you are communicating professionally, you need to remember your audience, and your professional role and credibility should be as evident in your style and presentation as well as your content.

2. Don’t co-mingle professional and personal communication. Your friends on Facebook are different than fans on your fan page. Have a personal Facebook page for communicating with your BFF, and have a separate Facebook page (fan page) for your professional communication and content. The same holds true for blogs. There are professional blogs, and then there are personal blogs. They do not mix.

3. Use professional vehicles for your professional communication. In this day and age, you should have a professional website for your business operations, period. Costs now are simply low enough these day as to not be an issue. And, you should have a professional email address (or addresses) attached to it. You lose credibility when you communicate to a potential customer or client from a generic Yahoo email address. For little or no cost (depending on your hosting platform), you can obtain a professional email address with your company’s name attached. Always communication using professional platforms and vehicles when you are publishing professional communication – including emails.

Just remember, business is business, including when you are publishing marketing communication, or any other professional material for that matter. One hat does not fit all. Case in point: Queen Elizabeth wears a lot of hats. But, you would never see her wearing a sombrero to an investiture at Westminster Abbey. Just saying…