How to Plan Marketing Communications

Markeing Communications

There's a whole heap of marketing communications tools available, but how do you know which are best for you and your target audience. This is where marketing communications planning comes into play.

This article introduces marketing communications and will help you plan a campaign.

Selecting the tools

Examples of marketing communications tools include brochures, mailshots, adverts, sales promotions, exhibitions, personal selling and public relations. Some, of course, can be online as well as offline.

They can be used individually, but usually have the most impact when used together.

Each tool can be assessed against a set of criteria, the '4Cs':

  • Cost - how much will it cost to reach a given number of individuals?
  • Clout - how many people can be reached? Can the message be personalised?
  • Credibility - how will it be perceived in terms of credibility?
  • Control - can particular audiences be targeted? Can you adjust the message for individuals or as the campaign progresses?

Before engaging in any marketing communications activities, it is important to decide the following:

  • What you want to say - the who, what, why, when and where
  • Who you want to say it to
  • How you want to present your message
  • When you want to send it

You'll also need to think about the style and tone of your message, and about any follow-up actions.

Planning the campaign

These are a few simple steps to help you plan your marketing communications.

Decide on objectives

Do you want to improve awareness of your product or service? Are you launching a product? Do you want new customers? Or do you want existing customers to buy more?

Once you've decided on your campaign objectives, consider which tools are going to be the most appropriate. A successful campaign will use a combination of tools to get the key messages across.

Set a budget

Always a challenge. Maybe consider how much it would cost to use each tool for a small segment of your target audience, trial it even, and then scale the cost appropriately.

Decide what you want to say

Another tricky one - no one said it'd be easy. A few things to consider include: Are you saying the same thing as your competitors? Does what you're saying pass the 'so what' test? Can you back up your claims with what you actually deliver?

It's an oldie, but the AIDA might help you here: grab customers' Attention, keep them Interested, generate Desire, and encourage them to take Action.

Select your target audience

Selling baked beans isn't the same as selling industrial machinery; and communicating with consumers isn't the same as communicating with business customers.

Business buyers aren't using their own money, there's fewer of them, decisions are made by groups, and they take longer to make decisions.

Different marketing communications will be appropriate in each market.

Formal approach appropriate Informal approach appropriate
Personal selling dominates Advertising and sales promotion
More use of logic More use of emotions and imagery
Information based messages
Sales management a priority Brand management a priority

Despite this, however, decisions are always made by people, so you can afford to try and appeal to the heart as well as the head.

This post is based on the CIM's 10 Minute Guide: How to plan marketing communications available from