Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Menu for Marketing Communications Success in the New Year
You’ve got to have a plan

By Jim Walton
President & CEO, Brand Acceleration, Inc.

A holiday dinner is a magical thing. The sounds, discussions, laughter and activities are heavenly. The meal is an orchestration of chopping, mixing, basting, boiling and baking. What I witnessed many years ago in my grandmother’s kitchen is almost identical to what happens today in my own. One of the secrets of a successful holiday dinner is the timing. There’s an order -- an art and science -- to the way things are done. Experienced cooks know that order and schedule everything to be ready at exactly the right time. “Dinner is ready!”

A great marketing communications plan is much like a holiday meal. In order to be truly successful, it must have a very specific goal and be completed in a precise order. The plan must be based on a well-thought-out message strategy that reaches specific audiences and conveys a message or messages that resonate with each.

I received a call the other day from a company wanting a new brochure. When I asked about the audience and how the brochure would be used, there was a deafening silence. Finally, after a very long pause, the caller told me they just wanted to replace their old brochure that was almost nine years old. There is no doubt the old brochure needs to be replaced, but even a simple brochure should be considered part of an overall communication strategy.

At Brand Acceleration, we are often asked to produce such tactics as brochures, logos, websites, ads, etc., etc., etc., but before we begin the process of writing, designing and producing such tactics, we want to understand the following:

1. Who is the audience and what do they want to hear from us?

2. How will this tactic be used? Will the brochure be used as a direct mail piece, a trade show hand-out or as part of another plan?

3. If it’s a website, will it be promoted in order to attract visitors or will it be left hanging, hoping the audience will find it through search engines?

4. For a brochure, is there a need to customize it for specific audiences or should it be general in nature?

5. What is the company or community’s brand position? What does the audience know or believe already? Is brand research needed?

These are just a few of the numerous questions that should be answered early in the process.

As we move toward the New Year, you should consider your overall business strategy before laying out plans for tactics. For example:

1. Which industries are likely to have growth potential for us?

2. How do we best fit into those industries?

3. What do buyers in those industries want to hear from us?

4. What is the best way to reach those buyers?

5. Are our business development people up to speed on those industries?

6. What are our goals for 2010? (Number of contacts with specific audiences. Number of leads. Number of active projects.)

Once these questions are answered it would be worth meeting with your agency (like Brand Acceleration) to explore message strategies and tactics to help you reach your goals. If they are not well versed in the art of strategic communication planning, it’s time to consider another partner. They may be able to chop potatoes but Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin may be beyond their capabilities.

Just like your holiday dinner, a well orchestrated marketing communications plan will help move your sales effort to success. And, like the meal, it will leave you feeling pleasantly satisfied.

Brand Acceleration is a full-service advertising, brand management and public relations firm operating from Indianapolis, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina. The agency’s focus is on economic development, architecture/engineering/construction, real estate and motorsports.

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