Strategic Marketing Communication

Step-by-step process for writing a marketing communications strategy.

This document is designed to provide you with a step-by-step process for writing a marketing communications strategy that includes gathering and evaluating information, setting goals and objectives, defining messages and tactics, and how to measure your results. Over the years I have had the opportunity to lead marketing communication teams in 15+ business to business and consumer industries. Our strategies have been the foundation for extremely effective regional, national and international marketing communications campaigns.  The planning process I am going to describe is based on my first-hand experiences of what works and has evolved over my career in marketing communications.

After this process, you will have a Strategic Marketing Communication Campaign Plan that you will use to carefully guide you, your team, internal stakeholders, and external resources such as advertising and PR agencies, contractors, and others.

Within this guide, you will find four sections. Section 1 is an overview of the process that includes definitions and helpful hints for completing your plan. Section 2 is a detailed resource guide that includes blank forms and outlines of the campaign development process. Section 3 includes examples of completed Strategic Marketing Communications Campaigns and tools that you can use as a guide in writing your campaign.  The index to the marketing communications campaign planning process is as follows:

Marketing Communications Strategy
Table of Contents

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Defining the Strategic Marketing Communications Campaign Plan

The key to successful advertising is planned to advertise. This plan takes the form of the Marketing Communications Campaign Plan. The definition for the campaign is as follows:

“A campaign is rooted in communication pieces that begin with the same strategic imperative. The tactical objectives of individual pieces may differ, but the overall strategic message should be consistent…The goal should be to maximize the impact of each communication vehicle….”

Planning is how we establish the objectives, Strategy, and tactics. The main differentiator from a collection of ideas and tactics is unity. Upon seeing an ad, direct mail, banner and other tactics from a unified campaign, your target audience can tell that it belongs to a family of other marketing vehicles that have preceded them. We are talking much more than look and feel, and we are talking messages, themes, artwork, offers, etc. Strategic campaigns take place over time and are reviewed, adjusted, and modified to take advantage of a changing and evolving market.

If creative ideas are the heart and soul of a campaign, Strategy is the brain. Strategy is the general plan designed to give the campaign its competitive edge. Consider it to be more like an outline than a blueprint. The guidelines that are part of the plan provide direction throughout the campaign period. The Strategy provides the framework within which all parties involved in the plans should operate as a team toward common goals. Strategic plans result from team members who can anticipate the future and develop the ideas, operations and procedures to achieve goals.

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Outline of the Strategic Marketing Communications Campaign Plan


The following is an overview of the critical sections included in your Strategic Marketing Communications Campaign Plan. The following section will provide the definition and details for filling out each section. Also provided in this

  1. Market Research
  2.  Introduction or Overview or Executive Summary
    • Situation Analysis
    • Company/Product History Analysis
    • Product Analysis
    • Target Market Analysis
    • Target Audience Analysis
    • Competitive Analysis
  3. Problems and Opportunities
  4. Target Audience, Pains, and Message
  5. Goals and Objectives
  6. Marketing Communications Strategy Overview
  7. Details to Marketing Communication Strategy

Advertising Strategy

    • Creative or message Strategy
    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or executions (often put at the end of the plan.)

Media Strategy

    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or executions (often put at the end of the plan.)
    • Cost estimates
    • Continuity Schedule

Sales Promotion

    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or executions

Public Relations

    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or examples

Direct Marketing

    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or examples

Other Event Marketing

    •  Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or examples


    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics or examples
  1. Communication Assessment Measures (Optional)
  2. Budget
  3. Summary

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Conducting and Writing Market Research

Before you start typing out your next Marketing Communications Campaign Strategy, have you done your research? The primary objective of any advertising campaign is quite simple: to reach the right target audience with the right message at the right time. Unfortunately, determining the right audience and message is not easy, and research is necessary to develop a good marketing communications campaign. There are five essential questions that you will be asking during a campaign:

  • Where are we now? This usually indicates the type of information required, and it is the fundamental question of where the product is in the marketplace and the target audience’s mind.
  • Why are we there? Why does the product have its position in the market and the target audience’s mind? To answer those questions, factors contributing to the product’s strengths and weaknesses must be determined.
  • Where could we be? The question is not where we would like to be, but the product’s position realistically could hold in the future. The answer requires a review of the market position sought, the buyers and users who must be reached with our integrated marketing communications, and how they might respond to our product. The problem is not determining what is profitable or desirable but what is realistic. Having determined where we would like the product to be, our next step is creating a strategy to make the change. If our target audience has certain beliefs about our product, what must we say to make them believe something more conducive to potential sales?
  • How can we get there? What changes will have to be made in what elements of the product, or the target audience’s image of the product, to enable us to achieve the goal we have set? With this objective, we can now develop the techniques and materials necessary to reach the goal.
  •  Are we getting there? This is the feedback component in the strategy loop. If we don’t know the progress we are making, we may never know if we are moving toward the goal. We must see the campaign in action if we are to know that it will work.

Whom can we believe?

Too often, our advertising campaign strategies build upon management’s/technical teams’ definitions of our target audience’s problems, needs and wants. Experience shows that these facts are more perceptions rather than facts. A campaign built only on this information may or may not succeed, and this is not an acceptable risk when it comes to writing your plan. It is like a General saying, “The enemy is over the hill without consulting the latest reconnaissance reports.”

This problem often arises because of the assumption that questions or answers to advertising problems can be found without taking to the target audience. When this happens, you, the campaign planner, stop with the first answers. For example, it is tempting to believe a salesperson who says, “We should be advertising XYZ product with ABC features. Competitor X is doing that and getting more sales.” The problem may not relate to the specific product and features. There may be a hundred other reasons their product sells better than our product. The only productive way to learn the answer is to ask the target audience why they buy the competitor’s product. Or better still, ask the target audience why they are not buying our product. The target audience frequently has answers that may have eluded both the Management and the sales force. This does not suggest that Management and sales force don’t know their product or their marketplace. It does suggest that, although research investigations should start internally, they shouldn’t end there. Often the internal team can identify the problem immediately. But it is still worth checking with the target audience to make sure they perceive the same situation. To obtain market intelligence, one must seek information at all levels, especially from the target audience.

How long should research take?

We are not looking for you to experience the dreaded “Paralysis of Analysis.” However, you are expected to find as much information you need to develop a good campaign. Only you can be the judge. Realize that some information will be complicated, if not impossible, to find. Research is ongoing. Always be on the outlook for data that will help you better target your product to your audience. For a rule of thumb, start your official data gathering three months before your marketing communications strategy is due. Remember your plan is alive and breathing. If new data arrives that causes you to rethink your plan, then do it.

What do we need to know?

Most of the information we need in designing the marketing communications campaign usually comes from target audience analysis, market analysis, and product analysis.
Some of the questions in this type of analysis include: (For a more complete list of the questions, see the long and short editions of questions in resources.)

Define the Marketspace

    1. Who are the users (i.e., Developer, Supervisor, CXO)
    2. Identify the three to five needs of each user.
    3. What are each user’s top three pains, and how do we solve them?
    4. What are the market segments?

Define the competition

    1. Identify and list the direct competition (Companies with products that generally
      satisfy the exact primary and secondary needs)
    2. Compare company and target competitors based on
      ability to satisfy the needs and pains stated above. (Based on both the laboratory
      tests and customer perceptions.)
    3. Analyze and list competitive strengths and weaknesses.
    4. Identify competitive trends that may have an impact on your product/service?

Market Size and Characteristics

    1. How much are the market segments spending to satisfy the needs and
      wants that have been identified?
    2. Are all of your sales coming from one segment, or are they evenly
    3. Determine competitive market shares by segment.

Outside Influences

    1. Are there any outside influences that have the most significant potential impact on
      your business?
    2. Key factors include 1) Economic factors 2) Social 3) Regulatory 4) Technological

Product Sale

    1. Identify the steps in a “typical” sale for your product segment.

Product Pricing

    1. Record current competitive prices.
    2. Identify policies that are affecting pricing.
    3. List and graph the average end-user or distributor selling price?

Marketing Communications

    1. Define what you consider the essential tools to use in the campaign.

Product Positioning

  1. Determine how your customers in each market segment perceive your product
    and how your target competitors are perceived.

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Where to Conduct Research

The following are a few sources that you should consider when conducting your research.

  1. Field Sales
  2. Business unit product managers
  3. Reports from Siebel
  4. Telesales
  5. Business unit technical marketing teams
  6. Reports purchased by companies like the Gartner Group, Giga
  7. Local library
  8. CD’s
  9. Trade shows
  10. Online searches
  11. Industry publications
  12. Competitor Websites
  13. Indexes such as Lexis/Nexis and Business Periodicals Index
  14. Compressive Investment services link Moody’s Manuals, Standard and Poor’s Corporation Records, and Value Line Investment Survey
  15. Directories such as Million Dollar Directory, The Encyclopedia of Associations
  16. Company Reports
  17. Primary Research projects such as focus groups, round tables, telephone surveys, mail survey’s
  18. Tradeshows, Seminars
  19. Etc.

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Writing the Strategic Marketing Communications Plan


Strategic Marketing Communication

Carefully review each of the following descriptions. See the Appendix (RBU Strategic Marketing Communications Plan for Java) to see an example of a completed Strategic Marketing Communications Plan.

Writing the Strategic Marketing Communications Plan

  1. Writing the Introduction, Overview, Executive Summary
  2. Writing the Situation Analysis
  3. Writing the Problems and Opportunities
  4. Defining the Target Audience, Pains, and Message
  5. Writing the Goals and Objectives
  6. Writing the Marketing Communications Strategy Overview
  7. Writing the Details to Marketing Communication Strategy
  8. Writing the Communication Assessment Measures
  9. Writing the Budget
  10. Writing the Summary

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1. Writing the Introduction, Overview, Executive Summary

They will be reading explained in general terms, usually no more than a couple of paragraphs. Consider including the nature of the campaign length and the budgeted money. Address the key issues and get to the point.

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2. Writing the Situation Analysis

Writing the Situation Analysis is the foundation for your decisions throughout your plan concerning Strategy and tactics. It is also the part of the plan that will require the most planning/research and thoughtful analysis for successful completion.

The Situation Analysis is based on research. Research gives you information on a situation. Research does not tell you what you should attempt to do, but it should be a necessary ingredient for a good marketing communications campaign. (See Resources for more detail on planning and conducting marketing research.)

The Situation Analysis is a critical examination of the facts relevant to your product’s current condition. It identifies the critical issues and the strategic focal points that the marketing communications strategy will address. The situation analysis usually consists of all or part of the following elements.

Company/Product History Analysis:

This is a company’s history product, including past marketing communications strategy. Some of the information you can include in this analysis includes

  1. Relevant history of the company/business unit.
  2. Growth curve for the market (past 3-5 years)
  3. Sales history of the brand
  4. Share of market history
  5. Pricing history of the product, the reason for fluctuations.
  6. Marketing communications history (e.g., media strategy, themes)
  7. Past budgets (graph last three years)
  8. Personal selling history
  9. Technological history
  10. Significant political and legal influences on product and company
  11. Current creative directions campaign theme now being used. Note: Most of the questions about your company/product history are also asked about your competitor’s products. Historical comparison with competitors can be made in this section of your plan or separately under Competitive Analysis.

Product Analysis

The product analysis is precisely what it appears to be, a look at the product and its parts. Product analysis includes a review of the product in terms of its current product character, including uses, packaging, quality, price, unit of sale, product image, distribution, position, and product life cycle. The primary consideration is how the product fits into the present marketplace and relates to competition. Evaluating the product from a technical standpoint and how the target audience perceives the product quality or difference is essential.

Target Market Analysis

The market analysis consists of identifying the marketplace for a product. Once the primary field of competition is defined, precisely how the product or services being investigated fits into the category must be determined. This analysis includes the market value, sales treads of the category, actual direct share of market, distribution, market potential for the category, and the product, regional or other geographic differences in product usage or sales, and market share.

Target Audience Analysis

Do pertinent questions include Who buys the product? What do they by? Why do they buy? How do they use the product or service? How frequently do they buy? Are there buying trends in the product category?

Definitions of the Target Audience are drawn in three distinct ways, demographically, psychographically, and analysis of behavior from primary research.

Demographics are hard, measurable facts about the target audience such as education, income, sex, geographic location, occupation.

Psychographics focuses on the lifestyle, work habits, preferences of the target audience. Note: Usually, the psychographic or lifestyle pattern of the target audience is written into the creative section of the marketing communications plan. It consists only of a paragraph or two.

Analysis of target audience behavior includes answers to questions such as:

  1. Consumption facts: Social influences, how consumed, frequency of consumption, average quantity consumed.
  2. Target audience purchase habits: Is the buyer the same as the consumer? Cash, credit, who buys?
  3. Attitudes about quality, price, packaging, styling, and company reputation.
  4. Percentage of consumer awareness of current advertising campaign.
  5. What problems does our product solve for the target audience? Is the target audience aware of these problem-solving benefits?
  6. How loyal are the present consumers of our brand? Does product switching occur? How much?
  7. Who are the best prospects among non-users of our particular product? What kind of advertising appeal stimulates them toward trying our brand?

Competitive Analysis

Your target audience has a limited amount of purchasing power. Will they spend it on your product or competitions? This section should include an appraisal of direct and indirect competition. It’s not uncommon for a weak competitor to undertake a course of action that can force its rival out of business. The same is true with a strong competitor, here today, gone tomorrow.

Begin your competitive analysis by identifying your target audience’s options to be their options. These options include buying products that directly compete with your product and product that only indirectly compete. For example, the direct competitor for your product may be another software product in the same category, but an indirect competitor may be the whiteboard or office productivity tools. Options also include not buying anything/status quo.

Through competitive analysis, rival products/options should be understood as profoundly as your product. In practice, this may not be feasible or practical. At a minimum, try to understand your competitors’ actual and perceived comparative distinctions among the products that compete with your products. Look at three areas of competition: 1. Marketing Strengths and Weaknesses 2. Competitive Products, and 3. Competitive Advertising. A few questions to ask in each area include:

Marketing Strengths and Weaknesses

    1. Number and type of competitors
    2. Significant competitors and market shares
    3. Minor competitors and market shares
    4. Distribution policy, geography
    5. Distributors’ attitudes about competitors

Competitive Products

    1. Pricing policies
    2. Product construction, quality
    3. Service comparisons
    4. Quality comparisons
    5. What target audience problems does the product solve?
    6. Major benefits. Any superiorities over our product.

Competitive Advertising

    1. Advertising history (media, creative themes, slogans)
    2. Past advertising budgets (graph a 3 to 5-year pattern)
    3. Product awareness for competing products. Does the target audience recognize competitors’ advertising slogans or themes better than your product?
    4. Any weakness in communications—advertising, personal selling, or public relations?

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3. Writing the Problems and Opportunities

Your plan’s problems and opportunities section provide a bridge from your situation analysis to your objectives and strategies. Your objectives and strategies will be based on the situation analysis’s problems and opportunities that you have uncovered. This is a necessary part of your thinking whether you formally stat the problems and opportunities. Stating your problems and opportunities is a good exercise in digging for that insight that will catapult your recommendations forward. Likewise, a good set of problems and opportunities demonstrates how you evolved from your analysis to the objectives and strategies.

Problems are drawn from weaknesses that you found in your situation analysis. These problems can be derived from a particular piece of information or a set of findings, and you may find them in one or all sections of your situation analysis.

Do not steal the thunder from the rest of your plan by presenting your solutions to the problems in this section—that subject belongs in your strategy section.

As you analyze your marketing situation, look for opportunities in addition to problems. An opportunity is something that you discover in the situation analysis that you can take advantage of. This opportunity may result from a particular company or product strength or a weakness exhibited by the competition, or it could be an opportunity to take advantage of a trend or change in the market. There are many places to look for opportunities.

Real opportunities translate into expanded sales. Typically, to increase sales, you 1) strive to get new users, 2) get current users to use more of the product or 3) find new uses for the product, thereby increasing the likelihood that (1) and (2) will increase. You will run into situations where it is unclear whether you have found a problem or an opportunity. Many situations are hybrid cases where a problem can be turned into an opportunity.

Your list of problems and opportunities should include only those areas that are relevant to the marketing communications plan. A client may have problems, such as product deficiencies that marketing communications cannot resolve; omit those problems from your marketing communications plan.</a

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4. Defining the Target Audience, Pains, and Message

You have defined much of this area already in your Target Market Analysis. In this section, you are too simple to define your target audiences, their pains in priority, and the message you will seek to communicate to them to solve the pains.

Examples of audiences usually include:

Executive Management: VPs of Engineering/Product Development, CTO, CIO, Directors/VPs of MIS/IT, Business Unit Manager

Project Leader: Project Leaders, Project Manager, Team Leader, Functional Group Manager, Web Site Manager

Practitioner: Developers, Testers, Analysts, Architects, Release Engineers, DBS, Product Managers, Program Managers, Web Developer, Content Manager

Influencer: Systems Integrators, Consultants, Press, Analysts

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5. Writing the Goals and Objectives

Strategic Marketing Communication

Goals or objectives are statements about what you want to accomplish in the campaign.

A corporation’s strategic plan tends to be written more for the organization than the marketing function. So they then are broadly based and reflect on what the company wants to accomplish over an extended period.

In contrast, specific marketing and advertising goals are typically written for more than a year. Reasonable communication goals are both specific and measurable. As the marketplace becomes increasingly dynamic, complex and fast-changing, it is likely that objectives, whether short-term or long-term, will be set for periods shorter than one year. The following definition defines the objective:

Marketing Communication Objective: A clearly stated measurable result of an advertising message, message, campaign, or program. Usually, the objective is measured in terms of change in awareness, preference, conviction, or another communication effect.

Outline of setting a measurable goal/objective:

  • The goal is expressed in writing infinite, measurable terms. (If there is agreement among those concerned on what marketing communications is expected to accomplish, then it is no great chore to reduce it to writing. If there is a lag of agreement as to purpose, take the time to find this out is before the advertising is prepared, not afterward.)
  • Goals are agreed upon by those concerned at both the creative and approval levels. (Planning is separated from doing, and agreement is reached on what needs to be said and to whom before time and money are spent on how to best say it.)
  • Goals are based on an intimate knowledge of markets and buying motives. (They express realistic expectations in the light of carefully evaluated market opportunities, and they do not express mere hopes and desires arrived at without a factual foundation.)
  • Break down your goals by the quarter where possible to give you a running track record of where you are at any given time.
  •  Benchmarks are set up against which accomplishments can be measured. (State of mind—knowledge, attitude, and buying propensity—are appraised before and after the advertising, or among those reached versus those not reached by the advertising.)
  • Methods to be used later in evaluating accomplishment are set up at the time the goals are established.

Examples of marketing communication Goals and Objectives:

  • To create awareness of Product X among 70% of our target market (primarily men in companies with development teams of 10 or more persons, ages 25 to 35, with at least five years experience, and having an income of $75,000) by the end of year 1, the introductory year of our national campaign.
  • To have 70% aided recall in the target market of our image as projected in the creative Strategy.
  •  To have 65% of our target market report a preference for Product X over the competitive brands.
  • To generate a 39% trial rate in our target market with the designated distribution areas by the end of the preceding year.
    • Q1: 5%
    • Q2: 8 % for a total of 13%
    • Q3: 12% for a total of 25%
    • Q4: 14% for a total of 39%
  • To achieve a 65% repurchase rate among our tier three customers.
  • To achieve a 2.5% response rate on-point product direct mail.
  • To average $50.00 per lead across all lead generation.

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6. Writing the Marketing Communications Strategy Overview

The keyword in this section is Overview. The critical element in any conceptual understanding of Strategy is the importance of the interrelationship or interconnectedness of all the activities planned to achieve the stated goal. This linkage differentiates a strategy from merely a list of ideas or actions. Moreover, as the strategist, you understand that actions, reactions, and responses occur over time.

Briefly explain how each marketing communications element will fit together to accomplish the campaign objectives. Be sure that your strategies cover all your objectives and, at the same time, establish the direction for how you are going to use your marketing communications elements.

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7. Writing the Details to Marketing Communication Strategy

This section of the strategic plan details the cross-functional actions required to implement the Strategy and achieve the objectives. In a marketing communications campaign, these actions are often referred to as tactics or executions. Usually, they appear insignificant sections about the media, direct marketing, events, public relations, sales promotion strategy, or the individual tactic.

Be sure that your strategies cover all your objectives and, at the same time, establish the direction for how you are going to use your marketing communications tools. If this section is done well, you will have all the necessary information to write your project briefs. You plan you may substitute for the project brief.

As you develop this section, evaluate the campaign vehicles carefully

Consider the following:

  1. Look at prioritized pains/messages and audience and determine what vehicles you will use to communicate to them (disregard budget)
  2. Review plan with all related parties (e.g., Agency, Events, PR, etc.) for input and counsel.
  3. Present to IFO for input.
  4. Finalize the plan-taking budget into consideration. (See the budget section of this plan for more details)
  5. There should be message synergy across vehicles per audience by the campaign.

Each section will contain the following

  • Name of communications tool.
  • Brief Description of the tool. This is a relatively brief description (Do not equate a brief section with one that is only of minor importance.) of the tool.
  • Strategy statement. The strategy statement (s) should have only one focus, and it should state how you will employ the tool element or combination of the element to achieve the campaign’s objectives. Keep your strategies broad and directional. Do not let them become tactical. For example, state if you will use advertising to maintain the brand’s image during peak sales cycles. But do not state what the ads will look or should like or what the slogan will be. These explanations are reserved for the actual advertising part of your plan.
  • Strategy Rationale. A short rationale should be provided for each Strategy that links it back to your problems and opportunities, objectives, and critical information that have been gleaned from the situation analysis, For example, if you found there were certain times during the year when sales dip and have set an objective to achieve better sales using this period, you should have a strategy that addresses that problem. Your short rationale should be able to provide the link between the Strategy and objectives.
  • Goals and Objectives. Include any goals and objectives that are unique to the use of this tool. For example: To achieve a 2.0 response rate on Q2 direct mail.
  • Target Audience, Pains. Identify the target audiences and pains you will focus on with the tool.
  • Offers. What offers are you going to include with your direct mail? Media? The following guidelines can be used to evaluate and develop an offer:
    1. Make sure the offer is in line with the desired response
    2. Look at your own sales process. If your sale isn’t made on the first call, don’t expect your direct marketing efforts to do so
    3. Design a series of offers that move the prospect through the sales cycle
    4. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, don’t ask your customers to buy from you before they are ready
    5. Create a feeling of excitement
    6. “Let’s make a deal” – get the prospect to enter into a dialog with you
    7. Don’t be too unbelievable – if the offer is too good to be true, the prospect will see through it, become skeptical, and not respond
    8. Try for exclusivity – study your competitor’s offers, then mix and match the components to create an offer that only you can provide
    9. Keep it simple – make it as easy as possible for the prospect to get the offer and order your products
  • Message/Theme and Supporting Features and Benefits. Now that you have outlined the target audience and pains, identify the message (The promise you have for solving the pain) associated with each message. You will identify the key features and benefits highlighted in your body copy.
  • Schedule/Timing and Message Delivery. Provide the timing for the tool’s execution by a quarter by quarter and what message the tool will deliver. For example, you have decided to have three direct mail going out in Q2. Identify the month and theme/message for each direct mail.

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8. Writing the Communication Assessment Measures

As you wrote the goals and objectives of the marketing communications strategy, you made sure that they were measurable. In this portion of the plan, define how you will measure the results. Define the measurement tools and timing in the campaign. Measurement takes place throughout your campaign, not just at the end, as you might think. View measurement to keep your campaign on course and keep you in touch with your audience.

Basic rule: Measure the communication effects of advertising, not the sales effects, unless you can control all marketing variables. The actual evaluation must be in terms of what the advertising goals and objectives were.

Assessing/measuring your campaign is the scorecard for your Marketing Communications Strategy. To measure the effectiveness of your campaign, you must be able to detect a change in the audience’s perceptions, attitudes, or actions.

  • The prospect must be made aware of the brand and product.
  • The prospect must comprehend what the product is and what it will do for him.
  • The prospect must arrive at a mental disposition or conviction to buy the product.
  • Finally, the prospect must take action.

Continually seek answers to questions such as How is your Strategy doing? What message is pulling best? How many leads are you generating, and what portion of them have turned into sales? What magazine is best suited for your message? What list pulls best in your direct mail? Does your target audience believe your message? Not only are you measuring your successes, but you also look for trends that will negatively affect the final result of your campaign. Know what you are going to do with the information. And be prepared to take appropriate action to take corrective measures with your campaign strategy.

Further direction on measuring the campaign

Because pretesting was discussed earlier, only concurrent testing and posting testing are discussed here to provide you with more insight into the measurement.

Concurrent Testing

Concurrent testing means that you evaluate the Marketing Communications Campaign Plan as it runs in the marketplace. There are several advantages to this technique:

  1. It allows determining if the campaign is reaching the intended market quickly
  2.  It helps to determine whether the messages being sent out are being interpreted as intended, and
  3. It measures the effects the messages are having on the target market. If any measures reveal that the campaign is not on target, adjustments can be made to correct the problem immediately; one need not wait until the end of the schedule. Several types of studies follow:

Tracking studies

These usually consist of target audience interviews during the campaign. The purpose of the studies is to determine the levels of exposure and effect achieved by the campaign. Because it is commonly agreed that advertising effects build over time, the tracking studies are usually conducted in “waves” or according to a predetermined schedule.

Post Test

The traditional campaign evaluation approach is the post-test conducted after the campaign. While data gathering through panels, personal interviews, telephone surveys, and other means is common to both the concurrent and the post-test, the primary purpose of this measure is to evaluate the final results of the campaign against the predetermined goals and objectives. Unless concurrent testing has been done, little may be known about the target audience’s attitudes toward, and opinions about your product before the advertising messages were placed in the marketplace via tools such as media and direct mail. Therefore, it is difficult to determine if the opinions found in the post-test were already present. A pre-post test measurement technique is often used to solve this problem.

In the pre-post testing technique, you conduct a pretest in the market before launching the advertising campaign, and this provides a benchmark for later evaluation. By knowing what attitudes and opinions were held by your target audience before the start of the campaign, a comparison can be made with the findings after the campaign has run.

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9. Writing the Budget

Even though this section is presented at the end of the marketing communications strategy, your budgeting is fundamental to your communication tools’ overall integration and frequency/timing. The question that is often asked is how much is enough? Is there a minimum? The best answer is: Design your integrated marketing communications plan so it can be heard. Splashing a few dollars in all categories doesn’t make a dent in the consumer’s mind.”

In this section, you indicate how much money to allocate to the various communications tools, such as advertising and public relations. Based on your objectives, the advertising budget is built from the ground up to achieve the predetermined goals rather than the past for future results.

The following are some guidelines for setting up your budget

  1. Formulate marketing objectives for the budget period, subject to management constraints, and agree on the task of marketing components (e.g., media, direct mail, events) in achieving those objectives.
  2. In the light of these objectives and tasks, assemble and analyze relevant data on:
    • Market segments of interest and which advertising approaches are best used and why.
    • Results of previous comparable advertising campaigns.
    • Results of previous advertising market tests and experiments.
    • Media under consideration
    • Competition and changing markets.

You should have much of this information from the research and market analysis.

Once you refine your advertising objectives, devise the advertising campaign and the detailed supporting budget to cover the plan. For your first draft, include a budget for (See the appendix for an example of a spreadsheet that you can use/modify to in the draft planning stage. It’s a good form for ranging and rearranging a plan until you get it right.)

  1. The campaign proper
  2. If appropriate, one or more experimental campaigns (I.e., campaigns in markets or regions to receive advertising treatment different from those used in the campaign proper.)
  3. Contingency reserve if needed (You will use contingency reserve to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities and cope with unexpected difficulties.)
  4. Tracking of results.

Don’t be surprised if you are over budget on your first draft of the budget. The key to this step is that you now have it on paper, and you can see your whole plan before you. Ask yourself questions like, Where is my plan weak, overdone? Do I have opportunities for partner marketing dollars? What guerilla marketing activities can I include to help us achieve the goals? I have a self-mailer direct mail piece planned. Will a postcard letter work just as well? I have planned for three publications for media. Could I get my message out by focusing my media budget on one publication?

Work and rework your plan as often as necessary until you have the plan you are ready to present and include in the strategic plan. Once you have submitted the Strategy for review by senior management, you will need to revise your objectives, campaign and budget as required by any additional constraints.

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10. Writing the Summary

Treat this as your executive summary. If you only had 10 minutes with the company’s President, what would you say about your plan? Could you keep it to one page, two at the most? Address where you are and where the company will be due to executing the plan.

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