Marketing Communications Audit – What is It, and Why is it Necessary?

As a product manager or marketing director a key responsibility is to develop and implement an effective marketing communications strategy. One place to start is with a communications audit.

An audit is a review of all current marketing and other communications vehicles to answer some basic questions:

o What are we saying about our company/brand/products?
o Is the message consistent across formats and audiences?
o How are we presenting the information?
o Who are we talking to?

The results of the audit should help clarify the communications strategy and provide a framework for future projects.

The simplest way to begin is to gather all existing materials and lay them out on a big conference table. Materials would include product and corporate brochures, product packaging, business cards and letterhead, annual reports, advertisements, direct mail pieces, investor kits, and website screen shots. Even things like internal memos, press releases, promotional items, company t-shirts or hats, and PowerPoint templates should be included.

Once everything is laid out, some basic questions can be answered. First, do all the items look like they are from the same company? Is there some consistency in layout, use of color, and fonts?

Second, is the company positioning clear? In other words, if you asked several people to review a number of your communications and tell you what they perceived to be the company mission or value offering, would the answers be consistent? Or would it depend on what pieces were reviewed?

Third, what are the key messages that are being communicated? Are those messages coherent, or fragmented? Are the messages consistent with your intent?

For many businesses, the answers to these questions are not encouraging. Fragmentation and inconsistency are common, especially as an organization grows and as communications responsibility becomes dispersed.

Unless there is someone within the company charged with maintaining an overall vision, and empowered to enforce guidelines and standards, it is often unavoidable that the communications water gets muddied.

Some may say, “So what?” There is a feeling that as long as each entity within the firm is communicating effectively with its own constituency, there shouldn’t be a problem except for marketing purists. The fallacy with this argument becomes obvious once you begin talking to various stakeholders within the organization, as well as customers and investors who are either getting the wrong message, or aren’t sure about what the message is in the first place.

The communications audit is really only the first step. Understanding the impact your messages are having requires research, and developing a process for ongoing review and implementation integrity requires dedication.

It’s one thing to give lip service to communications consistency, but quite another to put in place the means to make it happen. By regularly reviewing your communication strategy, and evaluating your materials to ensure they are meeting your goals, you will improve message clarity and better meet the needs of your customers, investors, and employees.

How Your Company’s Lifecycle Impacts Your Marketing Communications

Marketing communications is an area that’s rapidly affected by advances in technology — not only in the way companies create marketing material but also how they distribute it.

Like email did in the late 1990s, social media has exploded in popularity among marketers. Online video grows by leaps and bounds. And mobile marketing is escalating so quickly that companies are scrambling to ensure their marcom is mobile friendly.

Marketing communications can be sliced into two segments:

  • Pull marketing (also called inbound marketing). Potential customers find your product or service at their choosing. Communication channels for this type of marketing include: search engines, online forums, blogs and social media.
  • Push marketing (outbound marketing). You directly contact potential customers at the time of your choosing to promote — or push — your product or service to their attention. Communication channels include: email bulletins, sales letters and catalogs.

But how do you know which of these marketing channels to focus on? There are a variety of factors that influence this decision, including demographics, firmographics, purchase history and customer lifecycle. All of these aspects will come into play at some point, depending on the markets you serve.But one dynamic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the lifecycle of your company?

In the startup stage, getting customers is an urgent activity. You can’t pay your bills and your employees for long without sufficient customers. Because of its expediency, push marketing is often a focal point at this stage because you may not be able to get enough customers with pull marketing to sustain your business in the short term.

This doesn’t mean you ignore implementing pull marketing during this phase, but you clearly have a need to acquire customers relatively quickly. SEO may take awhile before traffic increases. And direct selling is frowned upon in social media, as the emphasis in this arena is relationship building and customer engagement.

Here are three tips on startup stage marketing:

1) Don’t wait until after your company opens its door to start marketing. Make sure you have your website, marketing collateral and advertising finalized and ready to go so you can hit the ground running.

2) Ask yourself “Can I generate enough customers in the short term by using pull marketing alone?” If not, what push channels would be most appropriate for your target audience?

3) What methods have you implemented to measure the success of your marketing communications? If you can’t measure the response, how will you know if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollars?

Marketing Communications – Announcing 5 Challenging Methods For Effective Marketing Communications

Marketing communications refer to messages that are being used to communicate with a target market. These are being used in direct marketing, advertising, promotion, public relations, and online marketing with the aim to influence the buying decision of potential clients.

Here’s how you can make your marketing communications more effective:

1. Make them benefit-driven. The problem with other marketers or advertisers is that they focus their marketing communications on the features of their products or services. Truth be told, buyers do not generally care about the products’ features as they are more concern with the benefits that await them. So, tell these people how your product can exactly help them out. If you are selling diet pills, tell your audience that they can lose weight from using your products that can lead to a healthier body and better quality of life instead of telling them how your pills were made.

2. Keep them short. This is especially useful if you are creating an ad and you don’t have much space to use. Choose all the words that you are going to utilize. Create a draft and see if you can eliminate words that are not really needed. Avoid using passive voice and fillers. Widen your vocabulary to determine the best words that will not take so much space but will help you to easily get your marketing messages across.

3. Make them easy to understand. When writing your marketing communications, keep in mind that this is the not best time to sound mysterious. Remember, if your audience do not understand your marketing messages, they are most likely not to buy your products and services. So, communicate in a very clear manner. Use the preferred language of your target market and use the simplest terms as much as possible.

4. Make it scannable. Make your sales letters and ezine easy on the eyes by making them scannable. Aside from using short sentences and short paragraphs, utilize bullet lists and subheadings. Remember, the audience you are serving might have limited attention span and they are most unlikely to read your messages in their entirety if you offer them a chunk of text that can be sore on the eyes.

5. It must be upbeat. You need to sound enthusiastic when talking about your products so you can easily convince people to make a purchase. Make your marketing communications sound spontaneous, upbeat, and lively.