Marketing Communications Planning—A Very Short Course

Marketing communications planning is the process of creating a strategy for the content, frequency, reach, budget and desired outcome of advertising and public relations. These are goal-oriented activities, so it is essential that engineering firms start with a goal or outcome that is measurable-otherwise, the firm may never know if it has been attained.

12/01/2000


Marketing communications planning is the process of creating a strategy for the content, frequency, reach, budget and desired outcome of advertising and public relations. These are goal-oriented activities, so it is essential that engineering firms start with a goal or outcome that is measurable-otherwise, the firm may never know if it has been attained.

A communications plan must deliver the appropriate message to enough of the correct people with sufficient frequency. By far, the most complex portion of this task is determining the correct message.

Prospects will not read a marketing message that does not address their interests. Consumer marketers know this and pour millions of dollars into finding out the needs and wants of their prospects. It is the promise of fulfilling deep wants that must be articulated. Even highly technical products need these broad, emotional appeals.

Conducting focus group research is one way to find out which appeals resonate with a firm's prospects. For those on a tight budget, in-person interviews with representative prospects can be a low-cost option.

Apart from being grounded in the mind of one's prospect, a firm's message must be faithful to the reality of the firm itself. If a firm sells clients on the design-build of wastewater facilities and then fails to deliver, the engineering firm has done itself a disservice. A firm's competition is the other factor that comes into play in crafting the message. If competitors are known for construction inspection, a firm doesn't want to make that the central appeal. An engineering firm must find its own unique strength.

In the interest of staying in budget, the firm must come as close as possible to defining what print, video and other executions will actually look like in the planning stage. Going through countless concept drafts and alterations is a great way to exponentially increase what is spent on an agency or designer.

"Reach" refers to the number of persons a firm's communications reach annually-and who those people are. As a general rule, one should only advertise in the top two publications that reach a particular type of business-to-business prospect. Why? The top two publications will almost certainly deliver at least 80 percent of valid prospects. Adding a third publication is likely to yield much less in additional reach than the added expenditure warrants.

Frequency refers to the number of times a message reaches the prospect base per annum. Numerous advertising studies have shown that increasing frequency has a direct proportional relationship to increased awareness-so the more the better.





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