How to Write a Marketing Communications Plan

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A marketing communications plan is a document that guides the effort of the marketing department throughout the year. In this lesson, you'll learn more about how to compile a marketing communications plan to reach your customers.

Do I Need a Marketing Plan?

Ray has been hired as the marketing manager for an up-and-coming technology company in Seattle. In his first week, he has been looking back through what the company has previously done in its marketing efforts: advertisements they've run, direct mail pieces they've sent out, search engine campaigns they've put together and social media messages they've posted. And, he's discovered one thing: While there have been some good ideas, there's no cohesion or connectedness to any of the pieces of the marketing puzzle.

Ray's biggest takeaway is that his company needs a marketing communications plan... and fast.

A marketing communications plan complements a company's overall marketing plan. It details the specifics about how best to reach your audience with relevant messaging using the right channels. While your marketing plan details your ideas for marketing strategies to implement over the course of the year, the marketing communication plan gets into the nitty-gritty of effectively engaging your audience.

Writing a Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing communications plan doesn't have to be a daunting task. This plan is typically divided into multiple sections ranging from your objective and messaging to what your target audience is like and the forms of communications they're most likely to respond favorably to. So, let's approach this lesson the same way. We'll look at the sections that should be included in your marketing communications plan. It's important to note that these sections may be moved, modified or even excluded as you customize a plan that best fits your business.

Target Audience

Who are your customers? This section details the audience you're trying to reach. This section includes demographic details such as age and gender, as well as psychographic information including buying habits, personal values and hobbies. The better you understand your audience, the better job you can do of reaching them. Creating buyer personas, fictional representations of your target audience can be helpful when you consider addressing them. These combine all the demographic and psychographic information into one ''character'' to help you formulate the rest of your plan.

Communication Process Analysis

Now that you know who your customers are, you can start looking at the best ways to reach them. Depending on your target audience, they may respond best to direct mail pieces, online marketing, sales promotions such as giveaways or more traditional forms of advertising like you'll find in television, radio or print. This section outlines the tools you'll use to deliver your message.

Marketing Communication Matrix

A marketing communication matrix is simply a grid or table where you can plot the channels from your communication process analysis and then determine things like how much each tactic will cost, how many people will be reached and the time for implementation. A matrix can be as large as it needs to be to detail each communication tool you plan to use so give separate lines to everything from email marketing to events you plan to host.

Goals and Objectives

Using this section, define the goals and objectives your company has for the period covered in the marketing communications plan. Use the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) for setting these. For example, you may want to increase sales of smartphones by 15 percent in the first quarter of the year. A goal is too vague if it only states, ''We want to make more money.'' Everyone wants to make more money; focus on specific goals you want to achieve so you can create actionable steps to get there. In line with your marketing communications plan, how will you leverage communication channels and strategies to achieve your goal/s?

Messaging

The messaging portion of your plan helps you pull together your thoughts on how you will promote your products or services through your words. Someone once said, ''People don't buy features. They buy benefits.'' Develop your messaging so that your customers clearly see the benefit of purchasing from you instead of the competitor. If you make customers' lives easier, more productive or more enjoyable, convey that with your messaging.

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