What Is an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan?

Consumers today have moved on in different ways from those of even 10 years ago, as a result of big changes:

  1. The financial collapse of 2008 and subsequent recession in Europe has changed the behaviour of consumers, who are still struggling to recover.
  2. They are more cautious about spending and other financial matters, are scaling back their horizons, see foreign holidays as less attractive and are delaying significant purchases.
  3. The technology revolution of the past two decades has affected the way everyone lives and works. It has forced traditional businesses to completely rethink the way they market and sell their products and services.
  4. While the best ones are benefiting from consumers’ growing technological sophistication by increasing their digital engagement with them, in a fast-moving, noisy, multi-channel world creating messages that consumers notice and act on becomes increasingly difficult.

Marketers are therefore having to work to give them reasons to make a purchase. These major shifts mean that marketing communications have to work faster than ever to change consumer awareness, attitudes and behaviour.

How do you create and develop an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan?

According to leading, Marketing Communication author Chris Fill (2013) marketing communication plans should consist of the following components:

  • Context analysis.
  • Communication objectives.
  • Marketing communication strategy.
  • Co-ordinated communications mix (tools, media and content).
  • Resources (human and financial).
  • Scheduling and implementation.
  • Evaluation and control.
  • Feedback.

Setting Measurements for the Integrated Marketing Communications Plan

For any plan and promotion to be successful, it needs to be:

  • Well planned and executed.
  • Part of an effective integrated promotional mix.
  • Consistent with the values and mission of the organisation.

When attempting to measure effectiveness, we should bear in mind three things:

  1. Are our customers’ needs being satisfied?
  2. How competitive is our chosen market?
  3. What external factors are affecting us?

Role of Market Research in the Integrated Marketing Communications Plan

Marketing research can help with all these questions.

In fact, a developed system of market sensing and a comprehensive marketing information system (MKIS) is needed to constantly evaluate both the marketing effort and IMC campaigns.

The old adage “I know that half of my advertising is wasted: I just don’t know which half” may not be quite as true as it used to be given the wealth of measurement tools and techniques that have grown up around marketing. Promotion is probably the single biggest expenditure the organisation makes, so, however difficult it is, marketers have to at least try to measure its success.

Here are some possible tools for measuring different aspects

  • Personal selling – Sales revenue increases/sales targets met.
  • Public relations – Editorial coverage.
  • Direct marketing – Enquiries generated.
  • Advertising – Brand awareness.
  • Sales promotion – Coupons redeemed.
  • Exhibitions – Contacts made.

Other more general techniques include:

  • Amount and value of attention gained.
  • Communication of defined message.
  • Attitudes improved or modified.
  • Liking for message and execution.
  • Product preference

The Promotional Mix

TV advertising

This is possibly the easiest to assess, as it is the most audited of all media. Comprehensive audience figures are available on a daily basis, at a very detailed level of analysis. The interactivity afforded by digital television allows us to measure audience response by the number of clicks on the ‘red button’. Television can also be used in a direct marketing sense by including website addresses and telephone numbers.

The difficulty, of course, is gauging the effect TV advertising is having, particularly when viewers are increasingly recording programmes to watch later, or watching them in ‘catchup’ mode, both of which typically mean they fast-forward through the adverts.

PR

The traditional measures of column inches or ‘advertising value equivalents’ can be skewed and possibly irrelevant. Is any publicity good publicity, for example? Studies tracking specific communication to defined target audiences seem much more appropriate.

Sales promotion

Market research can use qualitative methods to assess the relative appeal of different potential promotions and their likely effect on brand image. You can pre-test to ascertain possible redemption levels of coupons in simulated purchasing environments, test stores, area tests and so on. You can also use consumer and retail

Direct marketing

Concepts can be pre-tested here too. And you can use research to follow up reactions to mailing programmes.

Personal selling

All sales can be evaluated by:

• Sales achieved (volume/value).

• Customer profitability.

• Prospects contacted.

• New customer acquisition.

• Customer satisfaction.

• New geographic areas opened up.