You don’t need a remote control to select these channels.
One-hit wonder. One-track mind. One-issue candidate. None of these have a very positive connotation, do they?
It’s true as well in how you should approach your marketing communications. It’s not the best strategy to use only one “channel” to reach your target audience (channel meaning the method, means or location by which you put your message out, such as a specific type of media or pathway). Channels can include a variety of avenues, including direct sales, public relations, paid advertising placement, e-mail marketing, web-based marketing (including Search Engine Optimization strategies used to help people find you online), lobbying, and the growing world of social media such as Facebook, LInkedIn or blogging.
You can no longer assume that one channel, especially one that you’ve maybe always done, or knew how to do well in the past (let’s talk comfort zone), will reach the right audience in the right way at the right time, with the right frequency. Research says that effective marketing plans should have at least three channels for greatest effectiveness, but without under-allocating the resources needed for any one channel (since that can be akin to throwing money away). That’s difficult to do, especially in tight economic times.
Also, a good plan integrates the most appropriate channels given the situation in question. Therefore, this art and science is called “Integrated Marketing Communications” or IMC. Choosing and allocating the right mix of possible channels is the crux of a great IMC plan and approach.
Moreover, many of these channels require a specific skill set, technical abilities, or a more in-depth and well-studied understanding. Or, they require a set of relationships you need to be able to do them effectively (for example public and media relations or lobbying).
This is why “channel planning” in IMC is so difficult to do well. It takes specific skills, education, a strategic mindset, technical expertise oftentimes, and always… an understanding of the target audiences and how they think, act and buy. It doesn’t involve saying yes to the most persuasive media sales person, choosing what you know how to do best, selecting the media channel that you or your kids watch or read most often, or choosing what you think would be most fun to do. Channel planning done well is all about understanding the emotions of your target markets, and removing your own emotions from the channel choices you make.
I often have people ask me “What’s the best media to use to market my company (or product)?” They think I’m going to say Facebook, or TV, or billboard advertising, or some media that sounds great to them at the time. Well… I don’t. I always reply, ”It depends.” Because it does.
It takes research, information gathering, analysis of the client’s target audiences and how those folks think and buy, and also some honest information from the client on what resources (both financial and human) they have to attempt to achieve their goals. For example, many social media channels don’t require a monetary investment, but they do take human-hours. So an honest assessment of what resources you can put into marketing is critical, before you get started.
Then a channel planner will take all of that information and research gathered, add expertise and knowledge about each possible channel and develop the IMC plan. Voila!
So you’re probably wondering, “Where the heck do I get me one of those channel planners and all that expertise about each channel?”
Great question. If you don’t have each and every one of those resources inside your organization, your best move would be to choose to work with a full-service Integrated Marketing Communications firm.
But as you are interviewing potential firms, here are some questions to ask:
- Who is responsible for the strategy behind the channel plans they develop for clients and what are his/her credentials, experience and education?
What are the staff members’ skills and experience in the full variety of IMC channels, including paid advertising (“traditional” AND digital/online), public relations, social media, email marketing, sales process understanding and sales support, and Search Engine Optimization?
- Have they ever done a channel plan for an organization in your industry before? See what general channel recommendations they made in their prior experience in your industry and what worked and didn’t.
How do they suggest measuring the effectiveness of the channels they recommend?
Choosing the right firm to help you is as important as choosing the right channels in a great IMC channel plan!