puzzle representing marketing communications mix

What’s the Best Marketing Communication Mix?

With less and less available time -– and budgets that need to stretch to do more -– choosing the right mix for optimal impact is more important than ever. Marketers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with constantly emerging strategies and better ways of executing. And while technology has certainly allowed us to become more efficient, sound decision making in choosing the right things in the first place still remain.

No Such Thing As One-Size-Fits-All

Products are different, audiences are different, and budgets are different. So advice that seems to be a one-size-fits-all solution for marketing communications should raise a red flag no matter how tempting. Still, even experienced marketers can get caught up in the promise of a potential magic bullet combination of media or a “must-do” tactic given limited time.

So remind yourself and trust your gut – inbound is not the only correct way to market products. Online marketing tactics, to the exclusion of everything else, are not the only media vehicles that should be used for every product and campaign. Off-page SEO is not always the best use of budget for a new website and will depend on total budget, objectives, and competition.

Our philosophy is to start with what you are trying to accomplish and draw from the full tool box of strategies and tactics to move your business forward. There’s no perfect strategy or magic solution, but a sound strategy implemented well will move good products and services forward.

Back to Basics:

Use Media That Your Audience Uses

You want to go where your audience is. If your audience is under 40 and likely active on social media, then it may make sense to develop a solid content strategy plan and execute it through appropriate channels. If not, hold your ground on disproportionately spending time posting on a “must-do” channel.

Watching the news, it may feel like “everyone” is on Twitter for example, but a survey by Pew Research (Dec. 2012) indicates that just 16% of online adults are active Twitter users. Perhaps your target audience of donors with average age 55+ are not going to highly value building their relationship with your non-profit by getting updates by following you on Twitter.

One interesting fact to note is that marketers themselves are disproportionately active on social media, so the need to separate personal experience from the media usage of our target audiences is especially important in this area.

Use What Makes Sense for Your Product

The nature of products and services themselves should be taken into account. Let’s take marketing in the book publishing industry as an example. Releases of “key” book titles by large trade book publishers typically receive a promotional push over a relatively short period of about three months. The marketing communications mix for best-selling non-fiction titles will likely rely heavily on PR with media-worthy authors pitched to discuss the topic of their books. Authors themselves often supplement publisher efforts through social media, blogging about the topic, and generally getting the word out about their books.

By nature, books are creations that are uniquely individual, written by authors who wish to put into the public space their own unique perspective and experience. The product lends itself to blogging (they’re writers) and interaction on the topics themselves spur interest and potential sales.

Use What’s Appropriate for Your Customer Relationship

Growing a brand is a process of getting more and more people to become aware of it and become increasingly loyal advocates. Potential customers find out about the brand, some try it out, some find it a wonderful experience they want to have again, and increasingly there will be more who move to become all-out loyal advocates. The concept of dating to marriage is a great analogy for the brand experience. I highly recommend the book Married to the Brand by William McEwen, Gallup Press if this interests you.

So think of your audience as on a continuum with one end represented by those who aren’t even aware of your brand, through to those still learning and experiencing it, to those who are totally on board.

With this in mind, of course not everyone should be communicated with the same way. For those “kicking the tires,” inbound strategies are especially appropriate. Social media marketing and in some cases, highly targeted advertising (paid communications) are going to be more core components to audiences who are in the early stages of getting to know you.

On the other end, one-to-one communications such as email and even direct mail allow you to have relevant communications with customers who already have shown an interest in your brand. In the case of email, opt-in is the law(!) so only interested subscribers will be getting your communications. This relatively low-cost tactic also allows for micro-targeting based on interests, demographics, and past purchase behavior.

Organizations with long-standing customer relationships going back to direct mail days have transitioned over to digital email and enewsletters over the past ten years. Using a one-two punch of both tactics also often makes sense.

Be Encouraged!

Of course none of these factors stands alone and some will be more important than others. But taking that extra few minutes to think again about what makes sense before doing the same old mix -– or getting on the band wagon of the must-do new tactic -– is worth your time!

There is a beauty, art, and science in creating an effective mix. And while the world will continue to offer new opportunities to communicate better and cheaper, sound decision making will always go back to the basics.

And last — no matter what strategies and tactics you end up using, good execution makes the real difference. What you communicate matters as much as where you communicate! But now we have a bigger, fun toolbox of options to employ. Enjoy!

Joan Begitschke is Chief Marketing Strategist at Verve Marketing Group. Contact her regarding marketing mix questions at 630-964-6056, X 202.