Managing Integrated Marketing Communications
Companies need to develop strategies to improve brand image and brand awareness. The important aspect of spreading brand awareness and brand image is through communication. Companies need to establish a communication channel to win the new customers and retain existing customer. This communication is not restricted just to customer but also stakeholders in the value network. Communication is achieved through advertisement, sales promotion, public relation exercise, direct marketing and interactive marketing.
Elements of Communication Process
Communication process should not be one way traffic. Companies should look forward to developing communication network in which companies can reach customer but customer also can effectively communicate with companies. Technology has opened up many avenues to carry out effective communication. Companies have traditional tools like newspaper, television, radio, telephone, billboards and modern tools like the internet, emails and wireless devices. Technology has made the communication process not only faster but also reduced over all communication cost.
There are nine elements, which make the communication process. The two parties are sender-company and receiver-customer. The communication tools are message and media used to communicate the process. The four major communication functions are encoding, decoding, response and feedback. The last element is the noise which is anytime of interference disrupting clarity of the message.
Senders must encode the message as per the target audience and use the right media. The receiver decodes the message, responds to the message and sends feedback to the company. Experience senders are able to garner a more effective response from the right message.
However the message may not have required effect if:-
- Target Audience may choose to ignore the message as it is not attention grabbing
- Target Audience cannot make association with message
- Target Audience will response positive if the earlier communication had made any impact
Developing Effective Communication Program
Companies have to put effort in developing an effective communication program. The development of the communication program can be charted into eight steps.
- The first step is identifying the target audience. The target audiences are the existing customer or the potential new customers. Target audience identification is essential for further development and overall success of the communication program. Once the audience is identified the next part is assessing the present company or brand perception within the target audience. Based on the results from the audience analysis the message should address the requirements.
- The second step is to set specific objectives for the given communication message. This objective could be to enhance existing image, convey attribute, or encourage a consumer to act. The objective can have a cognitive, affective or behavioral response.
- The third step is the design of the message. The designing of the message follows the objective of the message. The design of the message has to address the following four points, content of message, message structure, message format and message source.
- The fourth step is the selection of the communication channel. The channel must be appropriate to carry the message to the target audience. For pharmaceutical companies, their sales people are the most effective channel in reaching the target doctor audience, instead of placing billboards.
- The fifth step is related with the financial estimates of the whole expenditure. Companies need to decide budget of sales promotional and other activities. The common methods followed are an affordable method, percentage of sales method, competitive parity method, and objective-task methods.
- The sixth step is the decision relate to the communication mix. Companies have limited budget, so they need balance expenditure among advertising, sales promotion, public relation, sales force and direct marketing. The relevant choice of the communication mix is highly dependable on the industry the company is operating.
- The seventh step measuring results of the communication process. It is very important for companies to keenly follow the outcomes of the communication process. The results could be increased in sales, change in attitude or image of the brand.
- The eight step is managing the integrated marketing process. Companies cannot afford to continue one medium approach to achieve desired communication effect. Companies must integrate all the available tools as to reach a wider audience and effectively communicate about brand and products.
Marketing communication cannot be considered in isolation. It is an integral part of any companies overall growth process.