Steps to integrate a firm’s marketing programme – Dr. Muneer Muhamed

It’s critical for marketing to have an integrated communications programme. Here are 10 steps that will ensure your communications agency is aligned with you.

STEP 1 Determine the role of your brand. A starting point is to understand the role a brand plays in facilitating the business model, as well as exploring ways in which it can enhance a future one. This involves challenging assumptions such as ‘the lowest price is our only added value’; ‘ours is simply a commodity business’; ‘we can’t alienate our distribution partners’; and so on.

STEP 2 Evaluate your brand. This process provides you with the tools needed to judge its investment performance relative to all other asset investments made by the enterprise. Brand valuation leverages discounted cash flow and net present valuation methods to derive an objective measurement of your brand’s value.

Individual cash flows are then examined and all brand derived flows isolated. The discount rate is a function of its strength. From this, a discounted net present value for the brand is calculated.

The value of such a ‘valuation’ is not necessarily a raw number. It’s the relative change in value from one assessment period to the next, and it provides an objective quantification of the return on funds invested in building and promoting your brand.

STEP 3 Understand your audience. Distinguish between targets that drive the success of your business and those that simply contribute to its success. This distinction helps prioritise the brand building effort. If you successfully influence your audience, the resulting business performance will be strong enough to motivate other audiences to take notice and respond.

The challenge is to design a brand strategy that connects with your driving audience and a communications plan to connect with your contributing audiences.

STEP 4 A differentiated value proposition is crucial to brand strategies. Communicating meaningful distinctiveness is a catalyst for growth. Big ideas stem from a clear understanding of needs, market dynamics and business goals. Such ideas match unique skill sets with the needs of your driving audiences.

STEP 5 Understand perception barriers so that you can get your audience to respond to the big idea. They move through a process of progressive involvement with the brand as they develop a relationship. In that process, perceptions may develop that hinder their ability to respond to your distinctive promise. These barriers must be overcome to convey your big idea.

STEP 6 Develop messages to shift perceptions. Getting people to change their minds is not easy. To make them take notice, you must deliver precisely targeted messages that compel them to alter their assumptions.

Often, marketers believe that communication success is simply a function of media budgets that generate exposure. However, a compelling message that delivers a powerful big idea can deliver results even with modest budgets. Before you spend, make sure that you have prepared your messages correctly.

STEP 7 Understand the role of each medium. Once your messages are ready, choose the media that are best suited for the task.

As a rule of thumb, each pro­gressive stage of involvement requires more individualised communication to fulfil the particular needs of the audiences. High touch mediums such as collateral, direct and interactive media are powerful tools for confirming relevance, and instilling a clear sense of differential value.

STEP 8 Determine the optimal media mix. The challenge is to determine the optimal media mix that will convince target audiences to be loyal to your brand. The trick is to optimise the power of your message within the limited means of your budget. This will help generate a compelling ROI and secure increased funding.

STEP 9 Measure output. Making a case for investment in marketing communications can only be done with a good metric system in place. To convince your finance department to view communications as an investment rather than expense will require you to demonstrate a return on that investment that can be judged relative to all competing investments.

Brand valuation provides a quantitative tool for determining ROI. By valuing the brand in the second step of the process, you’ve established an initial benchmark. Revaluing it will provide an indication of the progress and return on investment.

STEP 10 Return to Step 5, and keep repeating the process. Integrated communication is an organic one – it can be fed, nurtured and strengthened through active involvement.

Once you’ve measured your initial results, return to the foundations and examine opportunities for enhancement. Review your messages and explore opportunities to make them more compelling. Assess your media assumptions and determine if you’re reaching your targets.

Finally, evaluate your assess­ment tools and determine whether they are generating the insights you need to drive your strategy.