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What is a marketing communication strategy and why should your business have one?

When I ask business owners about their business' marketing communication strategy, they often give me a funny look. "What's a communication strategy?" they ask. And after I explain the concept, "Is it really that important to have one?"

Think of a communication strategy as a road map of sorts, one which, if properly executed can:

1) Help you identify existing and potential market segments so you can connect with each one in a meaningful way;

2) Create an effective schedule for sharing content on a consistent basis; and, as a result,

3) Utilize your marketing budget effectively.

Here are a few suggestions for customizing a marketing communication strategy for your business:

Get to know your customers

Chances are, your existing customers come from all walks of life and engage in a variety of activities. How well do you know them -- and by that I mean basic information such as age and gender as well as hobbies and interests?

They've also chosen to do business with you instead of your competitors. Do you know why? If you don't know this information, find out. Once you identify the characteristics of the people who already do business with you, you can divide them into specific groups. This process, known as market segmentation, is extremely useful information when creating marketing content and a key component of maximizing your marketing budget.

Identify how each group likes to consume information

While one person likes to receive his news all rolled up neatly on his front porch each morning, another may choose to read that content online. The same is true for social media channels. Some spend time on Facebook and Instagram while others interact on Twitter and LinkedIn. Still others don't have social media accounts at all.

Knowing how each market segment consumes information will help you determine how to spend your advertising budget. Does a significant segment of your market spend time on Facebook? Then you might want to invest a corresponding share of your budget into advertising on that platform. Likewise, if a large segment prefers email, you might want to invest in developing a newsletter or other permission-based marketing content which delivers straight to their inbox.

Create marketing content for each market segment

Now that you've identified the different groups of customers who buy your products and services, you're ready to begin creating targeted marketing content for each group. Depending on how your customers like to receive information, this may include video, newsletters, direct mail, email or social media advertising.

Here's a tip: Remember to provide value more often than you ask for business. Customer expectations in today's social climate are much different than they were ten years ago. The more value you give your customers, the more loyal they will be to your brand. And loyal customers produce good word-of-mouth advertising, a commodity which is worth its weight in gold.

Develop a schedule for sharing marketing content strategically, frequently and consistently

Every business experiences ebbs and flows so be strategic. Choose the topics you want to share with each consumer group, schedule the delivery on your master marketing calendar, then make note of how far in advance of those dates you'll need for content creation. For example, if you plan to use video to promote a Valentine's Day special, make a note on the calendar when it needs to be shot, edited and approved before its shared with your target markets.

Remember, in today's noisy world, consumers need to see your message more than three times in order for them to act on it. That's one reason to keep your content consistent across each platform you use. The information you write about in newsletters can be used in social media posts and print ads. It may seem repetitive to you, but the repetition ensures your target audience is more likely to see your content and, therefore, act on it.

Here's a tip: Frequency and consistency are keys to success. Resolve to stick to the schedule you develop for at least six months before making any significant changes. And do your homework. Ask new customers how they heard about you and review analytics from each campaign to measure your return on investment (ROI). The information you derive from that action will help you sharpen your marketing content, improve customer relationships and increase sales.

One final note...

Creating a marketing communication strategy takes effort upfront, but your business will realize long-term benefits when it's properly executed. If you're not comfortable managing this marketing strategy yourself, designate another person on your team to take the lead or contract with an industry expert, like Clason Communications.

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