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Marketing Communications Planning Guide

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Need help planning your marketing communications? This guide was prepared for precisely that task by the senior strategists at LOOMIS, the country's leading challenger brand advertising agency. Want help with the process? Just give us a call at (972) 331-7000. Otherwise, we hope you find this to be a useful tool for your own planning efforts.

Good luck!

Mike Sullivan
President, LOOMIS

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Marketing Communications Planning Guide

  1. 1. Marketing Communications Planning Process PLANNING GUIDE © LOOMIS 2016
  2. 2. FIRST THINGS FIRST. At this early stage in our planning process, this is simply a “yes” or “no” question. We either have a complete understanding of our primary customer or we need to develop one. Before we can align around answers and engage in a meaningful process, we will need to have the box checked on this item. There are many important perspectives in the planning process, but the customer’s perspective should trump all. NOTE: Answering this first question may require us to slow down the process and do some additional research before moving forward. We cannot conduct the strategy audit without this information. Do we have a research-based, personally observed, solid understanding of who our customer is and what he or she wants?
  3. 3. THE LOOMIS PLANNING CYCLE Our planning cycle operates like a repetitive learning loop that evolves formally at least annually and sometimes more often depending on market conditions and organizational developments. The focus of the process is on gathering good intelligence that drives insights leading to strategically sound ideas for moving the business against measurable objectives. We implement those ideas, evaluate effectiveness, factor in new learning and repeat the process perpetually. While we generally engage in the formal planning process annually, this very same process drives our daily thinking. It’s the way we come up with ideas. The intention of the formal planning process is to create shared organizational learning and alignment. The formal process gets everyone on the same page, doing smart things and pulling in the same direction to move the business. That’s the planning concept, but our planning framework for doing the work of building a plan is more tangible. The most fundamental and productive exercise we can engage in at the beginning is to properly identify and frame the problem or problems we are trying to solve with marketing communications. What are we trying to solve, specifically? Proper framing of the problem allows us to ask the right questions. The planning process is driven by asking the right questions and arriving at the best answers. We use the customer buying cycle for our planning framework.
  4. 4. WHAT’S OUR GOAL?? Our planning process is based on a tried and true marketing model that illustrates the way people buy things. It’s often referred to as a consumer purchase cycle, and we use it as a framework for planning. We begin our process with a thorough audit of our current strategy and use the information gleaned from that exercise to inform the forward planning process. For this process to be effective, it requires a client champion. It cannot be done effectively by a third party operating at arm’s length. The process is aimed at creating organizational alignment around the marketing effort for all stakeholders. Anyone whose contributions and buy-in are important should be included appropriately in the process. The resulting plan provides directional clarity and focus for the team based on empirical data and the collective judgments of organizational leadership, and it is also a flexible product. It should be adjusted to meet significant changes in market conditions, but it should not be changed lightly, and it should only go forward with team alignment and commitment. Our goal is to use the customer purchase cycle framework to audit the existing marketing communications strategy and develop new strategic alternatives.
  5. 5. As we begin the process of strategic inquiry using the purchase cycle framework, we will focus on raising and answering questions that will help expose knowledge gaps, identify hidden opportunities, and clarify our objectives (objective setting is part of the second phase—the forward planning process). Our first step is to review the current plan using the purchase cycle framework. PHASE 1: STRATEGY AUDIT
  6. 6. The consumer buying cycle is a useful planning framework for guiding us through a process of inquiry aimed at asking the right questions and surfacing and framing problems. The buying cycle illustrates the way people become aware of categories, products and brands and their process for moving toward a purchase. This framework holds up for every consumer category. The time it takes to work through the process and the amount of deliberation at each stage depends on familiarity (first-time vs. repeat or routine) and the level of involvement associated with the purchase (high for a home or new auto; low for a snack or a newspaper). The goal for marketers is to develop an insight-based strategy for moving potential customers through the cycle as efficiently as possible, and to create a large customer base of brand advocates—those people who adore you and tell the world. When we understand how the buying process works for our category, we are in a better position to make judgments about where we can have the greatest affect on potential customers. We need to understand which sources of information are used and trusted by customers in our category, the variables they consider at each stage, and the ways in which we can impact their decisions at each stage of they buying process. This is an important framework not so much because it carves up the customer’s purchase into neat stages, but because it forces us to evaluate and consider the way the customer thinks about the purchase from start to finish. When we work through this process deliberately we become much better informed about the customer’s perspective and are better equipped to spot uniquely motivating communication opportunities. We’re also less likely to overlook something important as we build our plan. The result is a more comprehensive and effective approach for achieving our goals. The Buying System framework in the appendix may also be helpful for guiding this work. HOW HAS OUR CURRENT STRATEGY HELPED MOVE OUR TARGET THROUGH THE PURCHASE CYCLE TOWARD OUR BRAND?
  7. 7. We’ll conduct our strategy audit sequentially beginning with Category Awareness and ending with Advocacy. The questions we have listed on the following pages are just some of the potential inquiries. The more empirical data we have to support our answers, the better. We can supplement our questions with the “Audit 50” questions where appropriate (Appendix). If questions or answers surface that are not relevant for a particular stage, we’ll note them in a “Parking Lot” and return to them at the appropriate stage or time. We’ll need a scribe to record notes accordingly. CONDUCTING THE STRATEGY AUDIT
  8. 8. 1. Who are our key rivals? 2. What are their relative ad spend levels? 3. Can we determine share of voice or brand awareness? 4. Who dominates and why? 5. What are competitors doing that lifts the category? 6. Which has the most clearly defined brand position? 7. Which of them is doing an especially good job? 8. Which competitor(s) benefits most from customer advocacy? 9. Who gets the most publicity? 10. Which one gives us the biggest headache? 11. Are there seasonality considerations? WHAT DOES CATEGORY ADVERTISING LOOK LIKE?
  9. 9. 1. Is our (best) target customer clearly defined? 2. Do we have a research-based understanding of his or her needs? 3. Have we done a recent ATU study? 4. Do we know our relative brand awareness? 5. What are we the very best at delivering? 6. Do we have an established brand position? 7. How long has it been in place? 8. What is our big brand promise? 9. Is it rooted in customer research? 10. Are we consistent? 11. Does the look, tone, feel of our advertising capture the brand’s essence? 12. Do we know what customers think of our campaign? 13. Do we get spontaneous customer feedback on our advertising? 14. Are our store locations visible and easy to locate and spot? (Do they help create awareness?) WHAT DOES OUR BRAND ADVERTISING LOOK LIKE?
  10. 10. 1. Where do customers get information about us? 2. Do we have an explicit plan for facilitating WOM? 3. What are the goals of our PR plan? 4. How effective is our Web presence? 5. How are we using social media? 6. Which media are most effective for us? 7. Are our locations visible? 8. Do we offer compelling promotions? 9. Are we price / value competitive? HOW DO WE PERSUADE CUSTOMERS TO CONSIDER US?
  11. 11. 1. Are we certain our products and experience deliver against target needs and desires? 2. How do we stack up to competitive offerings? 3. Do we have a plan for continuously developing new products and appeals for our customers? 4. How are we driving trial consistently? 5. Is there a competitor who’s done a particularly good job doing these things? HOW DO WE BUILD PREFERENCE FOR OUR BRAND?
  12. 12. 1. How can customers “buy” us, specifically? 2. Which metrics have we traditionally relied on as indicators of marketing communications performance? 3. Against which objectives, specifically? 4. Have we measured purchase intent for our brand? 5. How do we compare to category competitors? 6. How does our trial and frequency compare to category and specific competitors? DO WE KNOW ADVERTISING IS GENERATING RESPONSE?
  13. 13. 1. Do we know whether or not our brand keeps the customer promise? 2. Do we use secret shoppers? What do they tell us? 3. Have we performed a 360-audit to make sure all customer touch points are being leveraged? 4. Is the experience delivered consistently? 5. What do customers rave about? 6. What is our Achilles Heel? 7. How have our sales been tracking? 8. How do particular products perform? WHAT ARE WE DOING TO ENSURE THE BEST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
  14. 14. 1. Do we have a formal retention plan in place? 2. Do we know our attrition rate? 3. Do we know why customers defect? 4. Do we know why new users try and reject? 5. Do we have a formal “open loop” process for maintaining a dialogue with our customers? 6. Can we point to specific learning generated through intentional customer communication? 7. Do we collect data on our customers, and has it been profiled? WHAT DO WE DO TO KEEP OUR CUSTOMERS COMING BACK?
  15. 15. 1. Do we have a plan for identifying our brand champions? 2. Do we know them when we see them? 3. Do we have a special communications strategy to support this base? 4. Do we provide special tools to our advocates to help spread the good word? 5. How do we recognize and reward our advocates? HOW DO WE LEVERAGE OUR BRAND ADVOCATES?
  16. 16. The second step in our process is the forward planning effort. We want to take the learning from the audit phase and begin to construct a new plan—or build in course corrections to the existing plan—to more effectively drive toward our goals. Before we begin this process, however, we have to answer three critical questions. How do we improve the strategy for moving our target toward our brand? PHASE 2: FORWARD PLANNING
  17. 17. THREE INITIAL QUESTIONS This is the first significant step of the forward planning process and time should be invested in addressing our three initial planning inquiries. Team alignment and commitment to the answers is important. Taking the learning from the brand audit process, we’re seeking to isolate a manageable group of definable and solvable problems that can be addressed with marketing communications activities. As we ask the initial three questions, we need to make sure we don’t have any critical knowledge gaps; if we do, those gaps need to be addressed and we need to determine how they will be handled (more research, an educated guess, parking lot). The goal for this question is to reflect back on the audit and the previous chart and think about the single largest opportunity to make an impact for the brand. Do we have an awareness problem that we can solve? Is our pricing strategy screwing up our value perception? Are we positioned incorrectly as a brand? Are we getting trial but not frequency? Are we missing a particular group of customers? Look over the questions in the “Audit 50” document in the Appendix as necessary to help work through the process of setting our single most important largest opportunity and associated objective is identified, create a list of additional significant opportunities. Our planning process goal here is to align around specific marketing communications objectives – objectives we can quantify and measure. The objective-setting step should kick off a collaborative thinking process aimed at using insights to drive creative and media strategies for solving the challenges we’ve identified (1), and achieving our defined objectives (2). The answers to the third question will begin to surface as we work through the balance of the strategy planning process. What is our biggest challenge, and how is the problem properly framed? What are our additional critical challenges? What are our marketing communications objectives? These should be specific and measurable. Where should we place more focus and resources for achieving our objectives?
  18. 18. Once we’ve identified our objectives we need to begin to think about implications for our communications. There are a great variety of organizational implications generated by the marketing communications planning effort. Not all will return with equal effectiveness. Which areas can we afford to focus on, and which of those are likely to return the greatest ROI for the company? Which areas are essential to focus on in order to achieve our goals? HOW SHOULD WE FOCUS TIME AND RESOURCES?
  19. 19. WHERE DOES OUR BRAND NEED ATTENTION? The chart below brings the purchase cycle concept together with some of the implications we just looked at for marketing communications planning. It overlays the customer buying process with some of the major factors acting on our ability to move people toward our brand. It culminates with what we call the “Brand Nexus,” which is the link between our external marketing communication and the experience delivered for the customer as a result of various internal activities. At the point of experience, external communications lose most if not all of their ability to influence customer perceptions and choice. In essence, the customer experience is the brand. Factors such as the product quality, facility appearance, operational performance, and price/value relationship take on greater importance as the customer engages more deeply in the purchase process. Retention and loyalty activities only make sense once customers have already become fans of the brand. The ultimate goal is to create authentic customer advocacy. As a starting point for the planning process, we should first think about where our brand needs the most urgent attention, and where our attention is likely to yield the biggest impact.
  20. 20. AND NOW WE WRITE. 1. Problems that must be addressed, framed properly 2. Specific, measurable marketing communications objectives 3. Description of the purchase cycle for our category and brand 4. Opportunities surfaced through evaluation of the purchase cycle 5. Competitive comparison 6. Rich target description 7. Brand positioning statement (our brand promise) 8. List of organizational implications for making that promise 9. Creative strategy for communicating our promise effectively 10. Media strategy for building and sustaining brand exposure 11. Annual budget 12. Executional calendar containing tactical elements 12 components of the written plan:
  21. 21. APPENDIX 1. Articulated LOOMIS Customer Purchase Cycle 2. The Buying System framework 3. “Putting People in Your Plan: Why Marketing and Human Resources Should Share an Office,” LOOMIS White Paper 4. “Customers First? Not so Fast.” BARK! by LOOMIS 5. “Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You,” Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff, Harvard Business Review 6. “A CURE FOR EXPERIENCE: INTELLIGENT NAIVETY” by LOOMIS
  23. 23. THE PURCHASE CYCLE IS A TRIED AND TRUE MODEL Represents all consumer interactions Duration and deliberation at each stage varies Low-involvement vs. High-involvement purchases Framework for a process of strategic inquiry
  24. 24. IT’S THE WAY WE BUY, AND BUY AGAIN (OR DON’T). “I want to find a quick place for lunch.” “McDonald’s has a new burger.” “DQ and Whataburger sound good, too.” “But I like DQ’s treats best of all.” “I think I’ll make a left and go to DQ.” “This burger is great, and the new Blizzard is delicious.” “I’ll come back again next week.” “I’m joining the Blizzard Fan Club,
  25. 25. HOW DOES IT HELP US MAKE MARKETING DECISIONS? Learn how best to direct customers toward our brand as they move through purchase cycle. Determine where we can make the greatest impact with our resources.
  26. 26. HOW DO WE BECOME AWARE OF A CATEGORY? “I want to find a quick place for lunch.” Driven through routine, impulse, solution, lifestyle, or blend. Driving category awareness is generally cost-prohibitive.  Previous experience  Word-of-mouth  Competitive advertising  Publicity
  27. 27. WHAT MAKES US AWARE OF A BRAND? “McDonald’s has a new burger.” Exposure through a variety of paid and non-paid communications and social interactions.  Brand advertising  Previous experience  Word-of-mouth  Brand publicity  Facility (drive-by)
  28. 28. HOW DO WE CONSIDER A BRAND? “DQ and Whataburger sound good, too.” Collect and evaluate information; compare available options.  Brand advertising / promo  Previous experience  Word-of-mouth  Price / cost  Publicity  Facility  Convenience
  29. 29. WHY DO CUSTOMERS PREFER A BRAND? “But I like DQ’s treats best of all.” Functional and non-functional benefits drive preference.  Rational benefits (Functional)  Emotional benefits (Non-functional)  Previous experience
  30. 30. PURCHASE INTENT JOINS BRANDING AND RESPONSE. “I think I’ll make a left and go to DQ.” Interest and motivation become actionable as customer decides purchase will meet need / desire.
  31. 31. WHAT HAPPENS AT POINT OF PURCHASE? “This burger is great, and the new Blizzard is delicious.” Experience either meets or fails to meet customer expectations.  Product quality  Facility  Customer service  Value perception  Various factors
  32. 32. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DRIVES RETENTION. “I’ll come back again next week.” Positive experiences have the potential to motivate repeat visits.
  33. 33. THE HOLY GRAIL: CREATING BRAND ADVOCATES. “I’m joining the Blizzard Fan Club, and bringing my buddies!” Peer-to-peer “brand talk” is valued twice as much as information received through other sources.
  34. 34. Contact Mike Sullivan for more information. (972) 331-7000 Dallas, Texas
  • mavericklancer

    Jul. 3, 2019
  • huuduchh

    Aug. 20, 2017
  • johnyvo

    Jul. 30, 2017

Need help planning your marketing communications? This guide was prepared for precisely that task by the senior strategists at LOOMIS, the country's leading challenger brand advertising agency. Want help with the process? Just give us a call at (972) 331-7000. Otherwise, we hope you find this to be a useful tool for your own planning efforts. Good luck! Mike Sullivan President, LOOMIS


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