Canadian businesses are sold on the benefits of online marketing and communications, but many still struggle to implement a strategy that effectively combines the two. This often results in dismissal of digital communications as ineffective, when in fact it was the plan itself (or the person implementing it) that was ineffective.
Online Communications may involve the company website/blog, email, social media, influencer marketing, or online customer support. Any channel, tool or method that places your brand directly in front of a consumer, presents an opportunity for communication. While it must be customized for your target market, the following outline applies to both B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) communications.
1. Goals and Objectives
All marketing plans require an outline of goals and objectives, you just have to tailor it to a digital environment.
- Establish the marketing message you want to convey.
- Identify which online channels will most effectively deliver the message. The best online campaigns utilize all channels together in creative ways for an ultimate outcome. What may vary is how much focus you place on each channel. For example, if you’re trying to reach retired Canadians you may focus on Facebook. If your target market is food manufacturers you might focus on LinkedIn and web-based trade publications.
- Decide what action you want the consumer to take. Each campaign will be designed to solicit a consumer response and/or action, such as getting them to check out a new product on your website or submit their contact information.
- Outline your budget based on your expected ROI (return on investment), which should include the total cost of the campaign and how much of the budget will be spent for each channel.
You should already know your target market inside and out as it applies to general marketing communications. Now you need to customize and enhance that information to make it applicable to the digital environment. You’ll want to know which online channels generate the best response (which often varies from campaign to campaign). If you don’t have any data of your own yet, Canadian statistics can point you in the right direction. For example, you may have partially based your traditional marketing on the fact that women do most of the shopping. However, an Ipsos eCommerce Special Feature Report found that significantly more Canadian men shop online than women. This type of intimate knowledge of the Canadian market will ensure you’re noticed and heard on the noisy Internet.
3. Buying Cycle
It’s important to be familiar with the nuances of online purchasing decisions as you develop your digital communications plan. The buying cycle is based on principles similar to offline purchasing, but they can be entirely different in their execution. You can use virtually all online channels to creatively generate brand awareness and interest, for example, and it’s the perfect environment for establishing credibility and nurturing brand loyalty. Consider each channel individually, such as email or social media accounts, and go into brainstorm mode with your team. This will establish a general outline that will be customized to suit individual campaigns.
Research and statistics will help you considerably here too. For example, an ExactTarget Digital North Report identified the purchasing behaviour of Canadians on Facebook by age group:
- 24% of online Canadians aged 25-34 purchased because of a message received on Facebook
- 21% of online Canadian consumers aged 18-24 bought something because of a Facebook message
- 8% aged 45+ made a purchase due to a message they received on Facebook
Hiring a Marketing Communications Professional
Business owners may be overwhelmed by the the enormity of marketing communications, and in desperation end up hiring someone without the knowledge to properly screen them for true talent and skill. Digital marketing communications talent is in high demand and their salary reflects their scarcity, which has resulted in many self-proclaimed experts and fly-by-night agencies. Arming yourself with a basic understanding of what you need to accomplish and how to accomplish it, allows you to make smarter hiring decisions. The comforting fact is hot talent in this category will be established online, so you can preview their expertise if you know what to look for.
It’s important to note that a true marketing communications professional will have expertise in both online and offline strategies. The channels must work in harmony to obtain optimum results for your brand. Education in communications will provide the overall understanding a candidate should have, and it must be current to ensure functionality in the perpetually-evolving digital environment. A degree does not guarantee talent in critical areas, such as writing and professional social skills, you still need to see them in action.
??? How are you using online marketing communications to extend your brand hand? Please share your tips or questions in the comments below.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Canadian Digital Behaviour for Businesses (Statistics)
Top Web Analytics Tools Used by Marketers
Reaching Canadian Consumers Through Niche Bloggers
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