An Overview of IMC Strategy Development for Retailers

Integrated Marketing strategies Communications: Practical Strategy Development for Small to Mid-Sized Retail Businesses

A practical introduction to the process of developing an Integrated Marketing strategies Communications strategy for small to mid-sized retail businesses.
With more than 25 years of retail marketing strategies management strategiesexperience, I readily acknowledge that there are often hundreds of ways to market your small to mid-sized retail company successfully. Over the years I have worked with several world-renowned Branding, Marketing strategies and Public Relations firms and have discovered that, while they can be helpful, no third-party consultant or agency will ever present to you the singularly best Integrated Marketing strategies Communications plan for your business; such a strategy or plan must be the outgrowth of working through a strategic development process with your dedicated internal teams. The marketing strategies strategy, plans and tactics that result from your commitment to an IMC development process will be well-suited to your unique business and will be owned by, and so supported by, you and your team. 'Strategic Ownership' throughout your enterprise, along with suitable appropriation of energized internal resources, are vital elements of any successful Integrated Marketing strategies Communications
This document will serve as a brief overview, an entry point, for corporate owners, executives and key business stakeholders to get a sense of the objectives, benefits and scope of commitment required to develop a successful Integrated Marketing strategies Communications plan for their retail business. I intend to address in other Knols, with actionable insight, many of the critical components that comprise Integrated Marketing strategies Communications strategies for small to mid-sized retail businesses. Here are some of the functions that will be covered in future publications:
  • Marketing/Branding: Brand Audit & Evaluation; Long Range Strategic Planning; Annual Promotion Planning & Implementation; Internet & Social Networking
  • Advertising: Advertising Design & Creative Development; Production Services; Media Planning & Buying; Media Training & PR
  • Communications: Internal Communications Audit; Actionable Reports; Market Research; Intranet
  • Merchandising: Store Décor Design & Production; Floor Plans, Layouts, & Department Adjacencies; Merchandising 
  • Meeting & Event Planning: Event Multi-media; Presentations & Script Writing; Launch & After-action Meetings
Earlier I mentioned that there are many, many ways for you to develop and implement a successful IMC strategy, but just because there are many different paths to success doesn’t mean it is easy to get there. It takes thoughtful planning, innovative work from creative resources, strategic leadership and discipline from you and operations teams that support and execute the final tactical marketing strategies communications plans. And, the hardest work of all is working together – not because it can’t be fun and tremendously satisfying to work as a functional team (it certainly can be!) – but because successfully working together requires at least a temporary suspension of egos, a commitment to process, truth and trust, constant communication, and focus. These are all desirable and necessary attributes of a productive strategic development relationship, but admit it, they all require hard work and discipline. Of all the marketing strategies communication paths that can contribute to your business’s success, the most satisfying and successful will be the one you and your team walk together. 
Whether you’re developing a marketing strategies plan, a media plan, a branding initiative, or a communications strategy, embracing a proven Integrated Marketing strategies Communications development process will help you to coordinate the many and diverse participants and stakeholders, aligning all of your resources toward the successful attainment of your objectives. Along the way there will be times when pure creativity will take the spotlight. At other times a sharp-edged practicality will carry the day. Budgets will shape the contours of a plan, and those dollars along with timelines will dictate certain milestones. You’ll experience breakthrough moments with your marketing strategies team and you’ll all have to agree to some compromises. You will certainly be frustrated at times with each other – that just means you’re probably working especially hard on something really important. Be persistent. Stay committed. You may even be a little surprised at the final conclusions and recommendations you derive from the process; just remember that your goal is to develop a strategy that opens eyes, gets attention, energizes and unites your team. A little surprise is good. Sometimes, a big surprise is even better; because doing what you’ve always done almost certainly won’t deliver the results you’re banking on.
The process should start with a simple Q&A. Begin with a series of questions, the answers to which will illustrate the broader status of your brand and shape of the development course that you’ll want to pursue. You may discover that some of the answers don’t exist yet. In those cases, feel confident that they can be discovered. Some questions may seem overly simple, but you may be surprised how many varied answers will be elicited from different people in your organization. And you may be shocked by how differently your customers, and competitor's customers, answer similar questions when it comes time to validate your brand beliefs and perceptions with those of the marketplace.
Here are some sample questions to begin your development journey with:
What is the product/service/brand/idea that you’re selling? What distinguishes you from other retailers, including your competitors?

    • Is it a widget of some kind?
    • Is it a service?
    • Is it an experience?
    • Are you the best producer or provider of what you’re selling? If not, who is and why?
    • What differentiates you from your competitors? 
Who is the customer/audience you’re targeting?

    • Who is buying your product/service now?
    • Who represents your most profitable customer segment?
    • Where are your customers?
    • What media do they use? TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet?
    • How are they connected to other potential users/customers? Shared geography? Clubs and organizations? Online social networking? 
What do you want your customer/audience to do? Prioritize your list.

    • Buy more items?
    • Shop more often?
    • Shop you first, before your competitor?
    • Spend more money with you?
    • Tell friends about you?
    • Try you once so you have an opportunity to make them loyal return customers?
    • Tell you what they like about you and what they don’t? 
How will you measure their behavior?
    • With footsteps through the door?
    • Sales transactions?
    • Sales dollars?
    • Profits? 
What is the feature/aspect/message that will compel the target audience to respond?

    • Tell them that your stores offer the best selection!
    • That your merchandise is the cheapest!
    • Your stores are friendly and easy to shop.
    • You support charities.
    • You help the environment. 
If the target audience responds as anticipated, then what? If they don’t respond as anticipated, then what?

    • Push the spikes!
    • Bring up the valleys.
    • Re-engineer.
    • Adapt.
    • Re-brand. 
What is the timeline?

    • Yesterday.
    • This month.
    • 90 days.
    • Next year. 
What is the budget for your Marketing strategies Communications plan?

    • A percent of current sales?
    • A percent of anticipated sales?
    • A hard number - $5,000? $30,000? $250,000? 
Who/what are the resources that will support/execute the plan?

    • Executive team.
    • Field management.
    • Front line employees.
    • Friends and family.

Answering these questions (as well as others you will want asked and answered) and discussing the broad range of feedback you’re likely to receive, is just the first step in a process to develop a successful Integrated Marketing strategies Communication strategy for your small to mid-sized retail business. Think of this Q&A as a warm-up exercise, stretching your preconceptions of the course ahead and your current abilities before beginning a cultural and business development marathon. Don’t skip this step or you might strain or disconnect your brand and your expectations from reality.
Because initial conditions will have a huge impact on the ultimate outcome of this process, it is important that you commit to the following as you begin:
1.     Recognize that a successfully developed and executed Integrated Marketing strategies Communications plan will project your company’s image, personality and voice to the public. That personality must be compelling to your customers, and your key stakeholders and team members must be aligned with and own the messages you will be communicating.
2.     Choose your IMC strategic development team wisely. They must be able and willing to commit time and energy to the brand discovery, development and maintenance process. Creative types and number crunchers must have roles and they must understand why the process and the outcome, and their parts in both, are vital to the success of your business.
3.     The process won't end once the brand audit, strategic planning and tactical timelines are completed. Once in practice, they will be validated and critiqued by your customers as well as internal operations teams. You will need to maintain the process in order to keep your marketing strategies and communications strategies relevant in a dynamic marketplace.

    Developing a successful Integrated Marketing strategies Communications strategy is a complex and highly collaborative process. As you and your team undertake this effort, be prepared to discover a lot about your business, your teams, your customers and yourself. I will share the best of what I have learned from my extensive work with agencies, executives, Boards of Directors, and front-line employees in the development and execution of IMC strategies in future Knols focusing on more specific topics in order to increase your opportunities for success and decrease incidents of frustration and ineffectiveness.

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