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Marketing Communications Plan for New Product
The marketing communications (marcom) portion of the product plan addresses the setting of the advertising objectives, media planning, and creative strategy.

Setting Objectives
The starting point for the advertising plan is the setting of objectives. The statement of objectives would follow the same format as the overall marketing objective. It would include what to communicate to whom and with what results. Should the advertising generate sales, produce leads, or enhance an image? To whom must the message be communicated to make that happen? What will be the result of this communication? $X revenue? Number of leads per prospects reached? A percentage change in awareness? If the product manager runs a mail order operation with no sales force, it might be appropriate to have an objective of generating $X sales from a defined target market over the next twelve months. But most companies would have some combination of sales, lead generation, and/or image reinforcement.

If the product is not sold directly to the end-user, a decision must be made about what part of the budget will be devoted to advertising to the end-customer (a pull strategy) and what part will be devoted to trade advertising (a push strategy). These two groups will require different media and different messages.

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After deciding what to communicate to whom and with what results, the next question is how to make it happen. That is the essence of the advertising plan: deciding on the media and creative strategy. Although much of the detail work will be handled by the company's advertising department or through an advertising agency, the product manager needs to understand the basics to make good evaluative decisions. The media planning will consist of (1) listing potential media, (2) selecting appropriate media vehicles, (3) assessing trade-offs, (4) examining media combinations, and (5) developing a media calendar. The creative strategy converts the positioning and unique selling features into effective customer communications.

Media Planning
Media planning starts with selecting the appropriate media and media vehicles to accomplish the stated objectives. Decide how many to use (to increase reach) and how often to advertise in each (to increase frequency). Then coordinate resources to get maximum return from the investment in advertising. That means it is sometimes necessary to violate traditional turf boundaries that separate the media (including boundaries between marketing and sales) and focus on the intended results (objectives) of the advertising.

List Potential Media. Start by developing a list of all media and promotional methods that could be used to accomplish the objectives. Analyze each according to editorial format, circulation, frequency, and cost. Then prioritize the list according to each medium's ability to conŽtribute to the plan's effectiveness. The larger the potential audience, the more a product manager will need to consider broad-reach media. The smaller the audience, the more targeted the media must be.

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Select Appropriate Vehicles. A message of quality is best carried in a publication that is a "bible" of the industry, whereas announcements of new industrial products are better placed in new-product digests. For product managers not working through an agency (either internal or external), some preliminary information on the media vehicles can be obtained from Standard Rate & Data Service directories available at libraries with business collections. From that information, the product manager can estimate the cost per prospect for each media vehicle. After narrowing the list, request media kits from the rest to obtain more specific information on reader profiles, frequency discounts, ability to obtain reduced list rental with a paid ad, and information about the effectiveness of advertising in the specific publication or broadcast medium.

Assess Trade-offs. Assess the trade-offs between the size (cost) of the ad, the impact on prospects, and the number of times it can be placed. The cost of a large ad is more than the cost of a smaller ad. HowŽever, because a large ad is seen (noted) by more people, the cost per perŽson noticing the ad can provide more efficiency.

The assessment should also include placement within the medium. For magazines, ads on the covers, front part of the publication, adjacent to specific editorial conŽtent, and/or isolated from other advertisements usually have the most effectiveness. For radio, drive-time spots typically reach more people than ROS (run of schedule). For television, news has the greatest audience size, although specific programs might have a closer match to the target audience. For direct mail, odd-sized and dimensional mailings can have more impact, but they increase the cost, thereby limiting the potential reach and frequency of the mailings. In general, with a given budget, it is usually better to increase frequency at the expense of reach rather than to increase reach at the expense of frequency.

Examine Media Combinations. This is the "synergy" part of integrated marketing. For example, timing a telemarketing sales call right after the intended receipt of a direct mail piece can increase the response. Using different media simultaneously can sometimes break through the target market's perceptual barriers. This approach increases frequency, but different media can also increase reach by appealing to different segments of the market or to different influencers or decision makers. Making decisions on reach versus frequency and continuous versus pulsing advertising strategies is part of this analysis.

Develop Media Calendar. Finally, after examining costs and benefits of the various media types and combinations, put the entire media plan into calendar format for the year. This accomplishes two things. First, it forces the product manager to think in advance. Second, by seeing the combinations of media in one place, the potential impact they have on each other can be improved. Third, the calendar helps focus on integrated marketing communications by incorporating nontraditional communications vehicles (e.g., seminars, newsletters, and software proŽgrams) into the plan.

Creative Strategy
The creative strategy should include the basic message and positioning that should be communicated to the target market. Although an advertising agency might be responsible for the creative design of the advertising, the product manager should at least be able to critique it. As mentioned earlier, the advertising message depends on the positioning statement developed at the start of the planning process.

The message should always be consistent with the positioning or unique selling proposition (USP) and include customer benefits that differentiate the product from the competition. Sometimes a company is interested in being positioned as innovative and uses patents to "prove" that position. Titleist has used its patented dimpling process to "prove" the quality of its golf balls; Samsonite luggage uses line drawings depicting patents and patents pending for the various product features. In any case, the objective of the advertising is to convince potential customers that your product is different from the competition in an important way and that this difference is strong enough to motivate them to buy.

For print advertising, the headline should attract prospects to the ad. Sometimes this can be done by stating the benefit or the promise of a reward. At other times, a provocative question will be more successful. The headline should generally maintain a positive tone and be coordinated with the rest of the ad. The copy should contain a benefit in the lead paragraph and use present-tense, active-voice words. If the copy is long, use subheads to make it easier on the eye. Identify what the prospect is to do as a result of reading the ad. Most business advertising (and a growing amount of consumer advertising) strives for direct response, so the copy should include the 800 number, the website URL, or other contact information. The layout should take eye movement into account and have a single dominant element rather than being overly cluttered.

For broadcast advertising, hold the number of elements to a minimum. Words should be conversational and concise. Take advantage of impact if using television commercials. With radio, be sure the company/product name is mentioned often. See tshirt online store here.

For direct mail, set up repeated tests. Test different copy, different package formats, and different mailing lists. If possible, have a control to test against an alternative for each mailing. Personalize the cover letter and talk about the prospect's needs—not about the product. Use a strong offer to encourage people to respond. Do not simply encourage them to contact the company for more information; provide an incentive such as a free booklet, reduced price, or trial offer. If using direct mail (or any direct-response advertising), be sure to have inquiry fulfillment materials available. Highlight on the envelope that this is the information the prospect requested.

Include the salespeople in evaluating direct-response lead generation programs. Let them see the mail piece before it is mailed to customers and prospects, and ask them for input. Not only will salespeople offer useful suggestions, but they will also be more likely to buy into a program if brought in at the early stages.

Linda Gorchels, The Product Managers Handbook, McGraw Hill. You can find this excellent book here

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