Originally, this series of two blog posts in our Top 10 of 2016 was about a course I’ve been teaching at the University of Montreal on B2B communication. To keep it up to date, I’ll enhance its argumentation using input from my last cohort of students.
Just as I’ve been doing for several years now, I recently had to evaluate my students’ end-of-term projects. The course is entitled “Interactive Business Communication”. Grouped into teams, students had to present themselves before a real B2B industry customer, in the guise of a small agency. Their mandate was to re-energize an existing (and rather traditional) communication plan, by proposing a communication strategy that mainly focused on tactics and interactive tools.
As an agency, each team had to structure their work according to seven specific elements that form the basis of any communication plan (marketing or not). Here is a brief description of these elements, as well as the strengths that certain teams demonstrated and which allowed them to stand out.
1. The context
To begin, a diagnosis or audit is conducted by analyzing information gathered about the company, as well as its basic performance data. The company’s use of the data, it’s processes and its tools are also looked at. Likewise looked at are its market position and the quality of its performance against the competition, which often implies a benchmark.
All teams put varying degrees of effort into this exercise and three of them went so far as to present Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) to better define competitive issues and clearly identify the stakes.
2. Issues and objectives
Once the diagnosis was made, the issues and especially the objectives had to be determined. In order to assess the success of our strategies and tactics, it is essential to set realistic, precise and, above all, quantifiable objectives.
A single team set a quantifiable objective. It gave itself the goal of increasing site visits by 50% over a 12-month period to all target audiences. It should be specified here that this isn’t a marketing course. On the other hand, all teams at least talked about the need to evaluate the effects of their proposals, after the fact.
3. Target Audiences
It is very important to understand who you are addressing, and adjust the message and its editorial style accordingly. Age, sex, habits, attitudes, educational attainment, etc. One interesting technique is the use of personas. It involves creating fictitious people who resemble your target audiences. This makes it possible to design digital tools that are better adapted and more efficient.
One of the teams created personas for all the target clientele of their plan. It identified one of the target audiences (the 55+ age group) and retained some traditional communication tools for them. In addition, it planned a gradual migration to online channels, all supported by training in the form of video capsules. Very strategic …
4. Communication Axis and Messages
This is the crux of the matter, the heart of communications. It is what generates the messages that will persuade and convince your audiences. An interesting element that can help improve the work at this stage is the strategic positioning exercise.
This is one of the rare occasions where all teams identified communication axes. Several had even thought up and written one or more messages. This exercise didn’t require a communication strategy to be developed, however. At this stage of the process, we know who we want to talk to and what we want to tell them. What remains to be determined is how to do this as per the communication strategy. Therefore, the appropriate means and tools must be considered.
All in all, the groups’ performance at this juncture was very encouraging.
Coming with part two
In the second part of this post, we’ll look at three other elements to be considered in a communication plan. These are: the means and tools as well as 2017 trends, the plan or timetable (budget) and the evaluation methods.
Check out part 2 later this week!