Every so often a new buzzword comes along which promises to change our approach to the way we do business, think about business, interact with our customers or sell our services. In marketing circles, for many years “IMC”, or “integrated marketing communications” has been once such trend.
IMC makes a lot of sense when you cut through the jargon. One definition is: “an holistic approach to marketing communications”. What it really means is that you work to ensure all the ways you communicate are consistent and co-ordinated, to make the most impact for your business. The people you are trying to communicate with could be customers, potential customers, suppliers, staff, potential recruits, investors, politicians and so on.
So whether you’re advertising on a bus stop or local radio, whether your Managing Director is giving an interview to a business magazine, whether you’re speaking at a trade event, whether you’re holding a launch party, whether you’re drafting an internal memo – you need to ensure what you say about your company holds water and is consistent.
In a nutshell that’s IMC. But there’s a newcomer to the IMC family – a challenging, cocky, innovative sibling – called transmedia. Never heard of it? Nor had I, but give me time and I’ll explain how it is a really “Big Idea” for all businesses, big or small.
Transmedia is about storytelling. It sits within the field of IMC because it’s all about an integrated approach. But the difference is in the narrative, in the creation of a story, and most importantly, in playing out the right bits of the story to the right bits of your audience. And the reason why it’s important to smaller business is because it pulls people into the experience, the fabric, the heart of your business. It makes them feel part of it and it locks them in.
Small businesses have a huge competitive advantage. More often than not, they know their customers in a far more intimate way than their larger competitors. And often they also have a very personal story to tell about the business and the products. They aren’t a faceless conglomerate. They aren’t answerable to institutional shareholders and the whims of quarterly reporting. They plough their own furrow. And social media has added a whole new dimension to our ability to tell that story at very little cost.
The world expert on transmedia is a man called Jeff Gomez. He defines it as “the art of conveying messages, themes or storylines to audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms. With transmedia, each part of the story is unique and plays to the strengths of the medium.”
So here’s how it works in practice if you’re a small business.
- Work out what makes your business special/different/fun/interesting/a “must have”. Sit down and write the story of your business as if you were back at school and you had been set homework. How did it come about? What made you do it? What makes your business different? What made you strike out as an entrepreneur? Why are the products great? Why do your clients love you? What motivates you to keep going? What have been your best moments and greatest achievements? What’s next?
- Identify who needs to hear which stories about your business. The story to be told on LinkedIn is the one that suits a business market or one that attracts potential employees. The one told to your client list via email is about why they are with the best provider and why they should stay with you. The one to be told to your staff in one-to-ones, a presentation, on internal email or intranet is why they are working for the right organisation. The one told to potential clients and recruits via YouTube or Facebook is why your tribe is the one to run with.
- Think about Apps , videos and other platforms that may engage your audiences. So what if you’re a metal basher? There are a group of people out there who need metal bashers and want to engage with other metal bashers. Make your story the most interesting metal bashing story going.
- Don’t go crazy. Work out a core story with perhaps three or four threads for the different audiences. Take it step by step. If it doesn’t work try something else. It’s all part of the fun. But it could make a huge difference to your business if you get it right.
The funny thing about “transmedia” is that often, small businesses do it instinctively. I engage with so many local businesses where I live in the Lake District and they have an innate ability to tell a story about themselves to lock the customer in. They naturally target the appropriate audiences via the appropriate channels because they just know that’s the way to do it. Larger operations lose that niche and instinct.
So as always there’s nothing new in the world. But if something in here does strike you as having potential, then why not try it? See what kind of feedback and loyalty you can create, as people invest emotionally in your business, buy into your story and join your tribe.
By Deborah Done, Managing Director of Nab Communications