Holistic Place Marketing Planning

Since we are all starting to finalize our community marketing plans for 2011, I thought I’d share my experience with holistic planning in product and corporate branding as a way to help you create even more effective programming. In a world of shrinking budgets and increasing competition for capital investment, it is extremely important you marketing plan works as hard as possible to effectively promote your community as an ideal location choice. The key to ensuring the highest probability of success is the design and execution of a “holistic” marketing effort.

Holistic marketing is a concept that product and corporate Brand managers apply in their work. The objective of any holistic marketing plan is to increase the effectiveness of your investment in communication.

I like the following as a working definition – “An insight informed communication idea that is executed synergistically across relevant touch points, design to maximize the idea’s impact on a chosen target audience’s behavior.”

Let’s look at each key component a little closer:

  • An insight informed communication idea – It is important you are in touch with your target audience and understand how they make/influence capital investment decisions. The strongest insight you can have is a competitively superior understanding of their specific needs. This allows you to better position your location’s assets for consideration. There is a world of difference between knowing a potential investor is interested in information about logistics, and understanding the role logistic expense plays in the total delivered cost of an investor’s product or service. Seek to understand the why behind every what.
  • Executed synergistically – Every promotional execution helps to reinforce communication of the idea. If a capital investor reads about or hears about your location, the story is consistent regardless of the source. Tactics that stand alone are eliminated from the plan. Synergy in messaging dramatically amplified the volume of your message improving the odds it is actually heard.
  • At relevant touch points – Touch points are media channels where your target goes for information. If a channel does not reach your target, then you should not be investing a dime in trying to leverage it to communicate your message. It is a complete waste of money. You might think the selection of relevant touch points should be obvious, but often it is clouded with politics. The choice of trade shows to attend, magazines to advertise in, and lately social media to maintain a presence in are all fraught with examples where promotional investment choices are made without a rigorous assessment if the specific target audience being focused on will ever be reached in reasonable numbers. I often hear the reason as “If we have no presence our lack of participation will be noticed.” But, if it is not a venue that the people you really want to hear your message participate in, who cares?
  • That impact on a chosen target group’s behavior – If your communication idea will not directly or indirectly increase the probability of job creation, then you should think long and hard before committing limited funds to support it. Exhibiting at a trade show because a leader in your community thinks it is a good idea, is not in-and-of itself a strong enough reason to do so. The goal of any place marketing plan is to encourage capital investment and job creation. Every tactical choice you make should be made with that goal in mind.

So what does a strong holistic marketing plan look like?

  • It builds on your community’s promise for the long term as well as delivering any business climate improvement news.
  • The communication idea is inspirational, meaningful and distinctive for the target audience.
  • The media selections are efficient and capable of delivering measurable results.
  • The communication creates an emotional connection.
  • There are no “one-off” executions.
  • The thread of continuity in messaging is clear to everybody.
  • The communication plan reflects thoughtful choices and is not attempting to do everything or satisfy everybody involved in the decision process.

How can I tell if I have a holistic marketing plan?

One simple way is to make a copy of all the promotional material your Organization creates and lay each out on a table top for your team and leadership to assess. Score every element on the basis of consistency with your community promise, synergy within the mix, relevancy for your target audience. After summarizing the feedback, eliminate those tactics that score low and redeploy the resources to support higher scoring tactics. Tabletop reviews are an amazingly simple, yet powerful way to drive for a holistic approach to your marketing plan.

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15 Comments so far

  1. Eric La Brecque

    January 11, 2011

    Ed, I think this paraphrases what you’re saying, which is excellent, just a little differently. (I write it before seeing your blog post!)

    Just a start, but it would seem to me a good holistic marketing plan would peg objectives to a range of concerns along at least four dimensions—not counting the all-important budget, of course:

    First, the dimension of time: Things designed for immediate impact, and to happen at launch, versus things geared to happen over time, or at specific later dates. Sometimes referred to as cadence.

    Second, the dimension of resources (channels and touchpoints): Of all the vehicles for connecting with the customer, which will be used, for what purpose, and to what extent.

    Third, the dimension of targets: Which meaningful subsets (segments) of customers will be focused upon, using what media, and when?

    Fourth, the dimension of customer lifecycle: Is the target aware of the offering? A passionate advocate? Somewhere in between?

    A truly holistic plan would not only address all of these considerations—and possibly more—but would address each in light of all of the others, looking for the best opportunities at the places where these various dimensions intersect, or correlate, in powerful ways (“seventh wave” opportunities).

    Just throwing this out for conversation’s sake…

  2. Bill Baker

    January 11, 2011

    Does place branding suffer from the fake Gucci syndrome?

  3. Tom Smith

    January 12, 2011


    As an integrated marketing professional, the holistic marketing plan truly resonates with me.

    Especially with the advent and rapid growth of social media, it is critical to ensure that all messages and stories are in alignment since today every one of your employees is, or has the potential to be, a marketing representative.

    Thanks for the post,


  4. Igor S.

    January 20, 2011

    I like what does Microsoft and Salesforce with their CRM solutions.
    They all try and succeed to create customer’s Holistic view (360 degree view):
    tracking all relationships, all communication, demands, interests, demographics. They now have added integration with social networks – covering another popular communication channel.

    If goal of having a holistic approach to the customers – is to treat them in a more individual way. While preparing holistic marketing plan – I would have asked myself:
    1. Do I know who are the influencers of my most valuable customers?
    2. Do I know who are the decision makers?
    3. Do I know their pain points?
    3. What are their preferred channels of communication?
    4. What is my message for them? Do I have any offer for them?
    5. How I’m going to track responses to my campaign?

    I would have start with this.

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    I like the following as a working definition – “An insight informed communication idea that is executed synergistically across relevant touch points, design to maximize the idea’s impact on a chosen target audience’s behavior.”

  15. Collette Hanna

    February 24, 2011

    Coming from the private sector, holistic marketing was for us an integrated plan – branding aligned with messaging; aligned with communications; and ultimately in line with corporate strategic direction. The challenge I see with holistic marketing of places is developing a brand consistent with what can be delivered from that brand promise. Particularly for developing communities, developing a brand identity can be difficult as it’s still developing. The holistic marketing aspect would have to be applied in having key figureheads and community stakeholders in agreement on an overall strategy – strategy to include targeted industries; development of a brand consistent with strategic direction in messaging and communications; workforce and community development to perpetuate the brand; and lastly but probably most often overlooked, internal buy-in by residents, businesses and continued adoption by community leaders. My two cents anyway

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