IMC Planning Processes 501.

Most people who have studied marketing and have worked in agencies for years still don't thoroughly understand or don't follow the proven processes in their discipline. That, combined with the fact that we've had to upgrade the processes in order for them to work in an IMC environment, leads us to call it IMC 501 – instead of 101.

Please don't judge that statement as being cavalier, because we admit that we're all too often remiss in the thorough application of our own processes.

We've talked about what IMC is and why it's the most effective way to plan marketing communications. Now, here's the step-by-step process for developing an IMC plan.

But before reviewing the planning steps, let it be understood that every agency and every marketing textbook has variations in the steps for plan development. The difference is that our processes look at the marcom challenge from a holistic point of view.

We suggest that you know and follow the general processes and teach them to your clients and teammates. And if you can help us improve them, please e-mail your suggestions directly to

Note: We often hear people using the words objectives, goals, strategies and tactics in different ways. Yet, it's important that we have a common understanding of the differences. So, while it may be elementary for some, we need to confirm that we're all on the same page before we dive into the steps.


  1. Goals are what we want to accomplish.
  2. Objectives are goals defined by measurable results.
  3. Strategies are plans or methods for achieving our objectives. Strategies are how we'll do it.
  4. Tactics are generally the smaller-scale actions that are part of a larger strategy.

The reason it can be so confusing at times is that tactics can become strategies. For example, in the overall context of a war, a bomb is a tactic. But what if it's an atomic bomb? (That qualifies it to be a strategy, right?)

Here are the processes as we have learned, adapted and evolved them to work for IMC: