Integrated Marketing Communications

A simple explanation of Integrated Marketing Communications is that it “ensures all forms of communication and messaging are carefully linked together (integrated) in a single harmonious plan.” Most people would agree that this is an obvious thing to do, yet most companies struggle to create integrated marketing communications. Why? Because it requires changing from a traditional tactical approach (ie. just stringing together a bunch of marketing activities) and moving to a marketing program based on a true “strategy” and then measuring the results.

Most people would agree that a strategy is critical to success in business, but why is it so hard when it comes to marketing? There are a couple reasons:

1)       Legacy Marketing: Also known as the “we’ve always done it this way” approach is typically one of the most common reasons an integrated marketing plan fails to properly come together. Why? Because at one point “doing it this way” yielded results and changing course would mean admitting it is no longer working. Times are changing and growing companies are changing with them, so look at starting fresh with a new strategy.

2)       In The Woods Without A Map: You’re lost, you know you’re lost, but having an integrated marketing plan seems like a daunting task because you don’t know which direction you should go. This often occurs when there has not been an effective method for tracking your sales leads and how they’re generated OR a lack of focus on the actual results. In other words, you don’t know which way to go because you don’t have enough information. Sometimes the best plan is to just pick a direction and commit to it while making sure you track the results.

3)       No Accountability: As soon as a strategy is chosen and an integrated marketing communications plan is implemented, someone becomes accountable for its performance. What often happens is it becomes a “group” decision on the strategy, the group creates a plan (which often contains legacy marketing initiatives that benefit their own interests) and when it doesn’t perform the way it is hoped, the group can throw their hands up and say “it's not my fault because we made this as a team.” Marketing needs to own the process and the direction, accountability is key.

4)       Inwardly Focused, Not Customer Centric: Businesses often spend so much time focusing on themselves, their capabilities, their processes, etc., that they forget that it is their customers who are receiving the communications. Customers need to be the focus of your marketing efforts, which means you need to reach them using whatever channels they use to look for services. Businesses sell products, but customers look for solutions to problems. Stop focusing on YOUR PRODUCT or YOUR SERVICE….focus on your customer’s problems.

5)       Marketing Channels: As a tag along to #4, a lot of companies limit their exposure because they limit the channels they use to reach their customers. A truly integrated marketing communications plan is going to involve a number of marketing channels (social media, ppc, email, print, tradeshows, etc), so don’t be afraid to expand your presence and try new things.

Developing an integrated marketing plan can be challenging, but will prove to be worth the effort if executed properly. Contact me today if you want to discuss how Ward Marketing Consulting can improve your marketing efforts.