Some of the largest and most successful companies of our time are marketing machines that actually produce very little except targeted and effective brand communications that sell products and services which are manufactured by outsourced third party entities. Apple, Walmart, Nike – you name the brand and there’s a huge probability that’s the template they operate under.
Successful brands all have one thing in common – exceptional marketing that speaks the same language to users across every single platform. The unification of different media is an important factor in a world where our attention is being constantly being yanked in twenty different directions, all at once. With integrated marketing, you make sure that your brand wastes no opportunity, time or place to reach out to a prospective customer.
Integrated Marketing Communications is a process that synchronizes the various modes of communication used by a brand to deliver a single, powerful message taking into account the needs of the end user and competitive market forces in order to achieve business goals.
The various tools that are used in the ‘Promotion’ stage from the 4Ps of Marketing, are used in a strategic way that brings together all their strengths and communicates a single unified message to the customer across all platforms. These tools include:
- Advertising (digital and traditional)
- Public Relations
- Direct Marketing
- Personal Selling
- On-ground Events
- In-store Communications (e-commerce and physical stores)
Consider it like conducting an orchestra – a variety of different instruments blend their tones together to produce a masterful symphony that blows you away.
How Integrated Marketing Helps your Brand
#1. No missed opportunities
Consumers are exposed to millions of marketing messages in a day across dozens of media platforms. Most of us reach a stage where we subconsciously tune out marketing messages and carry on with our day. Avoid this from happening to your brand by being present wherever the customer is. There will definitely be at least one part of their day when they are receptive to marketing communications – you don’t want to miss out that little window of opportunity by not being there.
#2. Multiplier Effect
When different media platforms come together and communicate the same message, they reinforce each other and leave behind a stronger impact on the customers’ minds. Even without realizing it, a customer associates certain visual and auditory cues with your brand and develops better brand recall.
#3. Complementary Effect
Choose media in such a way that they make up for each other’s shortcomings. For example, TV cannot be everywhere, but advertising the same video on YouTube ensures the same audio-visual impact of TV but in a totally different location.
#4. Stronger relationships with customers
Integrated marketing touches the customer at different levels. Build relationships with integrated marketing – it’s not just about bombarding people with your ‘buy more’ messaging. Leverage the access to deeper customer understanding via social media and integrate these insights into your brand communication for a more personal connection.
#5. Customer becomes a part of your communication
Integrated marketing draws heavily on customer insights from whichever source possible to craft a message that is tailored to the media habits and needs of the consumer. A customer who has had a positive brand experiences at your store will go online and write good stuff about the brand on social media. If you are absent on social media, you miss out on this great chance to connect with your customers who are also your brand ambassadors.
How do you carry out Integrated Marketing Communications
#1. Identify the target audience. Research them inside out.
Every market has multiple segments that can be targeted. Based on the SWOT analysis you carried out, identify that segment of the market that your product is best suited for.
Once you have identified your target segment, study it thoroughly to understand what drives them, what are their product preferences, what kind of media do they consume, what are their needs and problem areas, which brands do they currently favor and why.
Dig deeper into their level of interaction with your brand. Figure out what is their level of receptiveness to your marketing messages. Are they aware of your brand? Have they tried it before? Use survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics to understand the customer and develop communication based on this knowledge.
#2. Decide on Your Communication Objectives
Now that you have decoded your ideal customer and figured out their relationship with your brand, you need to set out what you want to achieve with your marketing communication. Communication objectives can include:
- Creating brand awareness
- Improving brand recall
- Prompting a trial purchase
- Encouraging customers to buy more
- Improving repeat purchase rates
- Educating the customer about different ways to use the product
- Increasing stickiness to the brand and so on
Make sure your goals are clearly spelt out, time bound, measurable and realistic. Assign responsibility to specific teams or individuals for the fulfillment of each goal to encourage accountability and increase the likelihood of achieving these goals. The DAGMAR approach to setting communication goals is a good approach to decide on what would be the best idea to communicate to your target audience. Check out these 3 Methods for Marketing Goal Setting for more inspiration.
#3. Choose your Media Mix
This is the key step that decides what platforms you will reach out to customers through and how you can exploit the synergies between these platforms to get the best out of your communication objectives.
Pick the right combination of advertising, PR, Sales promotion, on ground events etc. that best suit your brand and the ecosystem in which it operates. The media that your target audience consumes is a key factor that will decide your final choices. Set your budgets for every platform and select the exact channels within each based on the customer insights and product knowledge that you gained in the previous stages of the process. This would involve decisions like which social media network to engage with your customers on, which newspaper to publish your ads in, what locations to pick for your billboards and so on.
#4. Develop Exact Messaging
Many marketers tend to first decide on the messaging and then choose the promotion tools and media mix. But that is putting the cart before the horse.
Your media choices greatly affect the actual message that you will put in front of your customers. While integrated marketing communications requires you to have a consistent message across all your promotion platforms, you definitely need to customize the way you communicate on each platform. Your core message stays the same, with adjustments made for the medium.
For example, L’Oreal uses it’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ message across all its promotional material, but they make sure it is customized for the platform it is being used on.
Similarly, you cannot share PDF files containing extensive research on your Facebook fan page and expect it to be a viral hit. On the other hand, a PDF or eBook containing research useful to your target audience will work really well in your content marketing efforts. Here are some handy tips for brainstorming and creative thinking to develop messages that stand out:
Also check out my step by step guide to build a content marketing plan, so that you always have a constantly growing funnel of leads that will convert to customers based on the trust that you build in their minds.
#5. Test your Message and Media. Roll out post tests
Once the media mix and messages are ready, test them out before you take them live before your entire target audience. Almost every type of marketing message can be tested – website testing tools like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer help in checking conversion rates on your website messaging and layout; emails can be tested within most email marketing software for subject lines, time of send-out, messaging, CTA and more; TV ads can be shown to test audiences that are a representative of your target audience.
Once the testing is complete, factor in the learning from the tests and roll out the campaign.
#6. Track Key Performance Indicators and Monitor Progress
The objectives you set for your communication in the earlier steps will be your guiding lights to track the effectiveness of your campaign. Make sure your campaign follows targets; if it doesn’t, revise your tactics and reload your campaign.
Tools like Google Analytics, MailChimp, HootSuite or Nielsen Audience Ratings can be employed to track the performance of your different platforms like your website, email campaigns, social media or traditional ad campaigns.
#7. Feedback and Process Improvements
Once a campaign is rolled out, your work as a marketer does not end. Use the campaign metrics you get from your analytic suites and match them up against top line and bottom line figures. See what areas you’re doing well and where you’ve missed the mark.
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