Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) means different things to different people. On one end of the scale, large companies today engage in partnerships and promotions involving advertisers, sponsors and consumers around Integrated Multimedia Marketing events using synchronized, integrated marketing efforts from product placement to TV shows to word-of-mouth advertising and more. On a smaller scale, Integrated Marketing applies to the small business owner making sure that each element of his personal Marketing Communication Mix is in sync with all the others.
This section explores how Integrated Marketing Communication applies to large and small organizations alike with the goal of coordinating the elements of the Marketing Communication Mix to the best effect. Integrated Sales and Marketing means two things: the various Marketing Communication Elements you employ should (a) deliver the same message and (b) create maximum marketing effect through synergy. The discussions below will cover these aspects in greater detail as well as provide further definition and guidance around IMC.
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Integrated Marketing Communication means different things depending on who you ask. Marketing guru Philip Kotler defined IMC as, "the concept under which a company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communications channels to deliver a clear, consistent message".
This concept is expanded on in the 4Cs of IMC which define how various Marketing Communication Mix tools should be coordinated in the following ways:
Do your various marketing communications make sense together as a whole? Each message within your Marketing Communication Mix should be part of the "bigger picture" in how it relates to other messages and your core sales and marketing theme.
Are your various marketing communications saying the same thing? The messages your customers receive through your various promotional efforts should not be contradictory and should all repeat your core sales and marketing theme.
How does your marketing message change over time? As well as coordinating communication tools and messages to be consistent, thought must be given to how the message you convey evolves through various stages in the sales cycle.
How do the sum of the parts of your communication effort come together? The beauty of a well-managed Integrated Marketing Communication effort is when the complementary synergy you create overall exceeds any one effort.
Another Perspective on Integrated Marketing Communication
The Journal of Integrated Marketing Communication describes IMC as, "a customer-centric, data-driven method of communicating with customers". According to the JIMC, "IMC - the management of all organized communications to build positive relationships with customers and other stakeholders - stresses marketing to the individual by understanding needs, motivations, attitudes and behavior."
In terms of this definition, Integrated Marketing Communication is synchronized with customer perceptions, attitudes and behavior. How do each of your marketing communication efforts measure up in terms of being customer-centric? Do your various marketing communications begin and end with the customer and their needs? Does your marketing communication "talk to" customers, addressing them directly in their language?
Being customer-centric begins with knowing your customer. A data-driven Integrated Marketing Communication approach is based on research and analysis to help you better understand your customers and how and why they buy. Where do your customers live? What are their goals and preoccupations? What are the best ways of reaching them and what message will be most impactful?
Your Marketing "Personality"
Thinking about your sales and marketing efforts as an extension of yourself leads to the concept of defining your Marketing "Personality". Who is the "you" that embodies your business? Is it a serious "you" or more "jovial"? How does this "you" relate to customers? Is it a relationship based on trust and expertise or more of a casual relationship as with a best friend? Is your Marketing "You" the same as you are in real life or "larger than life"?
The "Marketing Personality" that embodies your business can be either someone who represents your business or the personification of your business itself. TV ads are a good example of the first, where a go-getting mom, "cool" young person or trendy businessman is the central character to whom the target audience can relate. For smaller businesses, "Marketing Personality" will generally be an embodiment of the business itself.
What does "Marketing Personality" mean to your sales and marketing efforts? In terms of Integrated Marketing Communication all of your customer marketing communications should share the same tone and personality while focusing on conveying key customer benefits. Think about what you "Marketing Personality" is and make sure that your website, brochures, flyers and other communications reflect this personality.
Nowadays, The Personable Expert is the "Marketing Personality" adopted by many successful advertisers. Rather than the formal tone of advertising past, The Personable Expert is charming, funny and even self-depreciating in the way he delivers his message. Just think of the many TV and print ads that feature wit and humor to deliver a message in a casual way. Today's customers do not want to be preached to but won over as friends.
Implementing Integrated Marketing Communications
Based on the several definitions of Integrated Marketing Communications discussed above, there are obviously several factors to keep in mind while implementing IMC. Restated, the goals of IMC are (i) creating and presenting a unified "Marketing Personality" through whom you communicate with your customers and (ii)coordinating various sales and marketing activities for maximum impact.
IMC does not mean forced Marketing Communications. Putting on airs and assuming a "fake" personality is not what is meant by "Marketing Personality". As well, do not expect salespeople and others to behave exactly the same way with customers. Like false sincerity or a forced smile, concocted marketing efforts will largely fall flat. The human element should and will persist in your business. Rather, focus your "people" efforts on realizing Integrated Marketing Communication in the following ways:
Sales and marketing is not the sole prerogative of just the Sales and Marketing departments. Every department within a company should be aligned around creating value and creating customers. As such, it is not simply your responsibility but the total organization's responsibility to be aware of your go-to-market message.
Just as various company departments should be aligned around your marketing message, so the various management tiers within your company should be similarly aligned. Ideally, CEO, VPs, Directors, Managers and frontline employees should all be able to articulate your message and tie it to the various needs and benefits of peers within the customer organization as well as corporate objectives.
Within the Marketing Department itself it is important to keep everyone tuned is as your marketing message to evolve and new initiatives undertaken. Product Marketing, Field Marketing, Corporate Marketing, Event Marketing and other marketing disciplines should not work in isolation but rather in a coordinated way that fosters the exchange of ideas and creates new synergies.
Are there external partners who should likewise be kept up-to-speed on your marketing message? An obvious example is a Public Relations agency if your company uses one. Otherwise, Customer Advisory Boards, Partner Vendors, Focus Groups and others may have valuable input as well as a key role to play in establishing successful Integrated Marketing Communication.
Tying back to an earlier point, a key aspect of IMC in any shape or form is making sure that all players have access to the same customer and marketing data. As newer customer data is collected and as the marketing message and new initiatives are refined and developed, employees and partners should have access to the latest data via your CRM or other centralized data system.
Message Integration Vs. Response Integration
A final point about Integrated Marketing Communication takes us back to an example of a company that integrates a number of partners and activities around a single event in a large scale, dynamic marketing initiative. What is key here is that not only the message but the response itself is integrated. That is, how can a customer's response itself be used within the marketing process for maximum effect?
The best way to illustrate how Integrated Marketing Communication can be used to create a synergy greater than the sum of the parts is through a simple example. Think about how you can similarly integrate your own marketing activities and initiatives for maximum effect. You do not need a Network TV event or millions of dollars to effect creative ways to engage customers through a variety of means and use the information gained from each interaction in multiple ways.
Imagine a new mall that offers a customer rewards program to encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising. Customers can sign up for a "Rewards Card" which entitles them to a 5-10% discount on purchases at any store in the mall. Customers are also given a stack of other cards and told to hand them out to friends and acquaintances with the instructions that they will also receive rebates on what their friends purchase. Rewards Card numbers are used to track purchasing habits and make for ongoing offers and promotions in the future.
This example illustrates response-based Integrated Marketing Communication working on several messages. Every time the customer visits the mall they will be reminded of the message of savings and rebates with every purchase. In handing out cards to friends, invaluable word-of-mouth advertising is put in effect. Future promotions may include direct mail offers as well as additional card and rebates for active shoppers. An endless number of ways to extend the program are available to the mall including offers with partner businesses outside the mall.
Integrated Marketing Communication need not be a complex and time-consuming effort. Even if you are a small business it is possible to come up with many creative ways to tie your sales and marketing efforts together to provide a "common front" to your customer. How can you use the customer information you capture to best effect? What combination of promotions and incentives will make for an irresistible offer for your customers? Can you partner with other businesses in a win-win-win offering for customers?
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