Marketing touches every part of our lives. From the free toy you find in your box of Cheerios in the morning to the sponsored articles you read on your favorite news app to billboards outside your office window to pile of junk direct mail you pick up from your letterbox on the way back home -- everything is driven and determined by marketing.
Anyone who has studied the fundamentals of marketing, is aware that marketing is made up of four basic elements and the various interactions they have with each other. These four elements are:
The first three elements of the marketing mix -- Product, Price and Place are controlled entirely by the producer / service provider. The features of your product, the color and size options, where you will sell it, at what price-- all of these are decisions that a company makes independently. Besides the marketing team, various other teams are involved in making decisions on Product, Pricing and Place (distribution).
Promotion or Communication is the one aspect of the marketing mix that is solely handled by the marketing team. It is also the only part of the mix that is affected by the end user on a real time basis.
Your decisions about what message to communicate, which mediums to choose or how often to communicate depend on how open your target audience is towards receiving your communication, what they do with the communication once they receive it.
This fourth P of the marketing mix; Promotion, is at the core of Integrated Marketing Communications.
In other words all the tools used in the promotion stage of the marketing mix need to work together and communicate the same message for maximum impact.
Before we proceed, lets take a quick look at what promotional tools an average marketer has access to and what each one brings to the table.
While we can always dig deeper and understand the theory behind each step of an Integrated Marketing Communication plan, I would prefer to come up with a more practical checklist of steps that any marketer can tick off and achieve Integrated Marketing Communication on a day to day basis.
#1. Get organizational buy-in.
Integrated marketing requires co-ordination between various functional silos within marketing -- media planning, buying, marcom, PR, sales, advertising agencies, PPC & SEO agencies and so on. Ensure the organization recognizes the need for integrated marketing and impresses this need upon all involved parties for smooth execution. Get ideas from different functional teams on their ideas and how they can contribute to an integrated marketing program. Set up clear collaboration processes and zero in on tools to help you do the same.
#2. Do a SWOT analysis of your brand.
A soul searching process that will tell you exactly where you stand in terms of your brands strengths, weaknesses, opportunities that can be explored and competitive and market forces that pose a threat to your brands growth. Identify your products key features that give it an edge over competition and how you can leverage the same to gain market share.
#3. Choose the Best Communication Tools.
Based on what you intend to achieve with your communication and what kind of media consumption habits your target audience displays, pick the right type of communication tools to reach out to your audience. This means choose between advertising, PR, direct marketing, sales promotion and personal selling. Whatever options you zero in on, need to work in tandem and complement each other. This synergy between promotion tools is what gives integrated marketing its edge over regular marketing.
Within each type of communication tool, drill down to the actual media vehicles that will carry your message most effectively. So if you decided to go with advertising and direct marketing, decide what media you will advertise on, whether you will go with brochures or fliers or email campaigns to achieve your objectives.
Media mix decisions also depend on your budgets and the estimated ROI you hope to achieve from each media vehicle. Create exact budgets for each media vehicle to guide media buying decisions.
#4. Test and Execute
Once you have decided on your messaging and media mix, its finally time to test your communication and roll it out to your target audience.
Communication testing can be done in many ways, depending upon the platform being tested. Website communication can be tested with multiple online tools, emails can be tested on the email marketing software that you use before being sent out, TV commercials can be shown to test markets to test effectiveness, conduct group discussions with the sample groups to see if your communication hits bulls eye.
Once testing is complete, fix any issues that you unearthed. Once the fixes are made, roll out your campaign across all platforms. Or in Nikes immortal words, Just Do It.
#5. Measure Results and Track Progress
There is no way to know how well a campaign performed without measuring the results achieved against the objectives set out in the beginning. Obsessively track every step of your marketing campaign to see if your marketing efforts have moved the needle and how significant is the difference that the campaign has made to organizational goals.
Tracking and measurement against numeric objectives is even more important in the case of marketing communication as sometimes, communication is well received and appreciated by the target audience but it may or may not show concrete results.
Integrated Marketing Communications is not like a software package that you can buy, install and run in one go. It is a far-reaching change that affects every aspect of the organization, external agencies as well as the end user.
The attempt is to make all the various marketing tools that we have at our disposal to work together in a synergistic manner so that they make up for each others deficiencies. That is easier said than done. Give your organization time and solid direction on how to go about this process and see how the fruits of collaboration and marketing synergies come together to build a stronger, more successful brand in the long run.