By: Sharon Berman,
Published: Los Angeles Business Journal
The term “integrated marketing” is bandied about a great deal these days, but what does it really mean, and why are so many people using it? Even more to the point, should you develop an integrated marketing program for your business?
Webster’s defines “integration” as “the combining or coordination of separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, integrated whole.” To derive the maximum impact from the money, time and effort you devote to marketing, you need to develop and implement a program in which every element fits logically and contributes to the overall undertaking.
Integrated marketing can enable a company to reach its objectives relatively quickly and efficiently, which is the reason so many people are talking about the concept nowadays. It’s also why you would be well advised to develop such a program for your business.
Creating an integrated marketing program takes considerable thought and planning. The first thing to do is to step back, take a deep breath and get an overall perspective on where your business has been and where it is right now.
The next step is to set your objectives. Simply stated, you need to know where you want to go before you can get there. Quantify your objectives as much as possible, and put a time frame on them. For example, one objective might be to acquire at least 10 new customers in the next quarter. Always break down your big, long-term objectives into smaller, more manageable goals.
Define the message
Your communication points are vital for cementing various marketing elements into an integrated whole. The key messages you want to put out need to be consistent across all marketing vehicles – including your printed materials, Web site, and public and media relations. You may tweak your messages for specific market segments, but the core of the messages should remain the same.
Write down the three main messages about your business that you want people to receive. Don’t worry about being a great wordsmith; the important thing is just to get the words on paper so you can more easily identify your essential communication points. Once you’ve done that, be sure to use them consistently in all mediums.
Another element in the glue that holds together your integrated marketing effort: your corporate identity and design standards. Because you want your markets to immediately recognize your firm by its corporate identity, everything you put out should look like it comes from the same family. If you already have a company logo, make sure it communicates what you want it to. If you don’t yet have a graphic identity for your company, start developing one.
Once you have your company “look,” put together some basic graphic standards so that everyone who uses your logo will have guidelines to follow. For example, if your logo is a specific shade of red, make sure people who’ll be applying the logo know what precise color it should be. This will help ensure that your identity remains consistent.
Think about which marketing tactics – the front-line activities that will help you reach your objectives – you’re going to employ. Possible tactics include advertising, e-commerce, public relations and media relations, among others.
You may have heard the term “marketing mix” lately. It refers to the fact that a good marketing program uses a combination of elements, integrating them in a way that makes the whole stronger and more effective than the sum of its parts. Remember, there is no single magic route to marketing success. You should employ a variety of tactics, and each should complement and reinforce the others.
If you are launching a new Web site, for instance, use several tactics to attract visitors. In the public relations arena, you might become an official sponsor of one or more conferences to draw attention to your new site. Also, you might set up a booth at trade shows to generate curiosity about the site.
Timing and focus
As part of your media relations game plan, you might position a company spokesperson as an expert in whatever field your Web site focuses on. And you might develop attention-getting, informative advertisements that will make your target audience want to go online to take a look. Finally, you might develop a memorable direct mail piece that piques your prospective customers’ interest in your site.
In life, timing is everything – and that’s certainly true when creating an integrated marketing program. (Example: Launching an advertising campaign late can reduce or even obliterate the payoff from your marketing dollars.) Put together a timetable showing when the planning for each marketing activity should start, and when the actual execution of the activities should take place.
Keep in mind that your integrated marketing program may allow for certain cost efficiencies in your budget. For instance, you may be able to design and print your marketing materials together with the graphics for your trade show booth – and that could save you a considerable sum of money. In any event, definitely put together a budget for your integrated marketing program, so you can plan ahead for your cash flow and are not caught off guard down the road.
Your integrated marketing plan should not stop once it is executed. As part of your strategy for success, it’s important to measure results whenever possible. For example, you might determine the number of hits on your Web site, or the number of phone calls generated by a direct mail campaign. Not every tactic is easily quantifiable and tracked, of course, but it’s important to keep tabs on things if you can.
With planning and thought, you can develop and carry out an integrated marketing plan that will maximize your results. What are you waiting for?!
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.
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