How would you tell your personal story if you were a brand?
Think about how you would construct your personal story and tell it to others to create your unique “you-ness” and, more importantly, sell yourself as the best brand on the block.
If you’re like me, you likely have many different small attributes that contribute to your unique brand—qualities and talents that make you distinct. You also would likely need a number of different ways to tell and show people exactly what it is you do and who you are—a photograph, a podcast or an interpretive dance, for example—while at the same time sending a unified and consistent message.
The bottom line is people—and brands—are diverse. That means the way people market themselves needs to be just a diverse, while at the same time staying focused on a given person’s unique personality.
The use of multiple marketing channels to deliver a single strategy or identity is at the heart of “integrated marketing”.
What is Integrated Marketing?
Integrated marketing is a combination of marketing techniques—be it advertising, online multimedia, direct mail, social media, etc.— to construct and deploy a uniform marketing strategy and message for your business.
Integrated marketing typically involves a combination of both online and offline marketing channels aimed at creating a consistent and uniform brand identity through copy, design and customer experience.
Some of these channels can include:
- Consistent logos and design in online and print collateral
- Advertising with consistent visuals and messaging
- Direct marketing (i.e. direct mail, catalogs, emails, websites, online ads, etc.)
- Search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media
- Similar experience between your online store and retail location
When some or all of these tactics are deployed, they should contain consistent benefits, messaging and customer experience systems at each step of the customer acquisition process.
For example, a business with a successful integrated marketing strategy could deploy targeted direct mail that funnels potential customers to their website, which in turn encourages them to make contact with the company to purchase a product, or to engage with them on social media.
At each step of this process, the customer will be exposed to consistent branding and messaging that promises specific benefits and customer experiences. These promises will be delivered upon each step of the way, and will in turn create a complete and uniform impression of the brand for the customer.
Essentially, integrated marketing comes down to telling your customer who you are, showing them what you look like, demonstrating what you’re going to do for them, and the maintaining that “identity” throughout every contact.
What’s the best way to get to the heart of who you are, you might ask? As public speaker Simon Sinek always says, start with your “why”. You and your colleagues should get to the bottom of why you do what you do, and why you do it that way. Once you have your “why” locked down, you can start planning your integrated marketing plan to explain your “what” and “how” to customers.
The end goal of integrated marketing, therefore, is to help your customer identify you as a unique brand and, ultimately, to earn their trust and loyalty. Earning the trust of your customer comes down to being consistent and delivering on what you say you will do.
How Does One “Integrate” Their “Marketing”?
When planning your integrated marketing efforts, the two words that should be at the forefront of your mind are: strategy and consistency.
Like anything, the key to a successful integrated marketing strategy is creating a plan, and sticking to that plan for the duration of your marketing efforts. Diverting from the initial plan—whether by changing your messaging, design or promotions—can have detrimental effects on how customers view your brand.
However, an integrated marketing plan is by no means a stagnant strategy. Markets and customers are changing constantly, and so must your integrated marketing plan. You should build checkpoints into your integrated marketing plan to review its effectiveness. Integrated plans must be able to pivot and adapt with changing markets, while at the same time remaining true to your core brand identity.
Remember, “trust” and “know ability” are the two biggest benefits of integrated marketing. Changing your message and look can create confusion or, worse, distrust in your customer base.
So, when planning your integrated marketing efforts, you should stick to some of the following techniques to ensure a consistent and uniform marketing effort:
Put the customer at the center of your strategy.
At the end of the day, your customer is the person who will make or break your marketing efforts. So, you need to get to know your customer base—really know them. Conduct demographic studies, host focus groups, interview people in the industry—anything that will help you understand your target market will greatly benefit your integrated marketing efforts. This can be done by using tools such as Google Analytics, Keyword Planner, neighbourhood studies or Statistics Canada data. If you know of a platform that contains useful data to your marketing research, you should be using it in your integrated marketing plan.
Understand your brand and what you offer.
To sell your unique benefit you need to have a full understanding of what makes you unique. Take the time to really dig deep into exactly what your company has to offer and who you are as a business. Once you have an idea of all the things that make your company unique, you can start working on a clear message and identity that will be the backbone of your integrated marketing efforts.
Give yourself an identity and deliver consistent messaging.
Once you have established who your customer is and who you are, you can now construct an identity to sell you to them. Your brand design and messaging—be it slogans, promotions, value statements or long form copy—should be uniform across all channels to create a consistent and uniform brand.
Think of it as more than just a “campaign”.
You may have noticed that I’ve avoided using the term “integrated marketing campaign”. That’s because you shouldn’t think about integrated marketing as a single period of time or campaign effort. Integrated marketing through a variety of channels with consistency and clarity should be a permanent part of your business strategy. This will guarantee consistency and clarity in your brand identity on an ongoing basis, rather than just during a single season or sales period.
It’s a fusion of sales, marketing and service systems.
Integrated marketing efforts don’t just stop with your chosen marketing channels and messaging. They must be backed up by uniform sales and service delivery systems that will deliver on the promises you offer in your messaging. There’s no better way to ruin trust with your customer than to say you will do one thing in a specific way, and then not deliver on it when the customer needs you to. You business model should be planned and organized in a way that will propose a benefit and then deliver on the promise for a specific product or service from the initial contact, through to the final sale and customer support.
What Does Integrated Marketing Mean for “The Little Guy”?
Integrated marketing techniques are hugely effective for virtually all business sizes—from a small startup company all the way up to a large corporation. But how can an integrated campaign help small or mid-sized companies get the jump on the competition?
Well, for one, it can help save you huge amounts of money on marketing. Think about the fiscal consequences of having a disjointed marketing strategy—you will likely spend large amounts of time and money of potentially useless marketing ventures and, at the same time, may even be working against yourself due to a lack of a clear company voice.
For small to mid-sized companies who have a limited yearly marketing budget, a well-strategized integrated marketing model creates a clear focus of priorities for marketing, targeting and timing. This allows businesses to closely monitor what message they are sending into the market, when they do it, and how much they spend each time they do.
Another benefit of creating a clear needs-based integrated marketing strategy is that mid-sized companies can choose a single, well-rounded marketing company to handle their branding, messaging and online/offline marketing collateral. That means faster turn around times for marketing campaigns, seamless integration of multi-channel techniques to the company’s core messaging, and no more time and money lost from having to work across firms.
In today’s growing online and offline marketing environment, an integrated strategy can help mid-sized companies get their message out to more people, across more platforms faster and for less money.
Now that’s what I call a win-win!