No offense to Don Draper, but marketing was a heck of a lot easier in the 1950s. There were less than a hundred total TV stations, magazines, and radio stations, and that was about it. Most importantly, there was no internet.
Nowadays, the world of marketing is as fractured as it’s ever been due to the breadth and depth of channels. There are thousands of TV channels, radio stations, magazines, websites, social media networks, mobile apps, podcasts, and a whole slew of other channels that you can use to market — and unless you have the budget of someone like Nike, you can’t market on all of them.
To make matters worse, it’s increasingly more difficult to anticipate where your audience is spending their time. You could pour thousands of dollars a month into Facebook ads, but if your audience aren’t on Facebook to see them, that’s money down the drain.
And it’s not just where your audience is seeing your content, it’s when. Your audience might see a social post, then sign up for a newsletter, then read a blog, then finally come to your website to start the purchasing process — but that process could also happen in any other combination.
That’s why brand and marketing consistency across every channel and piece of creative content you manage is so important. No matter which channel a prospective customer is using, which of your materials they’ve already seen, or where they are in the purchasing process, a customer needs to be hearing the same message.
The classic example at the moment is Southwest Airlines. After operating in relative obscurity for decades, Southwest has shot to the top of the airline world, thanks in large part to a widespread, focused marketing campaign around one (made-up) word: Transfarency.
Transfarency does what it says on the can — gives you a plane ticket from one place to another at the exact sticker price that you see on the website, without tacking on bag fees and other hidden extras that can make budgeting a vacation so frustrating. By leaning into this one simple message on every website, social media account, and even printed napkin, Southwest has inundated travelers with the idea that they’ll get a better, more honest experience by flying Southwest.
The practice is called integrated marketing, and it’s a crucial part of any modern business’s marketing strategy. By integrating your branding, marketing campaigns, visuals, and messaging into a united front, you can avoid the pitfalls of an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape and stand out above your competition. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Integrated Marketing?
The main idea is that integrated marketing is a strategy to get all your marketing channels to work together on one unified campaign. Remember, this only applies for the course of the campaign, not forever — Coke’s Share a Coke campaign and Old Spice’s Smell Like a Man campaign were splashed on every channel for a while, but they gave way to new products and focuses. The point is that when you launch a campaign that highlights a new product, a new service, a rebrand, or some other major company message, that campaign should dominate your messaging no matter where it is.
Over time, your company is going to go through a lot of different messaging. That’s normal, and everyone hops from campaign to campaign — we haven’t heard “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” in decades. What’s important is that you’re not putting out a different message at the same time.
When companies do this wrong, you’ll notice. They’ll talk about their pricing in one ad, their scalability in another, and their features in a third. It’s impossible to boil down exactly what they’re trying to say because they’re saying so many different things, so their message gets lost in the shuffle. When someone asks, “Why does Company X want me to buy their product?” the answer should be clear.
When you go to the grocery store, you might just grab the first toothpaste you see off the shelf — for anything more expensive than that, you’ll probably take a second to consider your options. Outside the world of true impulse buying, no one buys anything without looking around and doing their research anymore. Lots of people even use their phones to research the product that’s right in front of them on the shelf, checking for better options, better prices, and user reviews.
Before a customer makes a major purchase (more than a few hundred dollars), they’re going to need some convincing. If you want to make the shortlist of products they’re considering, you have to get in their head. The common wisdom is that before they make a purchase, customers need somewhere in the neighborhood of half a dozen touchpoints with your product — blog posts they’ve read, Facebook ads they’ve seen, emails they’ve opened, mentions on review sites, and so on. The beauty of integrated marketing is that at each and every one of these touchpoints, no matter what order they see them in, they’ll be getting the same message nudging them toward a purchase.
The basic idea is similar to multi-channel marketing, which you’ve probably heard of. The difference is in planning. If multi-channel marketing is a pile of ingredients, integrated marketing is the finished meal — bringing every aspect together into one unified final product.
Why Does Integrated Marketing Work?
Today’s world is simply saturated with advertising and marketing at every turn. Every channel, every YouTube video, every Instagram feed, and every podcast is inundated with marketing messages at all times. According to some estimates, the average consumer sees something like 5,000 ads a day.
Integrated marketing helps you cut through all that clutter and stand out in the mind of your potential customers. One single podcast ad about how your software helps financial companies onboard new customers faster won’t stick out in people’s minds because they’ll hear another ad 30 seconds later. But if they hear your message on their morning commute, on their Facebook page, in an email at work, and on a YouTube video later that night, it’ll start to take root.
It also helps you emphasize a particular message. This can be a double-edged sword, in that it forces you, the marketer, to think of one particular message. There’s a temptation to shout out every possible benefit of your product in an effort to cast as wide a net as possible, but that just muddies the waters. Instead, think of the one thing that you’re emphasizing in this particular campaign, then lean into it. When people think of your company, they should think of that one benefit, not an amorphous list of pros and cons.
When you focus on that message, you get added benefits. First, your message can spread to a wider audience. Your audiences for each of your marketing channels will overlap, but not completely, so by putting the same message on all of them, you’re showing as many people as possible that you’re dedicated to this campaign.
Another added benefit is consumer trust. Your customers will see your dedication and commitment to a particular campaign at every touchpoint, and they’ll start to think of you as a company that sticks to your guns. Chipotle is the burrito company that uses ethically sourced ingredients. Patagonia is the clothing company that cares about the environment. Vanguard is the investment company that’s owned by its clients. The more you stick to a particular message, the more reliable you are.
Last but not least, using the same messaging across channels can save you a lot of money by allowing you to recycle your assets. One mid-length video can be broken out into shorter videos, slideshows, infographics, animations, still images, social posts, and emails, allowing you to save time that you’d otherwise be spending on making unique assets for every message and every channel.
How to Build an Integrated Marketing Campaign
So now that you’re on board with integrated marketing, it’s time to start building a campaign. A campaign is a long-term strategy, so you shouldn’t be doing this often. A given campaign should last at least six weeks, but some last years and cement themselves in the national consciousness:
- Apple’s Get a Mac (remember “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC”?)
- Nike’s Just Do It
- Dove’s Real Beauty
- The Marlboro Man
- Got Milk?
- De Beers’ A Diamond is Forever
- Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World
The length of a campaign will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish with it. If you’re launching a new product, it doesn’t make sense to keep pushing that product a year after launch. If you’re rebranding your whole company, it might take a long time to alter your public perception. Regardless of the length of your campaign, you’ll set it up the same way.
Start with Campaign Goals
Like we mentioned a second ago, there are a lot of different reasons to launch a marketing campaign. You might be launching a new product or expanding into a new market. You might be rebranding your company or trying to call attention to a little-known aspect of what you do. You might want to increase awareness, engagement, or conversions.
These aren’t the same as your company goals in general, though they should probably be aligned. Keep your campaign goals specific — each campaign should be focused on one goal at a time. You might be trying to increase sales in general while also launching a new product, but those need to be different campaigns.
Keep Your Goals SMART
You’ve probably heard this acronym before, but it’s a great idea, so we’ll go over it again. SMART goals are:
- Specific: don’t make vague goals, use specific language and measurables so that you know when you’ve hit them.
- Measurable: assign numbers to your goals. “Increase website traffic” isn’t a measurable goal — “increase traffic by 25 percent” is.
- Attainable: if your blog traffic went up by five percent last month, don’t set a goal to increase it by 25 percent this month. Instead, pick something more realistic, like eight percent.
- Relevant: every business is different, and it’s up to you to pay attention to the goals that will actually make you better. If your get most of your business from paid search ads, it probably doesn’t make much sense to put all your efforts into a new social media channel.
- Time-bound: set yourself deadlines. If you’re trying to raise blog traffic by five percent, how long do you think that should take? Five percent in a month is very different from five percent in a year.
You don’t absolutely have to structure your goals this way. SMART goals are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. But your goals are much more likely to be successful if they’re clear.
Choose the Right KPIs
KPIs are Key Performance Indicators — the measurable results that you choose to determine whether you’re actually doing better than you did before. The KPIs that matter to your company and your campaign will depend on what you’re prioritizing, and that’s fine — what matters is that you lay them out ahead of time. For example:
- Top content
- Lead generation
As long as you stick to the KPIs that you select at the beginning of the campaign, you’ll have a good sense of whether your integrated marketing strategy is having the results you wanted.
Finally, never forget about sales. Sales are not the primary goal in every campaign, but obviously sales are what keeps the lights on. You should try to predict how the campaign will affect your bottom line, even if that prediction is that you’ll lose money.
Choose Your Channels
Part of the difficulty of modern marketing is that there are simply so many channels to pay attention to. If you have the marketing budget of Coca-Cola, you can probably cast a wide net over every channel out there. If you don’t (and we feel comfortable guessing that you don’t), you’ll have to be more judicious about the channels you put money into.
Finding the Right Channels
It’s all about meeting your audience where they are. Facebook used to be the universal social media platform, but that’s shifting — usage among Generation Z and Millennials is way down on Facebook in recent years.
You should also consider how your product fits the platform. If you sell database software, for example, it’s probably not the sexiest thing to look at (no offense), so a visual medium like Pinterest or Instagram probably isn’t the best use of your time. If your brand doesn’t fit the professional set, don’t bother with LinkedIn. And so on. Consider the right combination of channels for your product and your audience. Here are some of your options:
- Advertising (in many forms)
- Direct marketing
- Personal selling
- Sales promotions
- Digital marketing
- Social media
- Events and sponsorships
Defining Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is an idealized version of your perfect customer. It should include their preferences, browsing habits, buying habits, income, age, location, and any other factors that might be relevant to your business.
It’s worth your while to define buyer personas for each of the channels you’re planning to market on — the people who frequent your Facebook page will overlap with the people who subscribe to your email list, but they won’t be exactly the same people, so you’ll need to know the difference. It might even behoove you to create segments within each channel — for example, if you have several notably different subscription levels for your product, you’ll probably have to segment your emails for each level.
Identify Channel Managers
Your next step will be to figure out who’s in charge of each channel. We’ll get your first idea out of the way — no, you can’t manage all these channels with one person. Depending on the size of your company and your audience, you might not even be able to manage each channel with one person.
You’ll need to work out before you start who’s in charge of each channel and how their duties overlap. Is the person posting to Facebook in charge of responding to comments, or do you have a separate person handling feedback on all channels? Is the person responsible for creating emails also in charge of scheduling and publishing? You’ll need clear communication between all your channel managers and content creators to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Finally, it’s time for execution. Creating content is the cornerstone of any integrated marketing campaign — the best strategic planning in the world will be meaningless if you can’t create the content that actually puts your message out there. Your content can take a myriad of different forms:
- Blogs: the core of any content marketer’s strategy, a blog is how you keep your customers interested and keep search traffic coming into your website. Blog posts that are tailored to the kind of search terms your customers prioritize are the best way to bring in viewers.
- Videos: videos are more engaging and more memorable than practically any other kind of content, which can make them well worth the extra time and effort required to create them
- Infographics: halfway between a text-heavy blog post and a time-intensive video, an infographic can add a bit of visual flair to otherwise dry data
- Case studies: when a potential customer is giving your product serious consideration, they’ll want to know for sure that you can solve their problem. A case study of the work you’ve done for previous customers can give them that confidence.
- Whitepapers, and Pillar Pages: think of these as long-form blog posts, designed to tell readers everything they need to know about a specific topic. Sort of like the one you’re reading now.
- User-generated content: getting your customers involved in your marketing is an excellent strategy. People like to be heard, and new customers like to see the opinions of their peers. This means sharing and repurposing social posts, testimonials, reviews, and other UGC to make their voices heard.
Your content should focus on versatility and adaptability — if you recall, one of the major advantages of integrated marketing is that you can reuse your content, so you should be creating content with that in mind. Every piece of content that you make should work on multiple platforms so you can get the most mileage out of your work.
Don’t forget about lead capture, either. As with revenue, lead capture isn’t the explicit goal of every campaign, but it’s certainly not something you want to pass up. Any chance for your campaign on a given channel to capture a lead that might turn into a customer is a good thing, so plan ahead.
First, what does lead capture look like on each channel? On your website, it might be as simple as filling in a form or signing up for your newsletter. On a social media post, you might define a lead as someone who clicks through to a landing page or follows you on that account. Whatever it is, you need to know how to measure success.
Second, are you set up to capture them? You’ll need some sort of CTA (call-to-action) on every one of your channels, whether it’s a “buy now” button or a link to subscribe or whatever else you think is fitting.
Finally, what happens to those people after they become leads? You don’t want to attract leads only to let them sit idle without reaching out to them, so you need to have a plan in place for an automated email, sales call, or some other means of contacting leads once they’ve been captured.
Last but not least — you can’t tell if your campaign is working if you’re not tracking all of your metrics. Modern technology has given marketers the ability to monitor any statistic or KPI they might want on intuitive, easy-to-use dashboards and third-party software that rolls it all together.
Not just that, but you can test different iterations of everything you publish. You can make two different Facebook posts or emails with different subject lines and see which one does better, and you should! The more you can learn about what your audience responds to, the better. Keep testing, keep iterating, and keep evolving.
Integrated Marketing Best Practices
Once you’ve got your integrated marketing campaigns up and running, there will be a few things to keep in mind to make sure they work as well as possible.
Item number one is communication. There could be dozens of channels to keep track of during the course of your campaign and an even higher number of people managing them, and everyone needs to be united around the same goals and objectives to make sure you’re as efficient as you can be.
You should also plan for channel transitions. People will come from one channel to another, and you should consider what a given piece of content will look like when you’ve just seen another. How much information will each channel need? If you’ve spelled out the features of a new product in an email, you probably don’t need to write about those same features in the landing page that it links to. Map out which channels are leading directly to each other and plan for what those transitions look like.
Don’t Forget Channel Overlaps
One area where people often miss opportunities is in the areas where your channels overlap. Your email signature can plug your social channels. You can put a splash frame at the end of your videos that sends people to a specific landing page. You can add social sharing links to your blog posts and landing pages that encourage people to share your work on other platforms or follow you on social media, and you can link right back from the bios of your social pages to your website and content.
The Bottom Line
Marketing is an ever-evolving science, and we marketers have to change our tactics all the time to keep up with the developments of the modern world. Channels are always changing, rising and falling in popularity, and it’s harder than ever to find the right way to appeal to your audience.
When you do find the right channels to appeal to your audience, you’ll need to maintain total brand consistency to ensure that your messaging cuts through the clutter of a world crowded with marketing. Integrated marketing allows you to put together unified, coherent campaigns that will keep your brand at the top of people’s minds for months (and, if you’re lucky, years) to come.
A professionally managed integrated marketing campaign can change the course of your business. If it’s time to turn trendlines in a new direction, reach out and we’ll collaborate to create a custom proposal based on your organizational characteristics, audience segments, specific growth goals and more.