What Is Integrated Marketing & Communications?
Integrated Marketing, Defined
Integrated marketing is the act of coordinating various messages and communication mediums for a common business goal. This cohesive communication promotes better brand awareness and increases the likelihood that consumers will purchase from your company.
Within an integrated marketing strategy, marketing experts will identify an objective or main message that a business would like to convey, determine cross-channel opportunities and develop a strategy that tailors that information for every platform and target demographic. Integrated marketing strategies uphold the four C’s in all campaigns: Coherence, consistency, continuity, and complementary.
Multi-Channel Marketing vs. Integrated Marketing
Multi-channel marketing is essentially the act of communicating with consumers through various channels. However, the messaging does not have to be quite so unified. On the other hand, integrated marketing and communications streamline those interactions across each channel into a cohesive objective and experience.
So, although multi-channel marketing and integrated marketing sound quite similar (they both use multiple channels, after all…) they are, in fact, very different. The good news is that excellent digital agencies are well-versed in many, many marketing strategies, and will be able to work with their clients to develop the tactics that will grow their business best.
Why Integrated Marketing Is Important
Integrated marketing is imperative because it helps businesses strike the perfect balance between a consistent message and a redundant one, enticing customers to develop a connection to a brand. And the top integrated marketing companies have access to resources that streamline each platform’s content towards an overarching, big-scale goal.
Customers don’t want the same exact copy, content, and calls to action on every channel. Otherwise, they’ll see that your motivation is stale, uninspired, and money-driven. However, an integrated marketing strategy enables brands to pinpoint each message to an objective while maintaining an organic, natural feel. This subtle yet important shift away from sales and towards an authenticity that boosts conversions. After all, 91 percent of consumers say honesty makes them more likely to actually purchase from a brand in the long run.
Marketing Efforts & Solutions
Integrated marketing initiatives provide a bevy of business solutions that help companies capture more consumers and increase revenue, including stronger click-through rates, brand recognition, and transparency between customer and company.
Forty-two percent of consumers distrust brands, and say that a lack of authenticity lessens their likelihood to purchase from a company -- but an integrated marketing initiative can reverse negative connotations. Integrated communications also increase brand awareness, which 82 percent of investors believe is the most important aspect in making investment decisions. Finally, the user-centric campaigns place a high emphasis on consistency (one of the four C’s, in fact). A consistent brand identity can increase revenue by up to 23 percent.
Integrated Marketing Channels
Integrated marketing campaigns can envelop content marketing, email marketing, retargeting, social media, word-of-mouth, experiential pop-ups and more. The best digital agencies are well-versed in assessing your audience and brand identity, then determine the digital channels your message will perform well on.
Overall, one of the best aspects of living in a digital world is that unique integrated marketing communications initiatives are even easier to execute because there are so many platforms. The key is to learn the channels that:
- Your consumers utilize.
- Will provide a return on investment.
Once you find out who your demographic is and what they enjoy, your team of marketing experts will be able to generate a fully-integrated strategy that will create a seamless experience for your users across every digital medium.
How Agencies Develop A Strong Integrated Marketing Strategy
Before you start writing copy and scheduling posts to publish, enlist the help of a great digital agency or team of experts to conduct some market research. Determine who your audience is on every social channel, website, and brick and mortar store, then see if there is some overlap that could lend itself to a cohesive integrated communications initiative.
Knowing exactly who your target audience is, how they interact with your brand, and what they think about your company and products as a whole is instrumental in crafting the most effective marketing messages and calls to action. Then, this information will be distributed on the channels they frequent most, ensuring that you are communicating the most important information to the most valuable customers for your brand.
Platforms & Channels
Once you conduct thorough market research, it’s time to secure the mediums that you will be using to communicate with your customers. The good news? The best integrated marketing agencies have access to top platforms and premium subscriptions that help clients produce authentic content which achieves a specific business goal.
Remember that the platforms and channels you use aren’t just limited to social media accounts and email providers. There are plenty of programs that can manage digital campaigns, identify online trends, gather consumer data, and track and analyze results in real time. Find an agency that uses top-of-the-line tools. This will enable them to adjust your marketing strategy immediately to secure the results you desire. Plus, ask if you’ll get access to the tools as well, empowering you to check up on your campaign’s success anytime, anywhere.
Integrated marketing and communications projects require a large amount of creative campaign work and data and analysis. Therefore, finding a team of top experts will set your brand up for stronger success.
Before you hire a marketing agency, discover which team members they plan to place on your project. Then, learn what their role will be, the qualifications they have, and -- most importantly -- the prior integrated marketing campaigns they have worked on. Discover what they brought to the table, what went wrong, and what they learned.
Pro Tip: If you aren’t happy with a potential team member, ask an agency for a replacement. The best marketing companies will work with you to craft a winning team you are confident in.
The results are in: Studies show that setting goals vastly increase our chances of reaching them -- and marketing campaigns are no different. In fact, the most reputable marketing experts are well-versed in creating personalized, detailed project timelines and achievable objectives.
Better yet, great integrated marketing experts can design a campaign to solve almost any business growth problem you’ve run into -- but the key is to keep things simple. Look at your data and business performance, then pick one goal to pursue through integrated communications. Because the hallmark of integrated marketing is a streamlined experience centered around one message, it is imperative to not cloud that objective with secondary tasks.
Integrated marketing agencies have varying price structures, and the final cost of a multi-channel campaign may vary. Therefore, it’s important to understand how much a project will cost you at the minimum, then determine any potential add-on costs that could drive the final price up.
As you are crafting your integrated marketing strategy, consult with experts about the possibility of paid media, boosted social posts, influencer collaborations, or even the cost of creating the content itself that may need additional funding. These unexpected mediums could charge a pretty (fluctuating) penny but may provide a strong return on investment at the end of the project and improve your brand’s reputation long-term.
Top Channels Engaging Consumers In Integrated Marketing Campaigns
It’s no surprise that, in 2018, businesses rely on digital media to deliver content. Common digital marketing platforms used in integrated marketing campaigns include websites, search engine optimization tactics, company blogs, email marketing campaigns and newsletters, paid advertising, and more.
A large benefit of digital marketing strategies is that your brand has first-hand control over the message, and can, therefore, craft it to your liking and integrate it seamlessly with your other platforms.
Despite living in a digital age, we shouldn’t discount the importance of traditional media outlets. While internet-based marketing strategies have the potential to reach thousands -- if not, more -- people in an instant, traditional marketing tactics have decades of success and best practices behind them.
Because of this, coupling digital marketing initiatives with traditional marketing is an effective way to integrate a marketing campaign and maximize its potential. Some examples of traditional media include billboards, signs, posters, newspaper and magazine ads, traditional television commercials, and radio spots.
Many brands partner with other businesses, spokespeople or influencers to either co-produce a marketing campaign or simply advertise their product. Depending on the contract agreed upon, this could include additional posts and promotional material on their social media channels, websites and beyond.
A great example of a brand partner in action is Instagram influencers. Brands create a contract that requires influencers to promote a product in a somewhat organic nature to their followers. Other stipulations to this partnership may also exist, but you’ll be able to spot these partners as you scroll through the app with the well-known required hashtags #spon, #sponsored, #partner or #ad.
Although social media is technically a subset of digital marketing, its benefits are so great it truly deserved its own section. In fact, content consumption on Facebook alone grew 57 percent in 2016.
Brands can incorporate social media into integrated marketing campaigns in a few ways. They can either share their other digital marketing content, such as blog posts created for the website in accordance with the objectives. Conversely, they can create new original content specifically for the social media networks.
Word of mouth marketing is essentially the process of letting your consumers do your marketing for you, free of charge. This act of “spreading the word” is directly related to your quality of products or services, as well as your brand recognition. A strong product backed by an honest and trustworthy brand will have more people completing word of mouth marketing to promote it to people they know.
It turns out that word of mouth marketing actually results in $6 trillion annual consumer spending and around 13 percent of sales -- that’s over five times more than a paid media impression! What’s more, 90 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that a friend uses.
How The Best Integrated Marketing Agencies Create Effective Omnichannel Marketing Campaigns
What Is Omnichannel Marketing?
Omni-channel marketing creates a seamless experience across multiple channels, which typically results in returning customers and increased conversions. This digital marketing strategy centers on online retail, enabling shoppers to easily purchase a product from a smartphone, tablet, mobile app or desktop website with the same user experience. It is an effective tactic, especially considering that consumers use an average of 4.3 devices throughout any given day.
Don’t confuse omni-channel marketing with multi-channel marketing, though -- there are key differences in their functions and results. But in layman’s terms, omni-channel marketing is focused on completing an action online, while the goal of multi-channel marketing is to build brand awareness and communicate with consumers.
Omnichannel Marketing Creates A Consistent User Experience
The best omni-channel marketing agencies help brands present themselves consistently across every digital platform, which increases brand awareness, conversions and overall revenue.
In fact, companies that are presented consistently across every digital and physical channel are three to four times more likely to achieve brand awareness and see up to 23 percent higher revenue. Plus, 87 percent of consumers wish brands had better multi-platform consistency, proving that customers crave a simple, recognizable shopping experience.
Top Integrated Marketing Firms Build Intuitive Customer Journies Through Omnichannel Tactics
The top omnichannel marketing agencies know the importance of the customer journey and have access to the best tools and experts to track their journey both on the website AND on various devices.
According to a study from Google, 90 percent of consumers transition between multiple devices just to accomplish one goal, such as a purchase. Therefore, businesses need to implement a strong omni-channel marketing strategy to ensure consumers complete the desired action easily and make certain you reach your business goals.
Omnichannel Marketing Can Expand Brick & Mortar Store Sales
Amazing marketing agencies can improve a brick and mortar business by promoting their brand, services, and products across multiple areas, which creates the perfect opportunity to simultaneously take consumerism online through omni-channel marketing. This is particularly helpful to smaller businesses.
For example, optimizing your website for SEO, crafting the best marketing messages and designing a user-friendly website design with your partner digital marketing firm provides a great opportunity to expand your retail business by creating a customer-centric e-commerce shop. After all, if you’re already working on improving your marketing strategy, you might as well do so in a way that increases revenue and improves user experience.
SEO & Omnichannel Marketing Work Hand-In-Hnad To Increase Online eCommerce Conversions
Top marketing agencies that facilitate an excellent omni-channel marketing strategy will also improve your brand’s general SEO optimization. This is because so many of the same tactics that create a user-centric multi-channel experience also encourage Google to rank your website higher.
Great omni-channel marketing goes hand-in-hand with a strong and cohesive user experience, mobile-friendly optimization, intuitive navigation and fast site speed -- all of which Google rates highly when deciding who to rank on page one and who to penalize. These higher rankings will translate into more traffic, where your omni-channel approach will create conversions and great customer experiences, resulting in more revenue and even higher rankings. It’s a sweet cycle!
Omnichannel Marketing Is Expected To Change For The Better In The Future
Customers Will Be Able To Target Demographics Better
As omnichannel marketing continues to develop in the coming years, top digital agencies and their clients will be able to understand their consumers better, ensuring that they continue to improve the customer journey.
One of the best aspects of digital marketing and e-commerce is that everything is trackable -- brands will always know who users are, the actions they take (or don’t take), and the messages and CTAs that are lost in translation. But knowledge is power, and having access to this information empowers companies to rectify any bumps in the conversion funnel, ultimately making it more successful. As agency tools develop even better technology, demographic identification and targeting will improve.
CPaaS Will Integrate Websites, Mobile Apps & Customer Communication
Communication-Platform as a Service (CPaaS) refers to a cloud-based platform that helps companies integrate communications-based features into their websites and mobile apps without needing the time, money or energy to build it themselves. These B2C conversations are real-time, improve overall user experience, and can even be managed by a team of experts who have used the programs successfully in the past.
With the explosion of multi-channel e-commerce, allowing consumers to converse with businesses helps build trust, which, studies show, increases the likelihood that a consumer will purchase from your website. Because CPaaS services can often work on various channels due to their roots in the cloud, they also facilitate a seamless experience across each device.
Social Media Will Become More Prevalent In Omnichannel Conversions
In an increasingly digital world, it only makes sense that omnichannel marketing and social media marketing will eventually converge -- but some brands are already dabbling in incorporating e-commerce into various social networks.
For example, platforms such as Curalate and RewardStyle enable brands to integrate separate image-based content feeds into their Instagram accounts and facilitate low-level shopping assistance for users. Now that brands are recognizing the importance of a seamless experience across every channel and the growing reliance on social media, this integration will likely become smoother and, perhaps, even hosted directly on the social networks themselves.
Customers Will Have More Control Over Their Online Experiences
The best omnichannel marketing agencies know that your e-commerce and digital strategies aren’t based on what you, the brand, want -- it is driven by consumer demand and experience. Therefore, users will begin to inform a brand’s omnichannel tactics more and more as this e-commerce tactic gains popularity.
Not every brand will need to optimize for each and every possible channel and device out there, because their demographic probably won’t use them all. Instead, a team of marketing experts will be able to determine the platforms that their demographics use the most, allowing brands to focus on creating a strong UX that is directly informed by consumers’ wants and needs.
Brands Will Achieve Higher Revenue
Brands that implement a cohesive omnichannel marketing strategy see an average 9.5 percent increase in revenue year-over-year. In fact, companies with subpar omnichannel retail even see more than a 3 percent revenue increase, while brands without omnichannel could lose up to 10 percent of their annual revenue.
So, the data, statistics and consumer behavior all tell us the same thing -- customers crave an omni-channel world. They want the freedom to shop from various platforms and devices while maintaining the same experience. But the numbers also tell us that when brands give users what they want, they are rewarded with higher conversions, more purchases, and a revenue increase. And when businesses start noticing this, too, they’ll boost their bottom lines.
How To Choose The Best Integrated Marketing Company
Top integrated marketing companies will first learn about a brand before they begin formulating strategies. So many of the integrated marketing initiatives -- particularly word-of-mouth- rely on how consumers perceive a brand, which is a huge aspect of its overall identity.
Therefore, learning how it works, what its mission is, the services it provides, and its general demographic are the keys to a successful marketing campaign. These characteristics can, of course, change and evolve, but it is imperative to find the agency willing to learn the foundation first.
Integrated marketing by nature requires several platforms and mediums that brands need to communicate to their audience on. However, not every channel suits every brand’s target demographic or business goals.
However, the best integrated marketing companies are able to collaborate with clients to determine the goals they need to achieve, people they need to reach and, thus, the platforms that will make those objectives a reality. Ensure you search for integrated marketing companies that are also familiar with emerging platforms. This will keep you ahead of big trends and help you capture consumers before your competitors do.
The best integrated marketing companies attract top talent who want to work on exciting campaigns and innovative brands. Because of that, they have access to leading marketing experts, filled with creative campaign ideas and strategic insight.
Ensure that each and every expert working on your project understands your business as well as your internal employees do. A team member who is less dedicated than the others may compromise the overall success of the project. In addition, take the time to make certain each person has the expertise and work experience to complete their tasks well.
Great integrated marketing companies are well-versed in gathering data, analyzing brands, determining demographics, then creating a comprehensive marketing strategy that spans several channels. Their guidance in creating a streamlined plan of action can result in strong success and overall business growth -- especially because internal teams then have the time to dedicate to other projects.
In addition, these agencies continuously track a campaign’s performance on each channel and provide reports. If a certain area is not delivering the expected results, they use the data to pinpoint why and adjust the strategy as-needed.
Each integrated marketing agency has a different pricing structure. Perhaps they charge based on the results they deliver, or bill for the hours they work on a campaign. Ensure you know exactly how much you’ll be charged for a project AND understand exactly which team members and support you are entitled to.
In addition, inquire about any secondary costs, such as hidden fees or paying for new platforms. Knowing the minimum and maximum costs a campaign could cost you will help you budget within your department and secure necessary funds.
Questions To Ask An Integrated Marketing Firm
Top integrated marketing agencies have top industry tools and resources to identify a target audience and mold their tactics to fit with every client’s individual identity. Make sure you find the professionals who will adapt to fit your needs instead of confining you to their personal preferences.
- What experience do you have in our industry and how did you get it?
- How will you identify our demographic and/or target audience?
- How do you plan to adapt your tactics to our brand?
- Describe our brand identity. Are there any areas you would sharpen up or reimagine to make our identity clear for consumers?
- How would you describe our copywriting tone? Do you think it is effective?
One of the most important aspects of an integrated marketing campaign is the central message that is communicated in several ways across many channels. But to truly be effective, this message needs to be rooted in an achievable goal. Ask the following questions to determine if a marketing agency has the expertise to set clear objectives that will grow your business.
- How will you determine objective(s) for our campaign? How will this goal grow our business?
- How will you decide the correct timeline for the project?
- How do you plan to keep the campaign on track?
- What process will you utilize to adapt the message to each unique medium and channel?
- What platforms, tools, and resources will you use to set and measure goals?
- What programs will you use to produce and/or publish to the content for each channel?
- Will we have access to any programs and/or will we need to pay for them?
A great integrated marketing agency will have a large portfolio of prior work that showcases their ability to determine a message, reach consumers, and grow a business across many mediums. Before you hire an agency, make sure you do your own research and see the clients and projects they have worked with. Then, ask each agency for their take on the partnerships, outcomes, and lessons learned.
- What previous campaigns have the agency/this team worked on and what was the outcome?
- What is the trickiest aspect of a successful integrated marketing campaign? How do you plan to overcome that?
- Tell us about an unsuccessful campaign. What do you wish you had done differently and what lessons have you learned that will assist our project?
- What clients have you worked with recently? Would they be willing to speak to us directly about their experience working with you?
Integrated marketing spans many platforms -- social media, content marketing, paid media, retargeting, and more. The experts you need will depend on the channels you intend to focus on and the goals you aim to reach. For optimal business growth, find a great agency with access to top professionals who are experienced in the digital marketing areas your brand is concentrating on.
- Who will be working on this campaign? What is their experience within each channel?
- What successful projects have they worked on, and how did their work help grow the client’s business?
- What will each person’s role be? How dedicated will they be to the project?
- Is there an overarching project manager who will be handling inter-departmental collaboration and communication?
- Who will be creating the content on every platform? Will this cost extra?
- Who is our point of contact?
- How often will we be consulted throughout the strategy forming, content creation, and publication process?
Top integrated marketing agencies are ultimately contracted for one reason: They deliver results and strong returns on investment. But not every marketing firm is created equal, and it’s up to you to find the best agency to grow your company. The questions below will help distinguish the experts who are worth your while from those you should skip.
- How often will you measure results?
- What metrics do you use?
- How often will we get reports?
- If a campaign is not performing, how do you plan to adjust the strategy to achieve the results needed?
- Will we have direct access to results?
- How often can we expect meetings and briefings about the success of the campaign? Are we capped at a particular number of meetings?
- What will your course of action be if a goal is not met by the end of the integrated marketing initiative?