a division of Arnabal International
Login Contact OCT Group

Call 800-443-8937 Today!
target marketing Services FAQs Published Articles About Us Get Started!

Intergrated Marketing Communication... Your Competitive Advantage.

By Duane Sprague

There are many misconceptions about what integrated marketing communication really is. So let me distinguish it from what most people think it is. Typically, when people refer to an integrated communication strategy, they are referring to integrated advertising. Integrated advertising is the one look, one voice concept, where all of the advertising material and messages have a common look, feel and message. This is certainly one aspect of integrated marketing communication (IMC), but IMC goes much further to permeate every planned and unplanned communication at every contact point where the customer or prospect may receive an impression of the company. IMC incorporates the corporate mission, the compensation plan, the management style, and the employee training. It includes packaging, positioning, promotions, pricing, and distribution.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a comprehensive, consistent, goal oriented, focused and planned methodology to marketing and communication. And it is the hottest trend in marketing communication today.

IMC ties together the leading-edge business principles of Management By Objectives, Total Quality Management, Relationship Marketing, Targeted Marketing, Direct Response Marketing, Mission Marketing, and Database Marketing.

The foundation of IMC starts with sufficient research to understand who the target market is, where they are, what they want to hear, how they want to be communicated with, and how they define a positive relationship with the organization. By focusing a consistent and appropriate message to your defined market, you can break through the competitive, unfocused, inconsistent and off-target clutter.

While the competition is trying-this-and-trying-that, a little-here-and-a-little-there, throw it all against the wall and see-what-sticks approach, the IMC organization is reaping the rewards of building a solid brand image-an identity, and top of mind awareness for its product category. By remaining consistent in its marketing message, consistent in its service and shopping experience, which supports the experience the advertising says they will have, they are building trust with their customers and prospects. And trust is the cornerstone of a long-term customer relationship.

IMC is a process, not an event. It is an all encompassing strategic and tactical approach to every facet of your marketing communication. Including mass media advertising, niche market advertising, interactive marketing, direct response and direct mail, events, promotions, PR, in store displays, packaging, distribution methods, pricing strategy, store locations, employee uniforms and dress codes, sales approach, database marketing, contact management, follow-up systems, corporate communication, corporate mission statement, cause related or mission marketing and relationship marketing.

IMC manages every message contact point within your organization, including the way telephone operators, greeters, sales people, finance people, service people, and others relate to, talk to, prioritize and deal with the public. It includes your hiring and training practices, compensation plan, job descriptions and management style.

IMC creates processes and logistical systems to build and maintain customer databases for follow up to provide customer requested information, to retain and grow customers, and for customer conflict resolution.

To be effective, IMC must tear down the traditional departmental walls that create information silos and management fiefdoms. All departments must work together as a unified team to carry out the strategic plan in total unison. One aim, one mission, one message and one experience. Customers and prospects are treated in the same way no matter what department or individual in the organization they deal with. Each employee has easy and quick access to customer files in order to respond quickly, intelligently, and accurately to questions or problems. Every transaction and interaction the customer has with the company is recorded on the same company-wide database.

A cross-functional communication management team is established. This team consists of department heads across the organization. A team leader oversees, organizes and coordinates the group, but does not dominate the direction, discussion, or ideas. Each departmental head generates ideas, aids in the communication strategy development, implementation, management, training, and results tracking for his or her own department. They make sure all communications are on strategy, on target, and approved by the team leader or IMC Manager. There is no individual departmental marketing of independent messages, themes, or looks. The cross-functional management team in an integrated company essentially expands the marketing responsibility beyond the marketing department and makes each employee a marketing representative.

A communication generalist is part of the team, to recommend, implement, manage and evaluate the appropriate research techniques, tactics, media options, strengths and weaknesses, costs, and efficiencies. This person cannot be biased toward a single medium, and should not be paid media commissions. This person acts as a consultant and resource for finding the appropriate specialists and media outlets. The IMC Manager ensures that every communication is on strategy before it is released.

Employee compensation plans and bonuses are structured to reward not only transactions but for customer retention and satisfaction as well. Employees are be rewarded for being pro-active in solving problems and complaints quickly and completely. They are rewarded for superior customer service that keeps customers coming back and recommending the business to others.

Communication strategies place equal emphasis on communicating with, and not just to, customers and prospects. An interactive two-way dialog vs. monolog is actively pursued and supported. True communication vs. pure mass media advertising is developed. Customers and prospects are to be invited and encouraged to discuss ideas, register complaints, and give feed back to the organization. Two-way communication is made easy, fast and non-confrontational.

The organization values its customer base (revenue stream), its employees (revenue creators), and its sophisticated database (communication system) more than brick and mortar.

At the core of the marketing strategy is a mission statement. The mission statement explains very briefly what the organization stands for and why it exists (beyond making money for the shareholders). The mission statement defines what drives or motivates the organization and its employees to perform exceedingly well.

Also at the core of the marketing strategy, is a mission marketing program. Mission marketing is similar to cause-related marketing, but it is on a bigger scale, is long-term, focused and integrated, permeating the organization at every level.

With a mission marketing plan, the organization adopts a single charity, fund or cause, and becomes the sponsor and the champion of that cause. Every customer, prospect and employee is aware of it. A percentage of every sale goes to support that single cause, and such fund-raising and support is actively communicated to the media and public using appropriate IMC tools and tactics.

The cause is broad based so as not to alienate customers. It is a neutral cause usually without political, religious, or ethnic ties, unless of course, this is your niche market. The cause is on-going. Examples include the Children's Miracle Network, Make A Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, The Primary Children's Hospital, and The American Cancer Society. It can be a local or a national cause, as long as your organization is a big and recognized part of it. The cause must be willing to work with you, and help support your fund-raising efforts and IMC objectives.

The mission marketing statement helps significantly to separate you from the crowded arena of look-alike competitors. It gives you a legitimate and newsworthy venue for free media exposure, and it gives people one more reason to do business with you. Mission marketing is one of the most powerful, yet misunderstood and underutilized branding strategies available.

The communication budget is zero-based. In other words, the budget is not determined by last year's spending, or a percentage of sales revenue, or on whatever is left over after all other expenses are paid. It starts at ground zero and is built to meet the defined communication objectives and desired results. If the communication objectives are met, then the sales goals are met, and the return on investment pays for proper strategy implementation. If the funds are not available to finance the defined objectives, secondary communications are scaled back or stretched out over time. Never is the quality or implementation of the IMC plan eroded. If the plan is sound and based on sufficient research, the investment is justified.

This, of course, assumes that the proper research, strategy, tactics, training, and resources are in place to implement and capitalize on the plan. Most marketing campaigns fail because they lack proper funding to achieve stated goals.

The perfect campaign consistently interweaves a big creative idea into every communications message. The big idea may be a creative way to position the brand, explain a key benefit, portray the quality, or demonstrate the utility. However, don't wait for that big idea to hit like a lightening bolt. If the big idea doesn't come, roll forward with the best you have. A campaign that is consistently on target with its audience, message, and offer, has sufficient reach and frequency, and is integrated throughout the organization will likely be successful. On the other hand, a great creative execution of a poorly defined strategy, with little or no supportive research likely will fall far short of its objectives.

In addition to zero-based budgeting, zero-based communication planning is used. As such, all media and communication options are treated equally, absent bias, commission structure, or personal preferences. The best tool(s) for the strategic objectives are utilized. Analyze each medium based on the chosen strategy, the message to be conveyed, the relevance of the medium to the target audience and its media consumption habits. Next, analyze cost per point or cost per impression, as well as production costs associated with each medium, and weigh the differences. It is always better to use a mixture of appropriate media to complement and leverage the campaign message. Remember, every medium has distinct strengths and weaknesses.

As with any effective marketing effort, serious attention is paid to the details of implementation, including quality of production, effective media placement, appropriate timing of message delivery, and flawless promotion.

"There is always free cheese in a mousetrap." So remember that it takes trained and talented people to carry out the plan at every level. And talented people cost money. It helps to keep the definition of insanity in mind: "Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result." In other words, if you always call on the same talent pool, utilize the same advertising media, or use the same tactics hoping to generate completely different results, you consistently will be disappointed. Look at a variety of sources for implementation and inspiration.

It takes an unbiased individual with a very broad, and yet specific, understanding of every aspect of advertising, marketing, promotions, PR, relationship marketing, research, and branding to effectively manage an IMC plan.

The basic flow of IMC events for the automotive retailer may look like this:

Gather qualitative and quantitative market research about your market area and customers:
§ Focus groups
§ Customer database enhancements with demographic, psychographic and lifestyle data
§ Scarborough research data
§ SRDS research data
§ State, local and federal research and census data
§ Customer surveys
§ Sales mapping
§ Manufacturer research data
§ Independent research conducted by local media sources
§ Other credible data and research findings

Assess all assets and resources currently available (human capital, financial capital, technology, knowledge base, patents, unique processes, distribution, location(s), databases, market share, brand awareness, collaborative marketing partners, co-op funds, special contacts, etc.)

Analyze all past marketing and advertising failures, un-achieved goals, poor performing markets, products and services. Analyze all successes in the same areas. Understand what is similar and what is different among them that made some a success and the other a failure.

§ Conduct a SWOT analysis (market strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.)

§ Create a list of all the marketing and communication objectives. Place a time frame on each objective. Prioritize them according to the impact they will have on the organization in terms of creating a sizable and loyal customer base.

§ Identify, analyze and prioritize the most cost effective communication media available to achieve your objectives.

§ Establish a budget to reach the stated objectives utilizing the appropriate media mix for the strategy and target audience. (The budget must keep the prioritized objectives in mind, understanding that every objective may not be addressed based on budgetary constraints.)

§ Create the IMC cross functional management team.

§ Establish the IMC team leader.

§ Establish the IMC manager. (The advertising and marketing expert who understands the IMC concept and all methods of communications, and who can assure the IMC message is on strategy. This person also has extensive knowledge of which experts to call on for tactical implementation.)

§ Create the strategy to reach the stated objectives.

§ Create the tactical plans to implement the strategy.

§ Create the tracking tools and train the staff to use them.

§ Implement the strategy.

§ Track results against the stated objectives.

§ Survey the customers to see if they are receiving the same message you think you are sending, both from a service standpoint and a communications standpoint.

§ Analyze the results and create a report for the cross functional IMC management team.

§ Make adjustments to tactics and budget if necessary.

§ Continue tracking results and surveying the customers.

§ Make more adjustments as needed.

Depending on the objectives and the organization, there may be several additional steps, and processes involved, but this provides an idea of the comprehensive approach.

IMC is a company wide endeavor to create a "whole business" as seen from the customer's point of view.

"Integrated marketing is a cross-functional process for managing profitable customer relationships. It brings people and corporate learning together in order to maintain strategic consistency in communication, facilitate purposeful dialogue with customers and prospects, and market a corporate mission that increases customer and prospect trust in the organization. IMC breaks through the media clutter."

IMC means unity of effort, unity of purpose, unity of process, unity of goal, and unity of action.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies describes IMC as:
"A concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines-for example general advertising, direct response, sales promotions, and public relations-and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact."

Creating and implementing an IMC strategy is difficult. The most difficult aspect is getting every employee in every department to work, plan and think together as a team. It is the separate and distinct territories that destroy integration, consistency, pro-activity, real branding ability, and solid customer service and retention. Getting the Managers to see this is necessary for the IMC process to succeed.

Benefits To IMC
When an organization integrates, its communication and interactions become consistent, its reputation and image more distinct, and its customers more trustful. The organization builds integrity because it is seen as a whole, rather than as a collection of fragmented functional units.

IMC leverages every contact point and media impression, and maximizes impact by emphasizing a one-look, one-voice approach. IMC gives consistency to the customer shopping and ownership experience. Brand image and awareness are built faster because all planned messages are consistent, and the best media tools are used based on a strategic marketing plan, backed by research to guide the direction of the campaign.

With IMC, customer retention and satisfaction is increased, growth by referrals spirals upward, prospects become customers more easily, and advertising dollars are more effectively spent. The organization builds on the solid foundation of a large and loyal customer base, an unshakable reputation, a positive public image, and a strategic plan, things that cannot be easily duplicated by the competition.

Duane “DJ” Sprague is a marketing, advertising and digital media specialist, author and speaker who may be reached at duane@vortexplan.com or 801-556-5922.

Company Website and Blog: www.Vortexplan.com
Advertising Blog: www.duanesprague.com
Integrated Marketing Blog: www.djsprague.com
Internet and SEO Blog: www.webmarketingsprague.blogspot.com
Squidoo Lens: www.squidoo.com/duanesprague
Speaking Web Site: www.profitacademy.net
YouTube Channel: www.youtube .com/duanesprague
Slideshare Channel: www.slideshare.net/duanesprague55
Twitter: spraguedj
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/duanesprague




Copyright © MBA Co., an Arnabal International, Inc. Company. All rights reserved.


Powered by TSA Pros