We live in an age of information-overload.
You probably receive more messages in one day than your Great-Granddad’s Great-Granddad did in a year. There’s probably a more accurate scientific figure to back that up, but you get the picture. The real question is – how do you ensure your message breaks through to the other side and in to the consumer’s mind for long enough for them to make a purchase? You need to immerse your message and become a part of their environment. Something that can be interacted with, something they can connect with. Gone are the days when marketing was ruled by one-way communications on billboards and in TV ad-breaks. Welcome to the age where a bad customer service experience shared by an angry customer can get more views on social media than an expensive TV ad in prime time.
It may sound a bit chaotic, but those business owners, marketers and managers who find order in this jungle of information and options will prevail.
Integrated Marketing Communications (or IMC for those who prefer acronyms), is the concept of bringing together your marketing from all channels and disciplines, as part of a unified strategy. Well that’s definitely a definition of the term, but why is IMC important?
Well, let’s try something out – can you count the marketing channels that you (as a consumer) have experienced in the last 24 hours? Well let’s see, you probably Googled at least one thing, you’re statistically likely to have been exposed to social media and if you bought a coffee you may have used a loyalty card. But it’s not as straight forward as you think. If you’re thinking as broadly as IMC calls you to, you need to consider customer service, user experience, the product or service itself including packaging and beyond. Simply, if a business’ strategies are as integrated as they should be, a business’ marketing strategy should be filtering through to every part of the consumer’s experience, opinion and buying cycle, from research through to post-purchase.
Three easy steps to ensuring your marketing strategies are integrated:
1. Objectives, objectives, objectives.
There’s no one way to plan, so long as you’re meeting your objectives. If you don’t have many objectives beyond “more revenue”, it’s time to start analysing and asking yourself some serious questions. With solid objectives, you’ll be able to plan effectively across multiple marketing channels without seeing your efforts fragment at the very least, and at very best, you’ll find a way to make all of those channels work together in a way that delivers a greater result than the total result of the channels if separate.
Objectives sit at the top of the pyramid, but delegation is essential to achieve them. There is a great IMC campaign being run by the National Australia Bank at the moment. They delegated different purposes to each channel. They used print and outdoor advertising to get the ball rolling and start introducing the theme in the ads to their audience. Then, once that started to sink in, they dropped the TV ads. Then, so you didn’t forget about it, they launched in to the digital space using mysteriously cryptic Tweets, paid AdWords ads, Facebook and YouTube to keep it fresh in peoples minds. Your channels should have their own purposes. Do you use Facebook to engage people with competitions or do you use it for customer service? Is Twitter a news feed, or a way to ride the wave of the next viral story? It doesn’t have to be exclusive, but you have to know what each channel is being used for.
3. Keep the message simple, and align it with the truth.
The message needs to be simple. Simple enough that it cuts through all those messages we all see every day. It also needs to make an impression. If it’s too complicated, it will blend in with the average person’s fairly complicated mix of information. This works for a digital space, because attention spans are short online, with character limits in AdWords and Twitter going some way to prove that.The message needs to be true. Don’t sell people on the product, educate them about a real feature. In that same campaign discussed above, NAB are essentially selling the idea that they care, have great customer service and aren’t like the other banks. For that campaign to work, this is something that has to ring true with every part of their business or they’ve gotten it all wrong. You can’t sell the sizzle but not the sausage. If they try and sell this message, but a customer rings up and they feel like any other bank, the campaign wont make the final stage of becoming part of the accepted truth about the business.
That last point really nails it down – IMC is about strategy that factors in to your entire business, from company culture, right through to the content you post on Facebook, or the text in your AdWords campaign, the way your staff speak on the phone and the quality of your products themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 2 person micro-business or a 1000 person corporation, you need to integrate.
Are you integrated?