Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a strategic, collaborative, and promotional marketing function where a targeted audience receives consistent and persuasive brand messaging through various marketing channels in an integrated way to move buyer’s through the decision making process. At the most basic level, integrated marketing communications helps to ensure that marketers are using all of the available channels to them to amplify a marketing campaign and/or brand messaging to reach their target audience, or buyer persona. To help you develop your integrated marketing communications strategy, consider using these four steps to create and implement a cohesive and integrated marketing strategy and jumpstart your success.
1. Identify Different Marketing Communication Methods
As part of your integrated marketing strategy, it’s imperative to determine the various marketing communication methods you want to leverage as part of your plan. Consider your target audience and how they like to receive information, gather facts, and perform research on the problem they are trying to solve. From there, determine what channels are most relevant for your specific campaign. Some examples include:
Content Marketing: Make your content available online through blog content, video marketing, premium content (behind a landing page to capture information), pop-ups, and dynamic website content to help your potential buyers connect and learn more about you even before they start the decision-making process.
Email Marketing: Use email to re-engage your existing audience through unique and helpful content. Always consider your existing contacts and how you can re-engage them through content. It’s not always about generating new leads, but oftentimes your most impactful marketing efforts come from delivering the right content at the right time to your existing subscribers.
Social Media Marketing: Social media opens the door to building relationships, developing brand awareness, and generating website traffic. When combined with email marketing and content marketing, digital marketing campaigns utilizing social media can truly bring exceptional results by connecting with your target audience on a platform they are already spending time on regularly.
2. Develop a Marketing Communication Plan
Once you have determined the marketing channels that are going to resonate with your audience, it’s time to develop a comprehensive plan to execute on your marketing initiatives. To do this, you need to focus on three primary items:
Audience: Determine the buyer persona for each of your marketing methods. For example, if one of your personas are baby boomers, consider email marketing and Facebook. If your other persona is millennials, consider texting and Instagram. Your persona is going to define what channels you use to engage with them, not the other way around.
Content: Define the content that will speak to your audience the most effectively. For example, if you are trying to generate new contacts for your database, you may want to have a top-of-the-funnel offer such as subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading a checklist on your site. Pro Tip: You can even have this as a pop-up form that displays when people are exiting your site. This gives you one last way to connect with them. You would be surprised how well these work. I have seen conversion up to 17% on pop-up forms. If you are trying to drive
re-engagement in your database to convert existing leads into opportunities, consider delivering them case studies, video testimonials, and more. This will aid them in their decision-making process.
Cadence: It’s important to understand how often people like to receive information. You can get this data from a variety of marketing automation platforms. For example, in HubSpot we can see how often people read emails, engage on the website, and even on social media. We can use that information to ensure we are sending content frequently enough, but not too frequently that it becomes overwhelming for the prospect. If you see that for a specific product or service you offer, the general sales cycle is around 90 days, you want your email cadence to align with that timeframe. Use the data available to you to make the best decision based on your audience and how often they engage with your brand.
3. Understand the Customer Decision-Making Process
Understand what makes customers decide to buy a product or service, and then discover why they would decide to buy from you. The important thing here is understanding the problem you are solving for them, and how to help them in that decision journey. You will notice that some customers use an extended decision-making process, but others use low levels of involvement to make limited, nominal, or spontaneous decisions. It all depends on your business and what you sell. If it’s a consumer item that is a low price point, your timeframe will be shorter. If you are selling B2B software, it’s likely longer due to the number of people involved. Most customer decisions follow a basic pattern while involved in a particular situation that could result in a sale. This is called the Decision-Making Process, and the following is an example that outlines the process.
- They recognize a problem.
- They search for information.
- They identify products and services that can solve the problem.
- They choose which alternative they will buy.
- They assess the after-the-sale experience.
Companies that understand the complex nature of consumer behavior and decision-making can enhance the effectiveness of their marketing communications by tailoring their message to the decision process of their audience.
4. Implement Your Marketing Communication Plan
Now it’s time to implement your plan and see the results. Here are some steps to help you do just that.
Calendar: Make sure that you are using a calendar to know what content is being sent at what time to prospects, and on what channel. This will help you organize your campaign assets and communicate with your prospects at the right place and time in their decision-making journey.
Automation Software: In order to do this at scale, you are going to need some type of marketing automation software that aligns with your CRM so you can see the full sales process. By using software to help you implement your program, you can most effectively reach your audience and present an integrated, seamless, and consistent message to them on a variety of channels with ease.
Analyze: To help make your marketing communication strategy comprehensive and results-driven, continue to monitor the needs of your prospects, focusing on the capabilities of your product or service that solve their problem, and generating audience excitement. You can do this through monitoring engagement with your campaigns, email open rates and click rates, social interactions, requests to speak with sales, and ultimately the closed deals.
Stay on Top of Trends: Always stay ahead of the curve to find new ways to make your marketing communication strategy different from your competitors, so your communication efforts contribute to the value of your brand. There are constantly new tools and tactics introduced to the marketing industry. Make sure you know what may add value to your integrated marketing communications strategy so you can test new tools and strategies that may align with your target audience.