What is Integrated Marketing?

Marketing is defined as all activities connected with advertising, distribution, merchandising, product planning, promotion, publicity, research and development, sales, transportation and warehousing of goods or services.

These are all necessary to increase a company’s revenue and profitability however what we will address in this article is narrowing it down to a specific area of marketing known as integrated marketing communications.

How does it work?

An integrated approach brands a business and attracts new customers. It is most effective when all aspects of the marketing mix are used together. Instead of dividing communications into several overlapping channels, successful companies today make every communication consistent with one message executed through a unified, strategic plan.

The ultimate goal is to establish relationships with existing and prospective customers and investors based on retaining top of mind awareness and building the trust associated with a strong brand. It is essential to develop your brand equity which compels action through instilling beliefs about your business in the minds of your target audience. Are you known in your industry? Have you taken the steps necessary to become known or are you sitting back hoping customers and/or investors will find you? If so, you will be waiting a long time!

Integrated marketing encompasses industry intelligence through research, corporate identity/brand development and use of the Internet, media, database/email marketing, advertising, sales promotion, direct mail, measurement tools and peer analysis to create a program that ultimately turn into sales, profits, repeat business and referrals.

Many small businesses have great products and services but lack growth due to a lack of new buyers or repeat business from past customers/investors.

Advances in technology, database software and the Internet have turned the traditional, expensive marketing model upside down, enabling companies of all sizes to compete for a customer and investor’s attention. The new integrated model represents significant cost reductions when it comes to finding and retaining the people most likely to buy from you.

Following is a list of basic steps to take if you’d like to accomplish a cost-effective integrated marketing strategy, beginning with the basic step of developing a point of contact through your online office, the website.

Step One: The Marketing Plan – A marketing plan should be created, realistically looking at the costs associated with what you are about to do, if even on a small scale. Complete the research necessary to locate your target audience. There are many services online that will provide you with lists of prospects for a reasonable fee or do the research yourself by finding a directory or association in your chosen market.

Step Two: Your Online Sales Infrastructure – Launching a professional website will educate people on your company and its value 24/7/365 – your storefront should ALWAYS be open and inviting! A poorly designed website or one that is difficult to navigate around in will do the opposite of what you want it to do so ensure it is professional and represents your business in the best possible way.

A website should reflect the company’s vision, mission and growth objectives, information on products/services, investor information and above all else, spell out in the obvious benefits a customer or investor will receive when buying from or investing in you.

Step Three: Interactivity – Incorporate interactivity into your web development plan so that individuals can serve themselves anytime, day or night. The customer should be able to request specific product/service information, learn about the company’s history, read interesting facts and articles, sign up for free offers, give feedback and have the ability to recommend the site to a friend through the click of a button. This is the relationship development portion of your campaign, get people involved.

Step Four: Collect Data – An online database captures the prospects information for future communications and relationship development.

Step Five: Direct – Drive traffic to your online office through targeted opt-in emails, online promotions, a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter, coverage with online and offline media (this involves PR which will be discussed in another issue) banner advertisements, newsgroups, trade shows, etc. The list of opportunities is endless!

Step Six: Patience – Hurry up and Wait!! In order to begin any marketing program, you must have commitment and above all else, PATIENCE!

Marketing does not bring in customers or investors overnight. There is much information available to people these days and therefore it takes time to develop the relationships necessary to turn them into customers and investors. You must seek, nurture the relationship and provide value to be successful.

It is essential that your marketing messages are consistent, the company’s vision and brand identity is well portrayed in all of your collateral materials and that you have friendly and knowledgeable staff following up on your behalf within 24 hours. Once they do buy from you, don’t stop communicating! Continue to send them valuable offers and updates on your business so they keep you top of mind and don’t hesitate to refer your company to a friend.

All of the steps listed above will maximize your marketing efforts, reduce the costs associated with traditional marketing and ultimately increase overall profitability and shareholder loyalty.