Why Adopt An Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy?

Many companies still employ a linear direct marketing process in which products are developed, messages created, incentives added to the mix, and the products are then pushed through various media or a sales force.

This methodology relies on behavior assumptions that all consumers follow the same decision process:

Awareness – Knowledge – Evaluation – Purchase.

This strategy worked well a few years ago because targeting and smart advertising gave companies the edge over consumers with limited product knowledge. However, buying behaviour has become more sophisticated since consumers acquired access to technology such as the Internet, mobile phones, iPods, search engines and on-demand TV.

This technology has rendered redundant the traditional linear marketing and communications process (product –> channel –> media –> customer).  Nowadays, consumers can just block out marketing messages using spam filters, pop-up blockers, remote controls, “do not mail” lists or the regular trash can.

A consumer-controlled communication landscape has emerged with a faster dynamic consumer learning process. The outcome is that traditional direct marketing activity now faces:

  • Declining efficiency rates.
  • Increased costs.

To be successful, companies now need an integrated marketing communications approach that combines traditional media, online channels, PR, affiliate partnerships, products, people and social networks

Developing An Integrated Marketing Communications Model

Don Schultz, Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University suggests companies coordinate their marketing resources and supply customers value-added information to create engagement and build long-term relationships.

Marketing Thinker suggests that you start by using “ABCD resources” and then need to finding the optimal mix based on your industry and competitive position.

  • Audience
  • Brand (Product/Service)
  • Content
  • Delivery.

Audience – a key ingredient is to use extensive data and analytics to understand your target segment. Creating pen-portraits of your core customers including demographic and lifestyle information will help optimize your media targeting strategy.

Brand – your product or service must have a unique selling proposition to provide a competitive advantage. It must deliver superior value for the audience and be clearly differentiated on features, service or price.

Content – with most competitors using the same linear marketing strategies targeting the same consumer segments, content can now become a point of competitive differentiation. When you supply value-added content you provide consumers a reason to engage with your brand and connect your products or services.

Delivery – You then need to connect new digital media channels with traditional channels to create a push-pull system. Consumers must become engaged with the media employed or your content delivery will be unsuccessful. To achieve this ensure the content is linked to your brand positioning to make the emotional connection with your product or services.

The customer experience occurs during the interaction with your products, online channels, customer service and content.

Executing An Integrated Lead Generation Campaign

Click to Closed Inbound Sales and Marketing Blog recently discussed how to maximize your marketing results through Integrated Marketing.

Problem: With the proliferation of new Social Media channels, such as Pinterest, Four Square, Twitter, Facebook, and Google + marketers may find it more confusing to determine where to best spend  their time and marketing dollars.  Additionally, new inbound marketing and marketing automation trends have entered the mix.
Solution: Many companies tend to drop one platform when a new hot platform comes out. When a new medium comes online, you need to consider whether your ideal target audience is even there yet.   But the most effective way to benefit from all these mediums is to integrate them to achieve synergies that compound results.

Execution: You can maximize your rewards by integrating your lead generation through multiple mediums.  Instead of dropping your traditional channel, we find it’s better to incorporate them into an integrated campaign and reap rewards beyond any individual channel alone.  We have found that this integrated approach has been able to deliver 131% greater results than the summation of these channels individually.

1. Get a good understanding of who your buyer is and how they buy.

To do this, develop a persona.  With this understanding of your buyer, you can then identify the platforms and places where they spend their time.  This usually would include traditional offline marketing, such as direct mail sales letter or postcard.  Inbound Sales Network finds both these traditional forms to be highly effective when incorporated into an integrated program.

2. Maximize the Mix: Inbound Sales Network (INS) has maximized results by having at least one touch in their lead generation’s programs be in each of the following forms:

  • Direct Mail
    79% of B2B marketers found direct mail to be either effective or very effective in a recent study cited by  Inbound Sales Network (ISN).  Effective direct mail campaigns don’t expect a call back but drive your target audience to a landing page.  Effective traffic generating tactics include:

    • Opportunities to win a tech gadget.
    • Educational offers: these draw much greater conversion when targeting corporate executives.
  • Digital
    A first touch in any new lead generation program can be an email.  It may not be the best channel for lead generation, but  it is the cheapest way to employ a database prior to spending significant amounts on the printing and mailing of a direct mail campaign. For Digital, it is important to then figure out if your target audience even uses that platform before spending moneydeveloping campaigns for that particular platform:

    • Typically for B2B sales integrating, the most effective for lead generation media are: LinkedIn, email, and blogging are .
    • For B2C, ISN has foundFacebook superior to LinkedIn, with Pinterest and mobile marketing proving to be strong options as well.
  • Out Call
    A live call – not cold call – is highly effective.
    ISN emphasizes that cold calling does not work well enough anymore.  An effective call sequenced with an already warmed prospect can deliver great returns.  The more complex the sale, the less likely you are to make a sale without talking to the prospect directly.  The ability to touch that prospect in many different mediums is much more effective than making 7 to 10 phone calls  without the support of other media, and is significantly more effective than 10 emails alone.

A Campaign Template

From its experience in running over 100 different integrated campaigns over the past year, INS has found the following to be the ideal general layout for an effective campaign.

  • Day 1 – Email sales letter with intro sales message to specific audience.  This is a typical email rather than a fancy graphic message that gets caught in spam as most readers have images turned off in their email reader.
  • Day 5 – Direct mail sales letter.  This piece is mailed the day after the email goes out scheduled to arrive on the target audience’s desk on day 5.
  • Day 6 – 2nd email letter.  Use a subject line that is the same as the initial email and sales letter.  It is more effective to add a “Re:” to the start, to help connect the message to the previous touches.
  • Day 9 – Intro sales call.  Even if the initial call ends up in voicemail, establishing early contact through phone, even voicemail, has been found to be very effective.
  • Day 12 – 3rd email.  This time a visual message is effective because the prospect has seen your message or company name 3-4 times and is starting to get a better understanding of who you are.  A similar message as you would use on a post card is very effective.
  • Day 16 – Postcard.  It is highly effective to deliver a strong visual message building on the last touch. (Refer to How to Shorten Your Revenue Cycle)
  • Day 19 – 2nd phone call.  Building on the message delivered in the previous 2 touches, the 2nd call tends to be where most of callers make the initial contact.
  • Day 21 – 4th email and 3rd phone call.  This “dump message” turns out to be the greatest touch of the mail.  Leave a message that says something like: “I know you’re busy, and we are busy too so instead of wasting both your time and ours let me know what works for you and I will follow up accordingly.”  The response rate to this message is outstanding.  In the worst case, they tell you they are not interested.  In the best case they tell you exactly when to contact them.

Measuring Results: Traditional measurements systems may not work well with integrated marketing. Still, most companies have all the data they need. They just need to align it bybreaking down internal silos and defining measures of success –site traffic, new sales, revenue per customer, return on capital, NPS (Net Promoter Score) etc.

Takeaway

It can take 7-12 touches to gain top of mind awareness with your target audience.  Rather than relying on pushing all of these touches through one platform or method, which can greatly hamper your lead generation efforts, it is best to build an integrated campaign with a unified message across multiple mediums, something I have called a “Symphony of Touch-points.”  This will generate brand awareness and maximize your return on investment. Inbound Sales Network claims that it doubles their ROI. If companies can optimize the synergy between their “ABCD resources” and employ an integrated marketing communications strategy they can drive improved returns from their marketing investment.

THE EXECUTIVES’ GUIDE TO BUILDING A LEAD GENERATION ENGINEThe Executives’ Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine

Inbound Sales Network has created this free download guide, The Executives’ Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine,  to help you build a lead generation engine that maps to your customers buying process and delivers maximum measureable ROI.

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