Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a powerful concept that will put your business on the map and bring in more sales.
If you are a smaller business, you may not have heard of this term so we will spend a little time breaking it down before diving into its benefits. Additionally, IMC is closely related to multi-channel attribution and omnichannel marketing but there are some important differences. By the end of this blog, you’ll know exactly what IMC is, why it works and how to use it. Let’s get started!
We will start with what integrated marketing communications is not. Above I introduced multi-channel attribution and omnichannel marketing. While these two concepts are related to integrated marketing communications, they are not the same.
Multi-channel attribution is simply using different channels to reach your audience. If you have any combination of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email list, or a website, you are already practicing multi-channel marketing.
Omnichannel marketing takes multi-channel attribution to the next level. Well executed omnichannel marketing ensures a particular message is carried across all of your platforms.
Related blog post: Omni-Channel Marketing: Definition & Examples
Integrated marketing communication incorporates multi-channel attribution and omnichannel marketing to create a cohesive story for your business, no matter what platform your customers use. Picture this; you set up a small business and are solely responsible for most of the marketing efforts. In this situation, the message, language, and public image are easy to maintain and keep consistent because everything is centralized.
After a lot of hard work your efforts pay off and your business expands to become a larger company. Managing the marketing by yourself is no longer realistic and you need to bring in some help. For example, you might decide to employ several sales teams, offline and online marketing teams, external marketing agencies and so on. With a bigger team, you can expand the number of platforms you are on and potentially reach a larger audience. With so many people involved, however, your message risks becoming watered down and you may struggle to maintain consistency.
To stay effective in your marketing, you need focus on finding a way to ensure you're creating a cohesive message that can be used on any platform. This way, you can avoid confusion and maintain or improve your target audience’s confidence in you.
The roles of integrated marketing communications are to increase brand awareness and reach a larger audience. While it is possible to see returns just by implementing multichannel marketing , or omnichannel marketing, you will see greater long-term results with IMC. This strategy is most effective for managing robust sales teams but there is a lot it can do for small businesses. Adopting this approach early on will eliminate the need to overhaul a slower sales system in the future, saving you time and money. Additionally, once you have a solid IMC strategy constructed, you will not need to spend much time on maintenance.
Let’s dive into some benefits you can expect by using IMC.
Implementing an integrated marketing communications approach into your business strategy will create long-term effects that boost your returns and position you as a leader in your field. The following section will review some of the top ways utilizing IMC can directly improve your business.
In traditional marketing approaches, you typically find high levels of separation between the different teams. This results in press releases, advertising, direct marketing and sales promotions that are all over the place and in some cases, conflict with one another. On the outside, this comes off as disorganized and even chaotic to consumers.
Think of it like this; Your company makes delicious food. Your marketing strategies determine how your food (products) are presented. When you lack cohesion amongst your marketing teams it is as if someone took all that tasty food and just threw it into a fridge. The food’s taste doesn’t change but its presentation makes it unappealing and a little suspect. Only the most diligent customers will wade through the mess to find their lunch. Most will quickly get overwhelmed and simply move on to another brand with a clearer message.
An integrated approach brings your marketing teams together to form one big and beautiful marketing machine. The information released by the press is backed up by blog posts, articles, external marketing agencies, sales teams etc. The result is a harmonious message that contributes to customer confidence.
Have you ever heard the saying “you eat with your eyes?” Well, it applies to more than just food. Having a brand message that is not only consistent but also uniform across style guides, logos, voice, headers etc. is essential for improving brand image. Consistency builds trust and lets consumers know you care about your product.
Utilizing IMC will ensure your brand’s elements line up seamlessly. This unified approach will maximize your market impact and carve out your niche or industry.
Here are a couple examples of successful IMC campaigns that utilized their brand to promote awareness to their products and services.
As a successful business owner you already know that reducing unnecessary costs as much as possible is essential to survival. This is why, if, for no other reason, you should care about implementing an integrated marketing campaign.
First, you will reduce the costs of purchasing or creating images and copy for different media. Simply use the same content across your various platforms to reduce design, copywriting and photography costs.
Let’s take a look at a specific situation you may currently be facing. Video production for different marketing media such as television, YouTube, and other social media platforms can be very costly due to all of the moving parts. One way to avoid this problem is to use an external communication supplier. This will help you reduce agency fees, because you’ll work with a single firm that offers integrated marketing communication services.
Second, you will save time for your marketing department, which can then be put towards creating higher quality content to boost your visibility and drive sales.
Third, you can increase your return on investment (ROI) by sending united messages instead of delivering uncoordinated commercials or “one-and-done” advertisements. Integrated marketing campaigns should be treated much like surprise birthday parties. Come up with an idea, and then find various clever ways to execute them. For example, our focus is on marketing. You could call that the theme of the party. As a result, everything we put out centers around the concept of marketing. And while our audience would likely be interested in general business advice, that doesn't fit with our messaging. General business advice that isn't marketing related, would not fit with the theme of the party. You will ultimately increase your profitability by maintaining a consistent message.
When your marketing team has less original content to create each week, they can spend the time to craft thoughtful and engaging messages that will prompt consumer action. Your sales will improve along with your content quality.
So far we have discussed a lot of the external benefits IMC can have on your business. A great IMC strategy can also lead to several great internal benefits, one of which is increased morale. With less on their plate, a bigger focus on quality and a need for consistency across the board, your teams will need to be in better contact with each other.
Those open lines of communication will prompt teams to understand each other better and come together to solve problems. When your team works together, they’ll become one well-oiled machine that is capable of taking up any campaign challenge. In turn, they will undoubtedly achieve great results, which will act as an excellent morale booster for your employees.
Another internal benefit is improved efficiency. A strong IMC approach will create a dynamic and well-connected marketing team. Part of creating that team is ensuring that there is a communications line that members can use to quickly reach any and all departments.
With streamlined communication channels and a unified goal, your business will see a reduction in time wasted from repetitive messages or spent trying to contact others for information. The result will be an increase in productivity. That means more money in your pocket!
If you are currently using several different marketing agencies, a useful IMC strategy could look like choosing to work with a single marketing agency that specializes in providing an integrated marketing approach. This way, you’ll save money on agency fees as well as time cost compared to when you’re dealing with multiple providers.
Oftentimes the modern corporate culture does not promote highly efficient levels of communication. This is a major reason why many marketing campaigns fail. All members of an organization need to be in sync with each other to run an effective integrated marketing campaign. If you intend to build a relationship with your target audience, you need to establish a working relationship with your teammates first and foremost.
Don’t fool yourself into believing your customers will see all of your advertising. In fact, experts claim that potential clients need to hear your message at least seven times before even considering your product.
This is why IMC is essential for your business. A customer who sees your billboard by the roadside might never see your TV commercials, hear your radio ads, or even see your digital ads.
If you apply an integrated marketing communications approach you will ensure your message remains the same, no matter the type of medium your ads are using. A consistent message means none of your potential customers or clients will miss out on what you’re offering.
Also, don’t forget that through this kind of diversity, you are able reach more of your customers via their preferred platforms. For instance, different demographics prefer their messages on various platforms such as email, text message, social media or podcast. All in all, this type of marketing technique will help you reach out to a greater audience, thanks to its diversity.
Confusion is one of the quickest ways to lose customers so avoiding it at all cost is essential to maintaining a strong brand identity. With integrated marketing, buyer’s confusion can be significantly reduced resulting in more closed sales. Consumers will receive a clear and consistent message from your brand leaving little doubt as to what sales or promotions you are running and where they can buy your products. Internally, your team will not have to worry about accidentally creating conflicting messages, thereby aiding in productivity and project turnaround.
Since IMC helps buyers get all the information needed about special offers and new product releases, consumers can then purchase the products as quickly as possible. And, they can avoid competition from other brands.
As mentioned earlier, IMC is also another way of maintaining a good working relationship within your organization. Your employees will get the message clearly, as well as the goals, and work towards achieving them.
When you sync all the parties within your company, you’ll create an impactful campaign. What’s more, you’ll communicate the same message both internally and externally, which will enhance the chances of making good returns on your investment.
There are potential risks to account for when you launch an IMC. While there are great benefits from a powerful IMC, there are developing pitfalls that could trap you and your team if you are not vigilant in avoiding them.
It is the responsibility of upper management to ensure proper planning of all resources and support based services for IMC. You can only be effective with integrated marketing communications when the brand has strong leadership.
There are many departments involved in an IMC. There are specific teams dedicated to design, sales, marketing, public relations, and more. One challenge you will possibly face in implementing IMC is that if you reside in upper management, you may be reluctant to relinquish your authority to teammates or share the budget that exists for the entire team. When launching an IMC campaign, teams need to come together and reach an agreement on how they will execute their plans.
The structure of your teams need to be closely examined before going forward with an IMC campaign. Which parts of this campaign can they best control? Which parts of this campaign can expose a weakness in a team? Accepting and overcoming challenges is simply part of the daily grind in the workforce. The employees you have in your company should be willing to take on this responsibility if you truly wish to implement integrated marketing communications.
The flow of creativity can be an amazing benefit for any company. However, if too many creative ideas are being floated around before launching an IMC campaign, then you may experience difficulty sending the right message to your audience. Integrated marketing communications is mainly about presenting a cohesive message so that it can be clearly understood by consumers. Your creative team may come up with revolutionary ideas that could make an impact in your business. However, those ideas must remain in the background for the time being, while you get your current message out to the masses. Between all teams in your company there has to be one central focus on the cohesive message you send. This can potentially stifle or discourage creative teams as a result.
Many businesses simply lack the resources necessary to pull off a successful IMC campaign. It is not for a lack of willingness on the part of the company that they cannot take a campaign any further than it has gone. Marketing experts and managers are needed to pull off this multi-faceted process. But, most companies do not have these people on staff, nor do they have anyone on staff that is likely to train for those positions. When you are dealing with centralized communication of any sort, you must have trained executives managing the process, keeping an accurate calendar in tact.
Teamwork from multiple different teams or departments is often a requirement. It should be determined by the entire company early on who will be the highest authority for the campaign. By knowing who the leader of the campaign is, the chances of having discrepancies take root are reduced significantly. When things go wrong, like when you go over budget, or if everyone is not on board with the overall message, having a clear leader will address all the issues at hand. If you don’t choose a leader for your IMC campaign, you will be up against a multitude of problems at the start.
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There are many different methods of communication to take into consideration when launching a campaign. Keep in mind that each of the listed methods below are best used for specific business objectives, and vary from business to business.
Advertisements utilize multiple platforms and media channels to share the brand message. By advertising a singular brand message that spans across different demographics and social groups, you put yourself in a position to obtain the maximum reach. Advertising is one of the most expensive forms of marketing, but it can provide some of the best results in your return on investment.
Related Blog Post: How Many Leads to Expect Per Marketing Channel
By using an IMC approach, you can effectively run an influential and entertaining sales promotion to get the attention of your target audience. Sales promotions include giveaways and contests, and their main purpose is to have the audience pay attention to a particular brand or product. You can add a sales promotion alongside your singular branding message as a short-term fix to spread awareness of the brand’s values.
Face-to-face interactions with your target audience should never be ignored. With your campaign you have the motive of promoting a product and convincing buyers that the product or service is worth purchasing. Without being personable in your presentation, you can struggle to gain traction in sales. Personal selling is a highly effective tool in IMC as there is direct communication between salespeople and buyers. This method of communication focuses on building long-term relationships with consumers.
Directly communicating with your target audience via email, phone call, fax message, promotional letter, magazine, catalog or brochure never goes out of style. General word of mouth is a tested and true approach to getting the attention needed by your brand.
Related Blog Post: What You Should Know About Direct Marketing
Mobile devices have their advantages when it comes to marketing. Smartphones and cell phones in particular can help you market a brand to younger generations. It can be as simple as sending a customer a text message that describes your product or service. This form of marketing is both cheap and easy to implement as you won’t need to rely so much on general word of mouth.
Workshops, competitions, and other similar events are often utilized by companies to promote the presence of their brands. Press releases, public appearances, and event sponsorships also make up what is known as Public Relations. It is the general practice of managing the relationship between a company and the public. This communication must be kept as a two-way street where the company receives feedback from the public. Good will in the market is created by PR to present both the product or service and the company in a favorable light.
Think about how impactful social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have been since the mid 2000s. These websites are some of the most powerful outlets you can use to promote a product or brand. As a promotional method it comes at a low cost to maintain a social media channel. And by targeting a large number of users at once, your company stands to gain more in profit and revenue.
This practice is basically a hybrid of Public Relations and sales promotion. If you aim to create brand loyalty and assist in making your product stand out from the competition, then having sponsorships can help. While these are not mandatory to use, sponsorships give you relief from potential expenses that your company may have had to otherwise directly pay for.
As you can see, setting up an integrated marketing communications strategy can take your business and sales to the next level. Not only will it boost your external image, but your internal teams will experience multiple benefits as well. With effective IMC, savings should go up and cost go down. This leads to a win-win for you and your team.
Setting up effective integrated marketing communications takes time and effort. But, the payout makes this a strategy one you cannot afford to overlook. With proper planning, you will reap the benefits discussed in this post and more.
So, if you’ve already set up your small business or you’re planning to make changes to your existing business, your focus should be on communicating effectively to your audience. This can be done by adopting an IMC approach.
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