What is Integrated Marketing? An Executive Overview
Feb 14, 2020|Read time: 13 min.
- Integrated marketing is when you build a campaign across channels that generates momentum for and receives momentum from the other channels.
- Create content that is unique to each platform and audience, but retain a consistent voice and cohesive messaging.
- SEO and content are the linchpins of an effective integrated marketing campaign.
Marketing at large brands is frequently siloed by function area. There’s direct marketing, digital marketing, advertising, email, social media, etc. But this fragmented approach disrupts the customer experience and adds friction to business operations, eroding profits. The solution? Fully integrated marketing.
What is integrated marketing?
Integrated marketing is the strategy of unifying messaging across all platforms and media channels to deliver a consistent customer experience. An integrated approach to marketing enables greater support between channels, resulting in broader reach and better ROI.
The opposite of integrated marketing is when every team – website, social media, content, video production, email, SEO, paid search and PR – works on individual initiatives without paying attention to what the other departments are doing.
All too often at Fortune 500 companies, you’ll see a social media push that’s not reflected on the brand website or email marketing. Or, marketing managers might allocate budget between PPC and SEO without developing a unified strategy first.
How integrated marketing delivers ROI
Let’s say your content marketing team spends three months creating an ebook. They can’t count on bandwidth from the other departments, but they do manage to wrangle some design help. Then they upload the final ebook to the site and wait for it to pull in organic traffic, generate leads and convert people who are on the fence.
And it does!
A well-executed content strategy can produce results all on its own, just as your separate departmental efforts can produce their own results. But, there’s a ceiling.
In reality, your ebook’s likes, shares, and downloads depend heavily on outreach, PR, SEO, and social media marketing efforts. Conversely, your SEO ROI depends on how successful the ebook is. See the connection?
Now, consider that your ebook is part of a tightly-focused integrated campaign that involves collaboration across all departments. Instead of just pushing your content to the site and waiting, you can now make sure your content is discussed on social media, shared by influencers, referenced by bloggers and emailed to subscribers. You can connect with the media outlets who need the voice of an industry expert for their story. You can repurpose the content into webinars, videos or podcasts. And you can run targeted ad campaigns.
More importantly, you can write related blog content that targets keywords that drive qualified traffic to your ebook.
We explain how to calculate marketing ROI here.
Integrated marketing channels work together
Each channel generates momentum for and receives momentum from the other channels. The results are greater than the sum of their parts.
To see how, just take any two channels and forecast the results of separate initiatives versus a joint effort. Let’s look at public relations and content. PR initiatives can be routine and lackluster when there isn’t great content to share. (When’s the last time you read a gripping company press release?) On the other hand, great content can’t have meaningful momentum if there’s nobody to facilitate sharing it.
But if the two teams work together on the same content push, they have everything they need: content that’s worth sharing and an expert approach to sharing it. They can now combine their separate goals into the same set of metrics for SEO that monitor traffic and inbound links. And their expectations for results can be sky-high compared to before.
SEO’s role in integrated marketing
Enterprise SEO and content are the linchpins of the integrated marketing campaign. For departments that aren’t used to working together on the same goals, that can be a hard pill to swallow. Why should the design and PR teams take time away from working toward their own KPIs to help the content team hit theirs?
Because the integration of each team’s efforts produces stronger marketing results and business outcomes.
When you integrate your marketing mix, every team is focused on the same goals and business outcomes. Every team works to help the SEO and content teams move the needle for the company as a whole which generates greater success – for everyone.
Great content capitalizes on opportunity and meets the exact needs of its target audience. And keyword research lets you fulfill that tall order without taking a wild stab at what your audience wants. Tap into search volume and you tap into the pain points, interests, questions, concerns and values of your audience. It’s a data-driven way to make sure content connects. And when content connects, your success across channels will be higher. More importantly, effective content produces business results such as stronger brands, increased market share, more customers, etc.
How to create an integrated marketing strategy
An integrated marketing communications strategy creates a seamless experience for your customers across all of your marketing activities. Here’s how to get started!
Understand your audience
Each medium’s voice and approach should flow from the core values that define your brand. And your audience is the peanut butter to your brand’s jelly, so know what they want.
- Who shares your values?
- What motivates your customers?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- And what are their goals and objectives?
- What are their challenges and frustrations?
Define your target market and customer personas to feed your integrated marketing plan. Then dive into those personas and learn about the platforms they use, the content they engage with and their preferred communication style.
Lean on market research, keyword research, on-site behavior, customer surveys, social data and performance-tracking from previous initiatives. And don’t forget to include input from your sales and support teams based on their interactions with prospects and customers.
Pick a focus topic and theme that resonates with your audience. Then have stakeholders from each channel consider their audience. Providing your brand has its ducks in a row, their audience will be a duplicate of yours, then defined more narrowly. The way each channel creates content for the topic should be uniquely designed to engage the users on that platform.
Coordinate. Don’t duplicate
If Old Spice makes a great video, pops a link to it into a PR blast, shares it on social media and sends it to their email subscribers, that’s not an integrated marketing campaign. That’s a great video.
To achieve their iconic results, Old Spice asked each channel to create, not just share.
Each platform put their own spin on the topic and theme. The varied and creative results included an in-character marriage proposal from the campaign’s star figure to a social media fan. They created a sequel which received raving reviews from consumers and industry experts. They even invited consumers to submit questions via Twitter and Facebook – for the Old Spice Guy himself to answer! Over 2,000 people sent in questions within 48 hours. And a whopping 200 personalized video responses were created and posted to YouTube.
The content on each platform took on a life of its own, separate from but inspired by the core video.
Map the customer journey through the funnel
Understand the customer journey not just as they move across the site, but as they move between platforms. Where are the overlaps? What stage of the conversion funnel are they in – Awareness, Consideration or Decision? Does a certain platform correlate more closely with a specific stage in the funnel, Tofu, Mofu or Bofu? Do you find that most of your customers are on both Facebook and Twitter, not one or the other? Then don’t bore them with redundant content! There are only so many times your audience can click on a link to the same video.
Your customers use a mix of marketing channels at different stages in the customer journey. They might discover your brand on social media. But it might be your blog that pushes them to the Consideration stage. And a landing page dedicated to your latest sale might be the final push they need to enter the Decision stage. Assume your customers use a variety of channels.
You’ll be able to keep your audience engaged across every customer touch point.
On the flip side, don’t assume so much overlap that you create knowledge gaps. The customer journey map isn’t a linear one: your customers don’t go from Snapchat to Facebook to a video to your website every time. So your Facebook posts can’t rely on information you revealed on Snapchat. Make your marketing channels complementary, not dependent on each other.
Define the marketing goals
Your departments might be driven by independent KPIs. For an integrated marketing approach to work, all departments should be on board with the same campaign-related goals and KPIs. Across departments, determine your expectations for:
- Social media engagement
- Channel views
- Press mentions
- Online shares
- Brand awareness and brand experience
- Conversions / revenue
- Soft conversions (downloads, subscribers, etc.)
- Direct mail conversions
A unified set of goals and KPIs won’t just produce a more outcomes-oriented campaign. It will help departments work together and understand the role that each team plays in meeting the same goals. Is your goal is links and shares? Then, you need great content and a great blogger outreach strategy. If you only have one or the other, you probably won’t meet ambitious off-site goals.
Identify relevant topics and keywords
First, collaborate with executives to ensure your marketing mix is fully aligned with business goals, strategies and marketing plans. Your campaign should line up with goals related to sales promotions, business revenue and brand experience.
Sometimes you’ll be working with a specific takeaway. (“We’re releasing X product in January, and we want to make sure Y knows about it.”) Sometimes you won’t. (“We have a sense of humor and we’re open to anything that will sell more deodorant.”)
Let’s say your brand is an appliance manufacturer like Dyson. Your goals are to promote a new line of smart products and reposition your brand as cutting-edge and imaginative.
Before you start brainstorming, perform your keyword research. What questions do people ask about smart products? Are they actively shopping for them, or just interested in learning about them? Are keywords related to “internet of things” or “IoT” fruitful?
As you perform your keyword research, you notice that most queries are information-seeking: “internet of things examples” and “What is ioT?” You realize that at a broad level, the market is still in the awareness phase. They’re not yet looking for the smart appliances you sell because they’re still trying to figure out what smart appliances are.
Knowing this, you can design an integrated marketing campaign that’s entertaining, informative and keyword-driven. In one sense, basing your integrated campaigns on SEO insights is like an insurance policy that ensures your marketing, regardless of channels, resonates with your target audience and will produce a greater ROI.
Pick your channels for integrated marketing
The amount of focus each channel will pull depends on the initiative. If you want to create buzz about your brand’s funny video, influencer networking and social media will top your list. If you want to build a forward-thinking, information-based campaign centered on smart home products, you might dial back the focus on social media and push bandwidth to other vehicles like PR.
For your smart home campaign, you decide to focus on several different channels within your marketing mix:
Web design and development
You want to build an AR-based online portal that lets customers see the product in their own living room. As the user adds additional smart products to their space, they can watch the products interact with each other in real time.
You notice that most searches for smart products lead to lists and articles, not content from individual brands. So your PR team will be hard at work making sure your products are mentioned in those articles.
To underscore your brand’s new innovative and future-focused identity, you decide to sponsor popular tech conferences around the country. But you know that speaking at a conference provides better visibility. So you’ll design a strategy for writing proposals and creating content your key stakeholders can use as they participate in panel discussions at conferences like SXSW Interactive.
Your content team will be busy creating on-site resources, writing off-site thought leadership articles and repurposing any content you create for your conference speakers.
Your social team will host Q&As and curate UGC from customers who love the products.
It’s important that you have a sleek video showing the products in action. And you want to include an element of pathos that will move people into sharing. You decide to film a seeing eye dog interacting with the products to show how he can use them to make his handler’s life easier. You love this idea so much that you decide to pull the seeing eye dog into your core campaign messaging.
Maintain consistent messaging
We can already see our smart home campaign clefting into two different identities: the tech-savvy, informational identity and the more heartstring-tugging identity with the seeing eye dog. That’s not good. We need a unifying brand message that ties these identities together. We also need our tech-driven content to pull inspiration from the dog video by refocusing around compassion and helpfulness. And we need our dog video to reflect tech-savviness.
You decide that a solid, unifying message is: Always Here For You. Onboard the stakeholders across channels with your message and campaign identity. Ask them to interpret it. The results will be more consistent and unified than they would be if you just told everyone to promote your line of smart home products.
We’ve already talked about reducing redundancy across channels. But you still need a consistent message and voice every time. If there are additional core themes or messages you want to make sure each channel highlights, bullet them out. The more instruction you can give at a high level, the better each team’s chances of hitting the mark with their creative magic.
Involve all channels in early brainstorming sessions and collaborate often with the other departments. If one team needs to borrow the bandwidth of another (i.e., the PR team needs the content team to make lists and write articles) then decide as a group what gets scaled back and/or what extra resources you need to accommodate this.
Emphasize to each team that a rising tide lifts all boats: your goals and KPIs are shared outcomes that depend on the strength of the entire group. Nobody should feel like they’re working on competing projects. And nobody should feel stressed about hitting individual KPIs. When teams openly communicate, departments can work together to tackle projects like a well-oiled machine.
Look for opportunities for compound results
Let’s say your customer runs into your video on Twitter, but they’re in a rush to meet a deadline at work. So they don’t have time to watch it. But they’re intrigued – so they bookmark it thinking they’ll return to it later.
Then, on their commute home, they come across the video on Facebook. But they’re on the subway with no headphones so they can’t watch it just yet.
They get home and come across the video on Instagram. They’re finally in a place where they can watch the video all the way through. And they love it, so they go post it to their Instagram Story and then return to Twitter and Facebook to share and see that it’s trending. Then they start talking with their friends about the video. And those friends also begin sharing it, too.
Next, they head to the video’s landing page, where they find your AR-based online portal that lets them see the product in their own living room.
A couple of your products pique their interest, so they head to your website to learn more through blog posts. Then they start looking up reviews and find some of your bylines, etc.
That’s the power of an integrated marketing campaign. All because you created impactful content and multiple touch points that weren’t siloed to one channel.
Increase content production
Compound these results even more by ramping up your content production. Look for opportunities to atomize your content. If you’ve created a marketing campaign for one audience segment, utilize that content and customize, say, 25% of it for other segments to compound your results with half the effort.
This is a highly effective way to scale an integrated marketing campaign when dealing with perhaps a dozen different audience segments.
Channel optimization for greater success
Explore opportunities to optimize every channel for SEO. Re-run your keyword research on YouTube. Optimize your YouTube channel page, individual videos and your social media profiles. Help the PR team select their targets and show them how to write anchor text. When conferences are lined up, look for additional linking opportunities on the conference website and related sites. The fine-tuning will ensure that your hard work has the best possible pay-off.
Best case scenario, five years from now people will be talking about your marketing approach. They’ll act like your viral content was a magic trick: one day the video didn’t exist and the next day it was everywhere. One day your brand wasn’t on the radar and the next day it was. The video alone tripled your revenue and made you a household name. Let them think this. It makes the truth that much sweeter.