What Is Integrated Marketing? An Executive Overview
Oct 6, 2023|Read time: 11 min.
- Integrated marketing is when you build a campaign that ensures consistency in messaging, brand identity, and experience across platforms and touchpoints.
- A key to integrated marketing is making sure the content is still unique while retaining the campaign’s voice and cohesive messaging.
- Owned asset optimization (OAO) and a strong content strategy can enable an effective integrated marketing campaign.
Marketing a large brand is frequently siloed by function area. There’s direct marketing, digital marketing, advertising, email, social media, etc. However, this fragmented approach disrupts the customer experience and adds friction to business operations, eroding profits. The solution?
Fully integrated marketing campaigns increase return on investment (ROI) and amplify the reach of digital marketing initiatives. And they’re key to making brands thrive in a multi-channel world.
What is integrated marketing?
Integrated marketing is the strategy of unifying messaging across all platforms and communication channels to deliver a consistent customer experience. An integrated marketing approach 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 public relations (PR) – works on individual initiatives without paying attention to what the other departments are doing.
Often, you’ll see a social media push that’s not reflected on the brand website or email marketing. Or, marketing managers might allocate a budget between pay-per-click (PPC) and SEO without developing a unified strategy first.
How integrated marketing delivers ROI
Here’s an example. Let’s say your content marketing team spends three months creating a product. They can’t count on bandwidth from the other departments, but they do manage to wrangle some design help. Then they release the final product to the site and wait for it to pull in organic traffic, generate leads, and convert potential customers.
And it does! A well-executed content strategy can produce results all on its own, just as your separate departmental efforts can. However, a content strategy alone can only go so far.
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In reality, your product’s success depends heavily on a number of marketing efforts, like outreach, PR, SEO, and social media. And while it may seem ideal to “divide and conquer”, establishing alignment and consistency across marketing efforts can help reinforce brand identity, trust, and loyalty with consumers. This leads to greater ROI in comparison to several disconnected marketing efforts.
Understanding the degree of control your business has over the assets you create and the relationship between each touchpoint can also help drive success.
Building trust through consistency
Each channel generates momentum for and receives momentum from the other channels. The results are greater than the sum of their parts.
To highlight this, take any two channels and forecast the results of separate initiatives versus a joint effort. Let’s look at public relations and content as an example. PR initiatives can be routine and lackluster when there isn’t great content to share.
On the other hand, great content can’t have meaningful momentum if there’s nobody to facilitate sharing it.
However, 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.
Maximizing performance with owned asset optimization (OAO)
At first, combining marketing efforts across disciplines may seem daunting. However, OAO incorporates the principles of integrated marketing into a powerful tool.
OAO helps businesses tell a consistent story across a network of connected and aligned content. When approaching integrated marketing from the owned asset optimization perspective, brand-controlled, brand identity-defining content is positioned throughout the customer journey. It’s strategically placed to provide the right value at the ideal moment to engage consumers and maximize ROI.
To learn more about maximizing the potential of all your marketing channels, explore our OAO resources.
How to create an integrated marketing strategy in 9 steps
An integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy creates a seamless experience for your customers across all of your marketing activities. It may seem daunting to wonder how to start, especially when your respective teams are set in their workflows. Here are some basic steps to aligning teams and creating a successful integrated marketing campaign.
1. Understand your audience
Each medium’s voice and approach should flow from the core values that define your brand. Develop your integrated marketing strategy by combining that with understanding your audience.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking about your customers (and potential customers):
- Who shares your values?
- What motivates your customers?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- What are their goals and objectives?
- What are their challenges and frustrations?
Define your target market, demographic, 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 and search intent data, on-site behavior, customer surveys, social data, and performance tracking from your business’ previous initiatives. Additionally, get input from teams who are in contact with potential and active customers, such as sales and support.
The more you understand your audience and their needs, the better you’ll be able to inform your cross-channel strategies for how to reach them.
Learn more about using intent data to understand audience needs.
2. Coordinate. Don’t duplicate
While your first thought when learning about integrated marketing may be to share the same content on all possible platforms, this is not ideal.
For example, if your business makes a great video, pops a link to it into a PR blast, shares it on social media, and sends it to its email subscribers, that’s not an integrated marketing campaign. That’s just a great video that was shared three times.
To get the most out of your content, each platform should put its spin on the topic and theme. This can range from engaging with consumers through Q&As to platform-specific videos. The key is to ensure the content is unique but it is still inspired by the core concept.
3. Map the customer journey
It’s critical to understand the user journey on both your brand’s website and on different social 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 Facebook and LinkedIn, 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. 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 touchpoint.
On the flip side, don’t assume so much overlap that you create knowledge gaps. The customer journey isn’t linear: 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.
Customer Journey Map Template
Create better journey maps to reveal consumer needs.
4. Define the marketing goals
Your departments might be driven by independent key performance indicators (KPIs). However, that can lead to different strategies that are not consistent, and in turn, can hurt each other. For an integrated marketing approach to work, all departments should be on board with the same campaign-related goals and KPIs. To set your teams across departments up for success, determine your business’ expectations for the following:
- Social media engagement
- Channel views
- Press mentions
- Online shares
- Brand awareness and brand experience
- Soft conversions (downloads, subscribers, etc.)
- Direct mail conversions
A unified set of goals and KPIs will help departments work together and understand the role that each team plays in meeting the same goals. Is your goal 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.
5. Create a content plan
Once your teams have decided on their shared marketing goals, it’s time to create a content plan for your business. Your integrated marketing strategy is only as good as the content you create.
Take a look at your responses to the previous steps and use them to guide strategy. Does this align with your audience’s values? Does this speak to their likes and dislikes? What does the ideal customer journey for your product look like? Design your planned content around these responses to ensure that you are meeting potential customers where they are.
Additionally, your campaign should line up with goals related to sales promotions, business revenue, and brand experience.
Balancing these two areas of focus will ensure that your business has a winning content plan ready for your integrated marketing strategy.
Aside from that, ramping up your content production can also lead to positive performance results. Looking back at step two, integrated marketing is not just sharing the same content on all platforms. It’s coordinating the best content for each channel that aligns the content on other channels.
For example, if you’ve created a marketing campaign for one audience segment, utilize that content and customize 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.
6. Pick your channels for integrated marketing
No two channels are the same in terms of customer reach. Understanding which channels are best for your customers is a vital step in defining your strategy. If you want to create buzz about your brand’s funny video, influencer networking, and social media channels will top your list. If you want to build a forward-thinking, information-based campaign, you might dial back the focus on social media and push bandwidth to other vehicles such as PR.
For your campaign, you decide to focus on several different channels within your marketing mix:
Web design and development
You may want to build an AR-based online portal that lets potential customers see the product in their 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 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.
Your business may decide to sponsor relevant conferences around the country. Additionally, speaking at a conference provides better visibility. So it is ideal to design a strategy for writing proposals and creating content your key stakeholders can use as they participate in panel discussions at conferences.
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 user-generated content (UGC) from customers who love the products.
You must have a sleek video showing the products in action. And you want to include an element of pathos that will move people into sharing. Based on the success of the campaign, you can integrate elements of the video into your core campaign messaging.
7. Maintain consistent messaging
With several channels needing unique content, it can be difficult to keep your messaging consistent across all channels. That’s not good. Your business needs a unifying brand message that ties these identities together.
Once you have created a solid, unifying message, it’s time to onboard the stakeholders across channels with your message and campaign identity. Ask the teams 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.
8. Eliminate silos
An integrated marketing campaign’s success depends on internal alignment. When relevant, all channels and teams should be involved in brainstorming sessions and should collaborate often. This allows all the content to be aligned but it also allows other disciplines to provide support when needed (i.e., the PR team needs the content team to make lists and write articles).
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 as if 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.
9. Channel optimization for greater success
While creating new content is key to integrated marketing, optimizing existing content on all of your channels will give your integrated marketing push the best bang for its buck.
Re-run your keyword research on YouTube. Optimize your YouTube channel page, individual videos, and 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.
Additionally, it is important to review how your business can optimize its publishing strategy. When you create impactful content on multiple touchpoints rather than siloing to one channel, you increase the likelihood that potential customers are interested in learning more and going down the funnel.
The future of integrated marketing
The days of just releasing a TV ad with a catchy tagline and hoping for brand loyalty are long gone. So is putting up a billboard without any additional content to support it.
Integrating your marketing efforts is important for building brand trust. OAO is an approach that can allow brands to get the most out of the content and assets on the various platforms that your business already uses every day.