2012年9月19日 星期三

How Integrated Marketing Can Save Your Budget and Your Mind

Is your marketing plan all over the place? Does your message get diluted by the number of competing priorities and interests within your company? Do you often feel like you're wasting your budget?

In this tip I'd like to introduce you to the simple wisdom of Integrated Marketing Communications. It's one of those concepts that seem so obvious; you can't imagine why you didn't come up with it yourself.

Currently, your company is represented on many platforms. You have the website somebody built for you. You have the social networking effort you manage in-house. You have an advertising campaign produced and implemented by an outside agency. There's a consultant who handles your PR. There's the sales staff who communicates directly with customers. You also have your database marketing, your customer servicing department and your retail sales promotion team, all of whom report to different managers. These department managers operate in functional silos. They may also be protective of their ideas, their budgets and their power bases. In short, you have many types of company spokespeople, and they are not all on board with a unified game plan.

This situation is common. It is also a template for mixed messaging, miscommunication and inconsistent branding to your target customer.

But hope exists right here in this blog article, in the form of IMC. Essentially, Integrated Marketing Communications is a customer-focused, coordinated effort to align all the marketing and business operations of a company into a seamless program that provides a consistent and constantly reinforced central message. IMC is not a strategy in itself, it's the tactical delivery of a communications plan.

That's a lot of words. But, if you can get your mind around this concept and implement it, each of the independent channels along which your business operates can reinforce the other and advance your goals exponentially.

Here are some integrated marketing suggestions followed by an example:

• Conduct research directly with your target customer through social networking, focus groups, online surveys or review sites. Establish dialogues and learn from them.

• Assess your business and determine a unique selling message that not only separates you from your competitors, but directly addresses what you learned from your target customers.

• Include all communication channels - marketing, sales, advertising and press relations- in a unified message, with feedback mechanisms at all consumer touch points.

• Train all of the people in the organization with any degree of customer contact to embody the tone and message of the brand. Keep them current on all promotions and marketing efforts.

• Ensure that your branding looks the same across all marketing channels, with the same logo, typeface, color palette, balance and emotional quality. This includes everything from your letterhead to packaging to point of sale materials to your Facebook page to your magazine ad.

• It is extremely important that your website's home page perfectly matches the theme of your advertising and marketing campaigns.

• Link any advertised promotions and specials directly to a website landing page that deals specifically with that promotion. Consumers should not be asked to navigate multiple pages in their quest for a 15% discount.

• Use each marketing medium for its unique strengths. Your campaign should combine the scale and brand building abilities of traditional media with the nimbleness and precision of online options.

• Use traditional media to encourage consumers to seek out more information on your website or your social networking channels. The sites should include a call to action and a follow up from a trained sales or service staff member.

• Your brand's image, emotional tone and central message should remain consistent across multi-sensory delivery vehicles: through sight on television, sound on radio, and the tactical and kinetic experience online. It should all reinforce the consumer's impression of your brand as he seamlessly travels the arc from discovery to engagement.

• Integrated marketing should enable consumers to interface with the product at any point along the arc and to receive a consistent experience, whether it is from an online conversation, a voice on the phone or a sales call. Branding must be constant across the entirety of the organization.

Now for an example. Let's say that you run a dental office offering all of the usual services. You take most of the insurances, your fees are reasonable and your location is easy to access. You've been promoting your general dentistry practice in the local newspaper and through direct mail, but you don't have much to show for it.

Meanwhile, you've made a habit of asking every patient to submit an online review of your services in exchange for a 5% discount. You notice that the patients who actually do this enthusiastically are the ones who have had cosmetic work- you've corrected a crooked tooth or whitened a smile or replaced a silver capped crown. You're proud, because you know you do exceptional work in this area. You also recognize that cosmetic work is a good way to get people in the door who may become regular dental patients after their custom work is completed.

You've concluded that expert and artful cosmetic dentistry is your unique selling proposition. Now, run with it!

Provide cosmetic services to your receptionists and dental hygienists, so that each of them can greet customers with a shining example of your work. Create a tag line, such as "We give your back your perfect smile." Include this line in your letterhead, on your business cards and in your email signature. Have your receptionist include the line as part of her welcome when she answers your phone. Use it as the subject of your print ads. Make it the theme of your website home page, and then optimize your site to cover all the search terms you can think of that have to do with cosmetic dental work. Use pay per click marketing to target people who are searching for cosmetic dentistry. Write a blog about how to maintain a perfect smile. Display "before and after" photos on your website and in your waiting room. Host an open house featuring satisfied patients. Use your website to invite potential customers to share photos and stories about how their stained and ragged teeth stifle their smiles, and provide free services to a random winner.

Supply toothpicks to area restaurants with wrappers that say, "If you had your perfect smile, you wouldn't need this toothpick!" Donate a series of white modern enamel chairs to the local park, with a sign that says, "Wouldn't you like your smile to look as perfect as these?" Put a white picket fence around your office to resemble teeth and affix a banner, "Home of the Perfect Smile!" And be sure to smile at your customers! You've created a winning integrated marketing campaign!

IMC is a tactical process that involves not just creativity, but big-picture organizational vision and an ability to communicate between departments. If you are an entrepreneur of a small business, this may be something you can handle independently. If you are an executive at a larger company, you may need to host regular meetings between managers of different business operations to confirm that all are on message. As another alternative, companies can hire one individual to be responsible for managing the effort. This person could be on staff or could work as a freelancer.

I happen to know somebody who specializes in integrated marketing communications. If you are interested, contact me at jenwhite@whitehousemedia.org and I'll make an introduction.

Jennifer White is President of White House Media, Inc.


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