What is Integrated Marketing, and Should Your Agency Promote It?

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: integrated marketing. No matter what that means, it sure sounds fancy. That's probably why so many marketing agencies now claim to be experts in this field.

And yet, as you probably already know, there is more to marketing than fancy jargon. Sure, you have to understand exactly what integrated marketing actually means. But once you do, you might come to the same conclusion we have: it's such a natural concept that it shouldn't even be mentioned. When you get to that point, you might just reconsider how you evaluate potential marketing partners.

What is Integrated Marketing?

While the general concept is as old as corporate communication itself, the first formal definition hails from the late 1980s. In his landmark book Integrated Marketing Communications, Don Schultz (a professor at Northwestern University) formulated a strategy to bring all brand-related communications under a single roof.

The goal: to manage "all sources of information about a product which behaviorally moves the customer toward a sale and maintains loyalty." If that sounds elementary, it just might be. But it's important to understand that during this time, marketing communications was fragmented. Media relations, advertising, and other channels were often represented by very different departments and purposes.

Formal integrated marketing seeks to unify the process of communication with internal and external audiences. The idea is to focus on the consumer. For your business, PR and advertising may be different functions. But for your audience, they're both different expressions of the same brand and should be treated consistently as a result.

In today's fragmented media environment, that concept is more important than ever. Consider, for instance, an average female in her late 20s. During a given day, she may:

  • Listen to Spotify on her way to work
  • Check her phone for Instagram and Facebook updates
  • Browse Google or Apple News for relevant stories to her work
  • Drive past a billboard on her evening commute
  • Watch Hulu on her tablet or laptop.

During any of these (any countless other) activities, this member of your target audience will get countless brand messages. Even as a potential B2B buyer, she will interact with a wide range of digital and traditional media. The only way to stand out is to take a multi-channel approach, reaching her in various ways to break past the noise and competition.

Of course, she will only make the connection if all of the messaging follows the same, consistent patterns, visuals, voice, and tone. That, in a nutshell, is integrated marketing.

Why Do So Many Agencies Claim to be Integrated?

Because it sounds good. Is that too simplistic? Maybe. But at its core, that's exactly why so many marketing agencies tout the fact that they are fully integrated. 

Make no mistake: as established above, integrated marketing is a positive concept. In fact, it might even be essential to any modern marketing success. So naturally, agencies are bumping each other looking to get to the front row of potential clients' eyes. Look at me! Aren't you impressed with how integrated our marketing is?

At first glance, you might be. Which is exactly why their promotional materials highlight that fact so much. It's just one of those jargon words, used by those you expect to be authorities in the field. So as a result, an  increasing number of marketing agencies are using it to establish themselves as just that.

4 Reasons to Not Fall for the Promise of an Integrated Marketing Agency

Agencies claim to be integrated. Now, you know exactly what that means. So should you be persuaded by it? At first sight, the answer may appear to be yes. But then you look beyond that first impression, and the reality is not as pretty. In fact, here are 4 reasons you might not want to partner with an agency that bases its expertise and credibility on the fact that they're 'integrated.'

1) It Doesn't Actually Say Much

Over the years, IMC has gone from being a relatively new business concept to status quo. In the process, the term itself has gotten diluted. You will now see countless agencies claiming it as their own, without actually explaining what it means.

When they do, the explanations all tend to be similar: we build your business by integrating multiple media channels. But for any marketing agency offering services beyond a single channel, that should be a given. The term has lost its meaning, simply because it's a core assumption of any successful marketing today.

2) Real Marketing Results Might Differ From Claims

Be wary of any vendor or partner who cannot back up their claims. It's easy to build an entire web presence around the fact that the agency offers integrated marketing services. But is that actually the case?

It might be. Then again, it might not. Look not just for the tagline or business mantra, but real-life evidence of integration. That evidence should present itself in case studies, client portfolios, and third-party references rather than a brand-based marketing claim. 

3) The Chicken and Egg Argument of Credibility

As you evaluate potential marketing partners, pay special attention to the causation of any integrated marketing claim: is it based on a history of actual, tangible integration, or used purposely to build credibility in the eyes of potential clients?

Too often, it's the latter. Be weary of cheap marketing tricks designed to seem authentic. Yes, the agency might have been built during the times when Schultz first coined the term. More likely, though, they were simply looking for the words most clients respond to. Anytime you see integration used as a way to build instead of showing credibility, look in a different direction.

4) If It's Essential to Marketing, Why Even Claim it?

Modern marketing is integrated. It's impossible to stand out in today's noisy media environment without building a multi-channel approach. A customer-centric focus is familiar to any company looking to build its marketing strategy on the basic buyer's journey.

That, in turn, leads to a simple conclusion: any modern marketing agency, almost by default, needs to be integrated. Promoting it as a core competency is stating the obvious. It's akin to a dairy farm claiming that its milk is fresh. That should be a basic assumption, not a differentiating factor.

As you look for potential marketing partners, should you consider how well they integrate an omnichannel approach to build a single voice for your brand? Absolutely. But in today's environment, that just means finding a competent marketing agency. It's a core assumption of the business. Any vendor who seeks to specifically highlight it might not be the right fit to truly elevate your marketing efforts. Contact us to get started on finding the right partner.

 

SPEAK TO A STRATEGIST

Topics: marketing tips marketing strategies Integrated Marketing

8 Ways Mini-Games Can Enhance Your Website and App Design

Gamification is a word that has been bouncing around the business web and software development circles for a decade or more, but only recently has it begun to pick up real popularity among decision-makers and lead business website designers. It is, essentially, the art of adding game-like elements to your web pages, mobile apps, and business software that increase engagement by activating the same motivation centers in the brain that games do. The desire to earn points, to get a high score, to earn badges and a little friendly competition are incredibly energizing and have been found time and time again to enhance the experience of both customers and employees who are offered gamification features in their otherwise serious software.

Gamification and Mini-Games

But gamification doesn't have to stop at simply spicing up your UI or rewarding users for taking actions on your website. Modern businesses with the freedom of custom web design have every reason to go all-out and provide actual mini-games on their websites to delight, entertain, and occupy customers in times when they might otherwise become frustrated or dissatisfied. Mini-games can be used to kill time ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, take a customer's mind off their troubles, and subtly show that you value customer time by making sure they always have something to do.

Here are the top eight ways that mini-games built into your website can be used to enhance customer experience using your website and mobile app.

1) Waiting for a Customer Service Rep

While the digital world is moving us closer and closer to fully-automated customer experiences, customer service is far from over. Today, almost every business website has a live chat box and a 'contact us' page at a minimum, but that doesn't actually mean that you have enough service reps to help every customer exactly when they want to start the conversation. While asking customers to wait patiently for their turn is the traditional route, it's also boring, frustrating, and often taken as a sign that you don't value or can't handle their patronage.

Instead of leaving your customers hanging or hiring additional customer service reps, a simple mini-game can make a huge difference. Let's say a customer has opened the live-chat window during a very busy day and is greeted by your customer service chatbot. The bot qualifies their need and determines that a real rep is required to solve the customer's problem or question. Rather than trying to maintain robotic chit-chat or asking the customer to wait 5 minutes (which you know they won't), the bot instead offers to play a game of memory-match or checkers with the guest. By the time a rep is available, your customer will be in a good mood and may have completely forgotten that they were waiting at all.

2) Updating the App

Sometimes your mobile app will need to update or download new resources for itself. While many app updates can happen in the background with no trouble caused to the user, there are also many situations where a user's choices will cause the mobile app to need to access new data, download a new theme, or process a request. When this happens, you can show a spinning waiting icon but no matter how clever the icon, customers are going to get frustrated waiting any longer than about 3 seconds for anything.

Unless you have a mini-game. Rather than asking your app-users to wait, pop-up a quick mini-game that is easy to play on a small screen with taps. Something like whack-a-mole or a tap-race might be exactly the right speed for your customers. Then, when the wait is over, summon a glowing 'move on' button but give users the opportunity to keep playing if they want to.

3) Downloads and Installations

For businesses that offer software, provide more complex web application services, or require downloads for certain features, these aspects of digital business all come with their own unique delays. Any download tends to also incur a certain amount of waiting while software requires time for both downloading and installation.

For these, consider a mini-game embedded in the web page itself rather than a pop-up. On your download page, a mini-game that helps wait out the download duration is incredibly helpful to some customers, especially because every device and computer downloads things at a different speed. For those whose next step is working with the download but they have a few minutes to kill before that is possible, a fun balloon-shooter or even a puzzle game might be the best way to spend that time enjoyably.

4) When Internet Connection is Lost

Here's an interesting one. Do you know about that little dinosaur jumping game you can play when the Chrome browser loses internet connection? If not, try disabling your wifi, hitting 'refresh' on a page, then pressing the space-bar when you see the no-connection dinosaur and enjoy.

The reason this works is that the game is already loaded in as part of the browser. Believe it or not, you can emulate this fun trick in your own web-page by including the game in your cookie package. Then use your page to detect when the connection is lost, inform your visitors, and offer them a fun game until the connection is back and their website experience can resume.

5) Multi-Factor Authentication

Password security has become a hotly debated topic in IT security circles and many (quite reasonably) argue that passwords are no longer the most practical and secure way to handle individual authentication. Among the leading alternate trends is multi-factor authentication (MFA using a combination of clues, picture selection, and possibly even sounds or voice recognition to identify a person beyond a string of characters.

If you choose to implement multi-factor authentication, rather than making it a tedious process, make it an interactive matching game instead where the 'winning' sequence is different for each person. This is also a way to provide a little fun and enjoyment every time a user logs in.

6) As a UI Tutorial

Many businesses have begun using a small amount of gamification in order to give quick engaging tutorials for new UI layouts, but there's no reason to stop 'playing the UI game' after the tutorial is complete. If you have, say, an adorable company mascot that peeks out from behind UI elements and can be clicked for points in order to introduce your UI, consider keeping this 'mini-game' around for users who want some quick entertainment by making it available again with a friendly button. You might even design a few different levels and activities that can be played this way.

7) In Kid-Mode

Parents are always handing their phones and tablets to young children to need temporary entertainment in order to sit still and quiet for a few minutes. While parents usually have to close all their serious apps and open of a specific game app for the children, your brand might line up well with offering a 'kids mode' for your app instead. A kid's mode might allow parents to open a few semi-educational mini-games while simultaneously locking the rest of the app until the password is entered. This can provide a quick source of child-distraction without putting their account controls at risk.

8) Subtly Gather Survey Data

Finally, don't forget that quizzes and surveys can absolutely function as mini-games if created and written in an amusing and entertaining way. Working with your marketing team, you can include a fun survey in your rotation of mini-games where the answers to the questions are subtly gathering valuable marketing data on customer preferences, style, sense of humor, and personal habits.

Unless your brand is built on being completely serious all the time, you have a lot to gain from considering just a few mini-game features in your customer's web and mobile app experience. Of course, this kind of personalized feature set is only possible through custom design. For more web design tips, trends, and strategies contact us today!

New Call-to-action

Topics: Marketing Strategy Integrated Marketing Gamification

Integrating Account-Based Marketing and Inbound Marketing for Maximum Results

Integrated Marketing

Marketers like to focus on one style of marketing, believing that their technique is the best way. Such is the case with inbound marketers, who focus solely on content creation methods to attract customers and lead them through the buyer's journey. Likewise, account-based marketers focus their attention on their key accounts, in an effort to convert more leads to sales. If you're only putting your efforts into account based methods, you'll miss out. Many marketing professionals are realizing that when used in conjunction, these seemingly different approaches actually produce real, measurable results.

Topics: Inbound Marketing inbound marketing strategy Integrated Marketing account-based marketing

Refined Integrated Marketing is Simple and Effective

The changes seen in marketing over the last century have all been refined through the input given by customers; fundamentally, today is no different in our digital cloud and mobile computing world, yet what businesses can now see about their customers and target audiences redefines integrated marketing; the results are simple and effective.

 

The Refining Process

Naturally, when businesses start to gain traction in the digital marketing world, the refining process will begin; the end result is up to the vision of the brand, whether raw or smooth, edgy or refined, amusing or stoic, etc.

Integrated marketing brainstorms an idea, produces an ad campaign, and then shares a consistent message strategically across all marketing channels and mediums – according to the creative parameters defining the vision. Brands should avoid cookie-cutter processes and ideas, rather, creative license should be given until a unique idea is developed with group synthesis.

The development of a routine and effective integrated marketing approach should be carefully considered; each ad campaign and brand effort is an important communication to the target audience. Essentially, brands should be patient through a refining process that's unique to their vision and value, in order to get effective and lasting results.

 

Consistency in Ad Campaigns

In an article found in The Balance called: "Learn About Integrated Marketing and Why It's Important", written on Nov. 5, 2017, author Laura Lake explains the importance of executing consistent campaigns:

"Integrated marketing puts the focus on ensuring that your message is consistent, regardless of the channel that is used as the vehicle to share the message."

When executing an ad campaign, consistency is the keyword for effective integrated marketing. Acquiring the software and expertise to automate and expand digital marketing efforts is part of the refining process we touched on above, yet the tools or "vehicles" used are only as effective as the ad campaign's consistency.

Getting the brand's message, logo, image, and/or storyline across to the target audience with a consistent message (brand value) will net loyal customers and gain positive traction on social media channels and reviews.

Of course, the effectiveness will vary, yet if an ad campaign is chosen that sincerely reflects the brand's values and vision, then it will effectively attract a loyal customer base with similar values. From a solid base of loyal customers (now even more reachable with integrated marketing campaigns), brands can confidently set sail into the sea of opportunity.

 

Gaining Visibility with Effective Tactics

"Reach, Act, Convert, Engage" – these are the main headings of the Integrated Lifecycle Marketing Diagram found in an article from Smart Insights called: "What is Integrated Marketing?", written on June 22, 2017 by Robert Allen. The author helps us refine our integrated marketing process with effective tactics and strategies, such as:

"So why not play to each individual channels strengths and design marketing for that channel specifically, rather than attempting to integrate all channels?"

The answer is customers don't care enough to pay attention to all your different messaging, and by not using one clear communications strategy to amplify your brand, your message will simply be lost in the constant stream of content that all consumers are subject to every day."

Again, the main tactic is consistency, gaining visibility and brand recognition throughout integrated marketing channels.

When it comes to tactics, he makes an important point:

"To successfully integrate your marketing so all channels are pulling in the same direction, you need to plot all customer touch points with your brand across the customer lifecycle. This lets you form a list of channels you'll need to integrate and align with the same messaging."

Customer touch points are found with:

    • analytic data

    • reviews

    • social media engagement

    • feedback surveys

    • email lists

    • event attendees

    • website visitors

    • social media followers

    • video views

    • Google AdWords effectiveness

    • polls

    • comments on blog posts
    • forum engagement

    • sales data

    • every other touch point with 1st time, return, loyal, and prospective customers

At the end of the article is Smart Insights' Content Marketing Matrix, which gives even more "...mediums which you need to assure the messaging is aligned across."

Gaining visibility with effective tactics, when it comes to integrated marketing, means staying consistent with messaging across the spectrum of digital marketing efforts, and to align all marketing mediums with this consistent brand image and vision.

Flexibility in the ad campaign's vision will produce a more sustainable storyline, yet this has to be tempered with visible and audible brand recognition themes; individual ad campaigns will constantly create a seamless storyline for brands to mold according to their vision's journey.

 

Measuring Success with Failures

Effective results are the end product of a refined integrated marketing approach, which is simplistic in nature: unify all digital marketing efforts with a consistent brand vision to gain online visibility and brand loyalty. In the process of learning about target audiences and how to reach them, brands can measure success with failures along the way.

Essentially, brands want to communicate with consumers on a trusting friend level; this is where loyal customers who engage are located, yet any customer interaction is welcomed and nurtured to fruition. During the process of earning loyal customers, brands should embrace the negative feedback and results (failures) as part of the learning process.

Measuring success from failures is a mental attitude that breeds pragmatic determination; this helps brands to persevere during failures with ad campaigns without disregarding the brand's vision or values. Retaining the brand's vision helps business's gain traction in online and offline markets, building success with a consistent and recognizable effort over years and decades.

 

Summary

With the advent cloud and mobile computing technologies, B2C relations have drastically changed; brands have, nearly, unlimited data to develop marketing strategies with, and customers are being sought after and catered to more than ever. With changing customer expectations and rapidly advancing software options, brands are being challenged to forge ahead with confidence into the unknown. 

For brands, confidence this year means aligning digital marketing mediums with a consistent message; the results will be: refined integrated marketing that's simple and effective. Along the way, it would be wise for brands to consult and partner with expertise in digital marketing; this will accelerate the refining process and elevate their ad campaign's effectiveness.

If interested in getting started please contact us today.

Topics: Integrated Marketing marketing results

The Importance of Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing refers to the practice of using multiple advertising and communications channels in concert with each other. The strength of this strategy lies in the fact that most people get information from multiple sources. In the digital world, these sources can include one or more social media sites, search engines, news feeds, topic-specific sites, and more. By connecting with people through several (or all) of these platforms, as well as its own site, your company can make its messages more memorable than it could with any one outlet.

Topics: Blogging social media marketing SEO Tips advertising strategies Integrated Marketing

Integrated Marketing: Using Multiple Channels Together for Better Results

The word "integration" is probably one of the greatest and most useful words ever invented. We know it works well in a social context when everyone actually applies the concept. In the world of marketing, it's also being used as a powerful new way to reach more people through multiple digital channels.

Topics: digital marketing Integrated Marketing