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What is integrated marketing communications?

A manifesto and ten point checklist for delivering more relevant online and offline communications

To gain the best results from integrated marketing communications needs deep  understanding of the multiple touchpoints that a brand has with its prospects and customers on its own sites, partner sites digital and traditional media defining paid, owned and earned media.

Requirements for effective integrated communications

In marketing, it's common to say that effective communication is about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. That's true, but the reality in multi-channel marketing is more complex. Multi-channel communications are more complex as Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights shows in Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. He says that what we’re trying to create using paid integrated with other media is

A Multi-channel Communications Strategy

Customised for Individual Prospects and Customers forming different segments

across a defined customer lifecycle

which...

delivers the Right Message

featuring the Right Value Proposition (product, service or experience)

across different devices (desktop, mobile and tablet) 

with the Right Tone

at the Right Time

with the Right Frequency and Interval

using the Right Media / Communications channels

to achieve...

Right balance of value between consumer and brand

So it's far from easy! I hope the discussion and examples of best practice on this site help with your integrated communications. I'll list the main posts that should help - they're mostly relevant to email marketing, but as you can see below, the concept can also be extended to include offline communications, search and social media marketing.

Recommended articles to help with Right Touching

Why is integration such a challenge?

I think that integrated comms are our biggest challenge as online marketers since:

  1. Consumers have limited attention and limited appetite for interaction with brands;
  2. The growth of smartphone adoption has made multi-device behaviour common where communications are accessed on smartphone and desktop by the  multichannel majority;
  3. Marketers have limited budget and resources so they need to try to make every consumer interaction count and engage their audience through effective targeting;
  4. To market effectively, marketers need to deliver and analyse multiple interactions across digital and traditional media channels, i.e. allocate conversion to the media which have influence a lead or sale whether these are display ads, paid or natural search, social media, affiliate marketing, email marketing, Direct Mail, TV or print ads.
  5. Website owners need to test and refine the design, messaging and value propositions that will engage visitors on their fleeting visits so landing page experiments and site optimization using techniques such as AB and multivariate testing become crucial to getting better results.

You can see that to achieve Right Touching or what my colleague Richard Sedley of cScape calls "light touching" requires practical skills in the challenge areas of communications strategy, web analytics and optimising the different media above.

So integrated communications require a cross-disciplinary approach for success and I try to concentrate in the major developments in these core digital media which professional marketers such as E-commerce Managers, Digital Marketing Directors and Execs, need to know rather than the noise of  minor developments which may be important to specialists but don't really affect the big picture.

Integrated communications checklist

To what extent are you incorporating integrated marketing communications? Use this
checklist from customer acquisition to retention which covers 'always-on' integrated communications:

  • 1. Search marketing: when a prospect uses Google to search on
    a company brand name plus a specific category or product, a paid
    search ad should explain the value of the proposition and direct them
    to the right product page.
  • 2. Behavioural targeting or online advertising: when a
    prospect interacts with content on a media site or searches on a
    specific term, a sequence of follow-up ads known as behavioural
    retargeting
    should be displayed as they visit other sites within
    a network and the destination site of the merchant paying for the
    advertising.
  • 3. Multi-touches across different digital media channels for
    acquisition
    . Using tracking through web analytics to
    understand the sequence and combination of different digital media
    channels (search, affiliate, ads, aggregator sites) which generate
    the most cost-effective response.
  • 4. Email welcome strategy: when a prospect subscribes to an
    email newsletter or enquires about a service, a welcome
    communications strategy should be in place which uses a sequence of
    email and possibly personalised web recommendations, direct mail and
    phone communications to educate the customer about the brand or
    product and generate the initial sale.
  • 5. Reducing online attrition: when a shopper abandons their
    shopping basket, a combination of communications should seek to win
    them back. Alternatively, after a quotation, for example for a car
    policy, follow-up emails should remind customers about the benefits
    of taking out the policy.
  • 6. Delivering relevant recommendations. When an existing
    customer returns to a site, a personalised container should be
    available on every page to deliver relevant personalised. Panels
    within email can do the same.
  • 7. Following up on customer product or promotion interest.
    When a customer clicks on a link in an email or interacts repeatedly
    with content on a site is there an automated workflow triggering and
    email, direct mail or phone reminder about the process.
  • 8. Getting the frequency right. Effective Right
    Touching requires that messages stay relevant and don"€™t become
    intrusive because the volume is too high. So you should put limits on
    the maximum number of emails that are sent in a period (e.g. one a
    month or one a week) and the interval between them (e.g. an interval
    of at least 3 days).
  • 9. Getting the channel right. Right channelling means
    using the best channel(s) for the customer, which fits their
    preferences and the right channel for the company, which gives them
    the best combination of cost and response. It means that for some
    customers you may be able to upweight email communications because
    they interact and respond to them, so reducing costs of direct mail.
    But other customers on an email list may not be respond to or dislike
    email and so direct mail is upweighted to them.
  • 10. Getting the offer right. Offers will vary in
    effectiveness according to the audience targeted and this will be
    indicated by their profiles and customer journeys indicated by the
    media and content they have consumed. So right-touching requires that
    testing is built-in to deliver the right messages and right sequences
    of communications for different audiences.

By Dave Chaffey

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

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