Integrated Marketing is a complex assembly line
Consider integrated marketing as a complex assembly line similar to an assembly line for building cars. When building a car there are many parts and a process that come together to build a quality vehicle. In marketing there are also many parts that go into producing a quality, integrated marketing program. By the time a car comes off the assembly line every thought, vision, design and engineering element have come together. The manufacturer rightfully expects the vehicle will sell. Similarly, in marketing, you want your well designed, thought out and integrated marketing plan to deliver results for your business. You want it to sell!
Understanding Integrated Marketing
There are many parts of a business that need to be working together in order to achieve the best possible results. The marketing of any business must reflect this. The challenge, however, is when many parts are managed by a lot of different people. People by nature are complex and as a result, harmonious integration can be a challenge.
For example, have you ever asked a group of people to state or list what the objective of a business or project is?
How often has the answer been consistent across everyone you asked?
In business, a consistent response is very rare, especially when the stakeholders in the business have different priorities.
For the purposes of this blog, lets assume a reasonably basic set of business goals. They are:
- Increased customer retention
- Sales growth
- Increased revenue
- Core Systems Upgrade
- Higher staff retention
Any business will expect the best possible results against the goals they set. Yet, management will most likely separate the responsibilities based on skill and expertise as well as function or department. In our example, I.T. will be responsible for the systems upgrade and Sales, for sales growth and so on. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of management to manage the matrix of competing priorities. Management must ensure the optimum individual performance across skills and expertise while ensuring the best possible business results against overall goals. And this is where an integrated marketing approach comes to the fore.
In this example let’s assume there are a number of problems that are preventing each department from its achieving its goals.
As an example, assume our business is in software:
- Customer Services are frustrated by an intermittent bug in the software. This is preventing them from increasing customer retention.
- Sales are down because of the quality issues. They also feel the advertising and communications are not supporting them.
- Finance wants to increase the price of the product to generate more revenue. Sales and Customer Services are arguing against this.
- IT wants to shut down the systems to do an upgrade to fix the bug. Finance is opposed to an after hours fix because of the costs.
- Staff in every department are frustrated and unhappy. HR are arguing they can’t achieve their goals because of the under-performance of the other departments.
Consider next steps:
The problems detailed in this case study show there are clear dependencies across departments. They also demonstrate the conflict that starts to arise when the dependencies impair someone’s ability to achieve.
The challenge becomes building a solution that considers and integrates all the problems and issues into a workable solution. Here there are two very important parameters:
a. What is the timeframe for the plan to be implemented.
b. What is the budget?
A good relationship between management and marketing is essential to building and integreated plan. Marketing that is driven by the directors and executive management of a company will ensure integrated marketing is core to the business. If it’s dismissed as a menial task of little value by executive management, marketing and the business will underperform.
Management and marketing working together ensures planning is done well, and that marketing decision making is considered. Goals will have specific targets and timelines. There will be clear direction across the business of what is required andby whom.
In our case, our Software Company has annual, measurable goals and progress is reviewed quarterly.
Budgeting is complicated. I advocate a centralised marketing budget managed at the executive level. This allows for budgets to be aligned to the best outcomes for the business. It allows for more fluid reallocation of funds as needs and issues arise. Decentralised marketing budgets create a cilo effect. Departments can be inclined to misuse funds to ensure future allocation, in the event, there might one day be a need.
For the purposes of this study, our Software Company operates a centralised marketing budget.
Developing your Integrated Marketing Plan
1. A scoping exercise engaging all the business stakeholders is an essential first step.
I always advise my team of marketer’s to go into these meetings with an open mind. Listen to everything the department wants or believe they need to achieve their goals.
Another golden rule… Don’t mention budget! If you bring the budget to the table at this stage of the process it will limit thinking. Managing your budget comes later.
In these sessions, the marketer’s goal is to get as much valuable information about that particular business unit. Learn everything you can about their challenges and frustrations. You’ll find you’ll get past the superficial desires and get down to the real problems. This will always lead you to better marketing solutions.
2. Research and Validation are the next steps.
You will gather an enormous amount of valuable information from your analysis meetings with all the departments. It is essential you research these findings and validate them. You will be making decisions that may seem less than what a stakeholder is expecting. You must be able to give a reasoned and quantifiable justification for any decision.
Research can come in many forms. You may have access to in-house data which will assist you. When collecting in-house data from stakeholders keep an open mind to bias in the reporting. Similarly, you may need to undertake or purchase external research to help you form strategies. These will impact on your budgets. Make sure any external research and purchasing of information are justifiable. In our digital society, there are many innovative and affordable ways to gather information. Explore them all, it will make you a better marketer.
By now, a plan or strategy should be starting to take shape. Developing the plan is the next step.
3. Put together your strategy and implementation plan
Here is where you make or break successful integrated marketing. Your strategy and plans have to ensure the best possible outcome for all stakeholders. It must be the platform that drives the overall business success.
Obviously, the case study of our software company is very simplified. So to come up with an integrated plan here is also oversimplified. However, as an example, you may come away with a plan along these lines.
a) Commence with an after-hours IT upgrade asap.
b) Build a communication and advertising plan launching the software fix as a new version (product)
c) While waiting for the upgrade and launch of the ‘new’ product, have the sales force meeting with all existing customers. Allow them to advise customer’s they will all be receiving the ‘new and improved’ software, free of charge.
d) Increase the price for the new and improved software and start marketing and selling it to new customers.
This plan will address:
- Increased customer retention by offering the free upgrade
- Sales growth will increase with access to a better product. This will be supported by a comprehensive communications plan
- Increased revenue will be generated by the higher price on the product
- Core Systems Upgrade will happen sooner and without disruption. This is the platform for all other elements of the plan
- Higher staff retention will be derived because all stakeholders will be happy when their goals are addressed in the integrated plan
I do have to say; oh that it was so easy in reality!
4. Roll plan into budgets
Making sure you can afford your integrated marketing plan is an essential process. In some cases, the budget allocation will allow you to proceed with the very best of planning. In most cases, however, the process of compromise or negotiation for more funds is required. If the budgeting requires compromise it can be valuable to re-engage the stakeholders in this decision. If you choose to seek to gain access to more funds, you must be able to project and defend an ROI.
You must make sure you work in all costs. You must be sure how your cost and budgeting decisions impact each business unit and the business at large. Budgeting must be done correctly. Many great marketing plans have fallen apart because of poor budgeting.
The best advice I can offer here is to have your numbers checked. Be sure of your assumptions and the cost of them. Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to the budget. Every stakeholder and the company are counting on a great integrated plan that can be implemented.
The Final Essential Ingredient in any good Integrated Plan
Marketing is a dynamic science. Things will change. Elements will come out of the woodwork that no one considered. Be ready for this. Your customers are people, they may not react the way you or your stakeholders expect. Be ready for this. I have a motto here at Macrison that all our marketers are assessed against. “Measure and act!”
Don’t think to implement a plan and forget about it. Watch it, analyse it and measure it. Finally, make sure you act on all findings.
When embarking on your next integrated marketing plan remember to approach it as an assembly line. That way you’ll be comprehensive in your outcomes. Make sure you manage the plan like a finely tuned machine. One that needs to be kept in top shape at all times.
About The Author:
Joan MacDougal is the founder and owner of Macrison Co Pty Ltd. Prior to Macrison, Joan held senior roles at both American Express and Telstra. With 30 years of front-line marketing, advertising and communications experience, Joan brings honesty and perspective to her views on better marketing, communications and advertising. Visit Joan’s website www.joanmacdougal.com to get to know Joan a little better. For more information on our Services click here Macrison Services
Integrated marketing communications and the evolution of marketing thought – James G Hutton
How to Create Win and Dominate Markets – Kotler
Principles of Marketing – Armstrong / Kotler
Marketing Management: A Strategic Decision-Making Approach – by John Mullins and Orville Walker