"Integration" gets a lot of lip service, but - unfortunately - that's often all it gets.
It's a shame, really, because integrated marketing impacts your prospect's confidence in your brand's ability to deliver on several levels:
Consistency: Marketing materials that look different, deliver different messages, and speak with different voices can handicap your brand's ability to make a good impression. Your marketing materials should project an image of professional "put-togetherness." The continuity of your messaging (across all tactics and channels) will provide the clarity necessary to cut through marketplace clutter with a strong, confident voice.
Validation: Relying too heavily on any one channel creates a one-dimensional feel. From Email to direct mail and back to social media, there is no shortage of paths to your customer's door. Establishing a "real" (vs. lip service) presence in multiple channels reinforces your credibility and leadership position.
Connection: Individual marketing tactics are like individual bread crumbs in a single trail. When all the crumbs are lined up properly, the path they mark is easy to follow. A well thought out integrated strategy includes all the ways a potential buyer might want to connect with the brand and then links those touch points together so that, with each crumb, the prospect is led closer to the close.
Consistency, validation, and connection - each is an important ingredient to consider when creating a buyer experience that inspires confidence. You get that, so what's stopping you from getting all your ducks in an integrated row?
Too many cooks: Sometimes there are too many individuals assigned to "marketing." Sometimes, there are too many departments in the mix: corporate branding, traditional marketing, PR, and a social team. Whatever the case, the result is a bevy of renegade players and projects that end up creating a discord that rivals even the most authentic jazz.
Disparate resources: It can be tough for a new channel to work its way into the mix with the more traditional, "workhorse" methods. Social media often faces this hurdle. A brand wants to get involved somehow, but a) isn't quite sure how to do it, and b) doesn't want to allocate any resources (bodies or budget) to the cause until a case can be made for a strong ROI. Sadly, the outcome of this scenario is often a half-assed attempt that kills any chance the new channel (social or otherwise) had to succeed.
Lack of perspective: Without the ability to see the full plan, it's very difficult to get a sense of what's in play, never mind how the individual pieces do or don't work together. Gaining high-level perspective can be a huge challenge because it requires that extract yourself from the day-to-day rat race.
But, don't worry, all's not lost. Here are a few tips to get you started on the path to true integration:
Step back and assess. You don't have to bring everything to a grinding halt, but slow down enough that you can get a sense of the Big Picture. Physically map it out so that you can start to see where there might be chaos and where there might be holes. The chaos represents an opportunity to streamline, the holes represent opportunities to expand your efforts.
Involve the whole team. If you've got multiple people or teams who are responsible for marketing, make sure each one has a seat at the table. Integration cannot be created in a vacuum, and it often has trouble thriving among cubicles.
Allocate resources equitably. If you ask someone on your team to test out a new channel, give them the tools they need to run a valid test. It's not going to help anyone (or your bottom line) to waste resources on mince-stepping projects. If you're going to add something to the mix, add it. You won't be able to tell whether it's going to work unless you give it a fair chance at success.
Document the plan. A strategy won't do you any good if it's filed away on someone's hard drive or buried in some obscure location on the company intranet. Once you've got a working plan in place, publish it to your team. Write a manifesto, draw a picture, make a movie. The format doesn't matter as much as the message - just make sure that everyone understands the Big Picture and their small part.
Keep talking. Communication between teams should be consistent and on-going. Interaction should become a part of the routine, not a once-a-quarter ordeal. Once you've laid the groundwork for integration, make sure you keep the lines open. The more dialogue your teams share, the better chance that they'll uncover those opportunities that can take your marketing to the next level.
What's your experience with integration?
About the Author: Jamie is a freelance consultant and copywriter who partners with small businesses, start-ups, and creative professionals to define and market their brands. Her specialties include brand development, social media strategy, and content marketing. Enjoy more of her posts, or drop her an email.