What Is Integrated Marketing (and Why Does It Matter for B2Bs)?

A twisted rope is tougher than single strands. The same principle applies to marketing.
IM_Integrated_Marketing

“Come together, right now.”

—John Lennon

It’s a demonstration I’m sure you’ve seen: a presenter holds up one stick and has a volunteer show how easy it is to break that stick in half. Then, the presenter holds up a bundle of 20–25 of the same-sized sticks and asks the volunteer to break that in half just as easily.

The strength of integrated marketing

It is, of course, impossible.

The message is a simple one, usually some variation of, “We are stronger together.”

I’d like to offer a variation of that demonstration. This time, imagine a single fishing line is pulling you forward. You may be compelled to move to a certain degree. But eventually, your weight will overpower the fishing line and it will break. Now, imagine there are 20 fishing lines pulling you forward. They aren’t going to break under your weight. Eventually, you will end up where they are leading you.

That is integrated marketing.

Integrated Efforts for a Singular Goal

Integrated marketing brings things together

Rest assured, this post won’t rely on overused buzzwords like “synergy,” “convergence,” and the like because by now, it should be quite apparent that integrated marketing is not a fad, but rather an evolution of the marketing strategies and tactics that have proven to be successful since the days of Ogilvy and his counterparts.

Since the dawn of capitalism, businesses have had a singular goal: make enough profit to keep themselves going while making company stakeholders money. Over time, we’ve developed techniques for realizing those goals such as dissecting profit margins, tracking ROI, following multi-department P&Ls, and a plethora of other ways of delivering insights into the mechanics of business.

With the advent of new communication channels (e.g., print, radio, television), each new way of reaching customers required thought and management. The digital age added a wealth of even newer and faster-fractioning opportunities, making it seem impossible to keep track of the marketing mix.

Many questions arise when thinking about all the communication opportunities that exist now, such as:

  • “How can I possibly be on all these platforms at once?”
  • “How can my marketing budget sustain the strain of all these new channels?”
  • “How can I possibly track ROI and know what truly makes a difference?”

I’d like to propose that we take a step back and realize that, although there are hundreds of marketing options available through dozens of different channels, our goal is still a singular one: profit. Allow me, though, to explain why using multiple efforts to reach that singular goal is your best option. 

Integrated Marketing: Merge Ahead

Integrated marketing is about convergence

According to a 2012 Forester study, “40% of mature multichannel marketers reported increases of more than 15% in revenue that are attributed to marketing programs.”

Industry by industry, integrated marketing drives increases in revenue. The reason for this trend is simple: It’s impossible to predict exactly how and when someone will encounter your brand, so it’s important to have consistent messaging across multiple channels that then drive customers toward the same ends.

This is especially important for B2B industries, where sales cycles are long and potential clients can regularly use up to six different engagement channels during their buyer’s journey (according to a McKinsey Quarterly study). In the B2B world, the effectiveness of your marketing won’t be determined by the individual channels you choose, but rather by how well you use them together.

No Two Integrated Marketing Strategies Are Exactly Alike

Integrated Marketing is not cookie-cutter

Just like businesses, no two integrated marketing approaches will be exactly alike, so it’s best to team up with an individual or group that has experience in the field and that knows how to bring all the channels together for greatest effect. While specific integrated strategies will vary company to company, there are a few things you should always keep in mind:

Integrated Marketing Is Like an Onion: Layered

The most dangerous thing a company wanting to get into integrated marketing can do is just “dive in” and start doing everything at once. Yes, integrated marketing is based around the idea of doing everything together, but you have to build your program in the right order. You have to make it layered, like an onion.

First comes the research and strategy. What business goals are you trying to accomplish: awareness, email subscribers, RFQ submissions, social media followers? Once you have your goals in place, you can determine which channels will work best to achieve those goals.

Next, you’ll need to build the right content. Depending on the channels dictated by your strategy, you may be creating white papers, webinars, emails, social media posts, advertisements, or direct mail pieces. Consider each channel while you are creating content so that each piece of content can be properly adapted for each chosen outlet.

Finally, you’ll want to have a reporting system in place before you launch your integrated marketing program. Using campaign- and channel-specific tracking URLs is a popular approach, or you can pay for a service like Act-On or HubSpot that will record everything in one place. However you go about it, make sure you have a system to track individual channels within your integrated program so you can make agile changes and keep increasing conversions.

No Internet Is an Island

The Internet has changed a lot of things, especially in the industrial B2B sector. But what hasn’t changed is that offline activities are still important to include in your mix — even a digitally integrated marketing mix.

Even thought integrated marketing had its genesis in the online world, B2Bs cannot discount the fact that print and direct mail can be effective drivers of leads and awareness. The major shift is that they have to be adapted to work together with online programs.

The same is true of earned media like public relations and articles placed in publications. With a properly executed integrated marketing strategy, your owned media (e.g., website, social media profiles, blogs) can drive and enhance your earned media (e.g., articles, press releases). And vice versa.

With integrated marketing, the goal should be a consistent message across all channels, online and offline.

Integrated Marketing ≠ Sales

This is an important distinction to make. Many industrial B2Bs still operate with the assumption that sales and marketing are part of the same general function. Successful integrated marketing underscores — and depends on — the distinction between the sales and marketing functions. The two still need to work in harmony, of course, but they should not be considered the same department.

According to recent studies by the Corporate Executive Board Company, B2B buyers go through nearly 60% of the buying process before even talking to a salesperson. That’s a large gap if you’re still expecting sales to lead the charge when it comes to new customer acquisition.

That’s not to say that sales doesn’t have a place at the table. Marketing needs sales just as much as sales needs marketing. If sales’ job is to shoot the fish in the barrel, then it’s marketing’s job to get the right fish in that barrel to begin with.

Conclusion

It’s a big world out there and a lot of times it can feel unconquerable and scary. Integrated marketing is one approach to selecting and organizing all the marketing opportunities available so that they can be used to pull your prospects toward your desired ends.

A well-orchestrated integrated approach to marketing is a satisfying and profitable endeavor that takes the myriad B2B marketing opportunities available and turns them into a specific strategy that works to foster success.

If you find you need a refresher course on any of the marketing channels mentioned above, or if you need help putting together an integrated marketing program of your own, please contact us today.

We also have an out-of-the-box integrated marketing product called Marketstrong Communicator that is easily customized for most B2B industrials looking for an online lead-generation solution.

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