Composing an effective marketing plan can be challenging for any organisation, particularly given the many tactics and tools now on offer. Small businesses, in particular, may be tempted to invest precious funding into periodic blockbuster campaigns delivered through prominent channels to achieve their brand awareness aspirations. The consistency of brand messaging can, however, get lost amidst such disparate activities.
Adopting an integrated marketing communications concept may address this issue. By using a wide range of communication techniques and platforms in tandem, business leaders can help convey essential messages accurately and impactfully, as well as create a dependable experience for customers.
So, what else can this approach do for your business and your wider promotional efforts? To illustrate, we have compiled a breakdown of the importance of integrated marketing communications, and the role it can play in your company's long-term success.
What is IMC?
The concept of integrated marketing communications – also known as IMC – entails a holistic approach to marketing that utilises a combination of communication methods, platforms and activities to achieve key goals. It integrates online and offline marketing, advertising, public relations, and sales promotions to accomplish seamless brand communication with consumers throughout all stages of the buyer journey.
It's important to note that these activities are planned and executed together, in tandem. Each channel should reinforce the others, allowing your businesses to deliver consistent communication that is tailored to the ideal customer and is, therefore, more likely to succeed in driving desired buyer actions. Entrepreneurs can achieve greater clarity of promotional content through this comprehensive approach, compared to executing stand-alone activities.
Why is IMC Important?
In addition to cultivating a more memorable, dependable and persuasive connection with targeted shoppers, an integrated approach offers additional, tangible benefits.
For a small business, in particular, these advantages can mean the difference between expensive, slow customer acquisition and sales, and sustainable, consistent financial returns on your marketing investments.
Here are some of the ways it can help your organisation:
1. Attracting New Customers
IMC can help with customer acquisition, effectively connecting companies with their targeted consumer groups across multiple platforms, and therefore building long-lasting brand awareness and perception over time.
By leveraging different communication tools to deliver consistent messages around your company's offerings, competitive advantages and promised experience, these messages will be perceived by viewers as being more authentic and believable. This addresses the so-called "rule of 7" marketing concept which states that a new prospective buyer must be exposed to a brand's marketing message at least seven times before they consider making a purchase or taking another action.
This outcome can only be achieved when your company's communication plan is composed to utilise different marketing methods concurrently, which is why IMC wins in terms of customer acquisition over running self-contained campaigns.
2. Retaining Existing Customers
IMC does not solely centre on brand-to-buyer messaging. In fact, the approach incorporates consumer feedback collection as a key to achieving two-way communication. This, in turn, can facilitate high customer satisfaction rates and impact valuable consumer loyalty.
Customer feedback may be conducted via a combination of digital and physical methods, engaging with buyers for their opinion on – and experience with – your brand. By making shoppers feel heard and appreciated, your company can succeed in improving buyer retention rates.
Although this mutual communication will positively affect brand perception and affinity, your business must also action the feedback collected during this process to address buyers' needs, concerns, and complaints (if any). This can take the form of improving elements of your product or service offering, launching special offers, or adjusting marketing and communications personalisation as required.
3. Leveraging a Range of Marketing Tools
When implementing IMC, your marketing team can divide the available promotional budgets between a wide variety of communication platforms. This allows you to reap the unique benefits of each, avoiding the challenges of limiting your delivery approach to just two or three tools as many smaller businesses often do.
For instance, budding brands may spend heavily on billboard and broadcast advertising campaigns, reasoning that this will obtain wide levels of exposure. However, by ignoring the integrated concept, their strategy will not incorporate the repetition of significant content with an aim to driving specific outcomes. The disconnect between the messaging of those campaigns and any previous or following independent activities – such as email marketing or promotional pamphlets – will cost those businesses the opportunity to impart a unified message to audiences and accelerate results.
IMC mitigates this issue, ensuring that your organisation spreads its attention, investment and consideration between a greater selection of marketing methods. This will secure better results by taking advantage of the complementary facets of the promotional tools used.
4. Increasing Marketing Touchpoints
For new and existing customers alike, integrated marketing increases the number of marketing touchpoints with a business, as it focuses on delivering multiple messages to those same, segmented buyer groups via many channels and methods at different times. This facilitates your brand's storytelling power and can be leveraged to move audiences further along the customer journey with each touch.
As a small business, you should consider each communication with shoppers as an opportunity to create awareness, interest, consideration or intent, and finally lead to a purchase or re-purchase. This should be factored into the IMC planning process, focusing particularly on content.
You can use market research to tailor your content marketing strategy and better speak to the needs, motivations and preferences of your ideal buyers.
5. Maximising Marketing Budgets
This approach also enables you to make the most out of a limited marketing budget by leveraging suitable combinations of tactics that achieve the required results. It does so with a lower cost compared to traditional large-scale marketing campaigns through one or two communication platforms alone.
In fact, the role of IMC is to adequately address the challenges that many growing businesses face in obtaining the desired ROI from their marketing spend. As today's consumers become more resistant to advertising in general, your brand is better off moving away from mass marketing techniques and adopting integrated communications to plan and execute niche marketing.
Your company doesn't need to overspend on marketing in order to meet your objectives; they can be successful in driving results by crafting an omnichannel communication plan that takes into consideration the preferences and habits of targeted audiences.
As a result, integrated marketing communications can actually provide a more advantageous return on marketing investment, something that is incredibly significant for small businesses that do not have great amounts of funding to spare.
Employing a wide range of integrated marketing communications is a powerful approach that, when executed well, can offer your brand a plethora of competitive advantages. By running a combination of closely intertwined communication activities across channels, you can amplify brand awareness among your target audiences, support valuable customer recruitment and impact loyalty. In fact, this method can actually help your company make the most out of a modest marketing budget and limited internal resources, while still achieving enviable, tangible results.
What do you think? What are the cons – if any – that are associated with integrated marketing? Have your say, and let us know your opinions and experiences in the comment section below!