I’ve been trawling the blogs this week and I’m amazed at just how confused some of the “experts” are about integrated marketing.  For example, it seems to be a  common misconception that “integrated marketing” is buying all your marcoms from one source. 

Apart from the fact that this is impossible anyway (the range of elements is infinitely wider than any one marketing firm could accommodate) its just utter bollocks!  Buying all your services from one place, if it were not complete fiction, might be a termed a one-stop shop, which is the band-waggon that a bunch of terminally unimaginative marketing services firms jumped on back in the seventies when they realised that their gravy train was heading into a siding, but forget it, you are not even close.  So let’s start at the beginning.

“Marketing” is the process of leveraging an organisation’s resources to deliver the solution to a customer need – right?  Its not advertising or any other kind of communication and its certainly not “sales” (Don’t all those recruitment ads for marketing managers that are really sales jobs just do your head in?) although both of these are components of marketing.

Conversely, “communication”, is not “marketing” but something that we all use, all the time, including when we are “doing” marketing, in which context it involves stuff like advertising, PR (That’s Press and Public Relations), direct marketing, web for sure (I wish I hadn’t started this list because all those that I don’t list you’ll think I’ve forgotten!  Please take it that we all know the traditional media routes).  It also means that often forgotten and massively misunderstood area – internal marketing.  However, it embraces stuff like the way your phones are answered, the way your company vehicles are driven, the look and feel of your stores, the attitude of your sales staff, your products themselves, where the are sold … I could go on, but the last time a workshop of mine made a list we had to stop at a hundred and counting.  Take it from me no organisation appreciates all the ways in which it communicates.

“Sales” come into it for the first time somewhere in the middle of the marketing process – the stages before are the lead up to the sale and the bits afterwards are CRM leading on to repeat purchases (which is where the investment really starts to pay off).

“Integrated”, last time I looked at a dictionary, meant “combining”.  I don’t think that’s changed.  So “integrated marketing” is (drum roll) “combining your marketing”!  Simple isn’t it?  Well, no actually, it isn’t.

“Integrated marketing” means taking all your marketing elements and making sure that they are all working efficiently and effectively together to achieve a common goal. 

So, if marketing involves every area of a business, to be integrated you have to embrace every aspect of your business with a single strategy that addresses every function – an integrated business and marketing strategy – and ultimately one management point.  However, the big obstacle to actually “doing” integrated marketing is the way that most businesses are set up.  The traditional business model encourages silos and ivory tower thinking, positions marketing as a separate, support function and therefore actually prevents  integration!

To achieve the kind of efficiency that is essential for a business today the organisation has to be built around its brand, marketing has to be the core discipline and firmly in the driving seat and the marketing department coordinates.  There is no other way, this is how it works and the organisations that have quit arguing and just got on with it are now reaping the rewards.  Great for them because they have established a new level of competition.  Using a soccer analogy its as though they are playing 4-4-2 when the rest are still using the 2-3-5 formation that went out with the introduction of the off-side law in the 1920’s.

The thought of changing their structure and introducing new thinking is viewed by many organisations as a step too far, which is why we see many businesses clinging on to the old ways.  However, they’ll either change or die and the sooner they start with a new approach the less painful and the more manageable the change process will be.  In fact, it needn’t be as traumatic as some people expect, as long as its done early enough and there’s just about time to get in on the act, although we are well into the eleventh hour already.

Its clear why a marketing services firm like an advertising agency isn’t going to be able to help you out – its a long way beyond their area of expertise, although it doesn’t stop some of them offering.  Its also nothing that  design group or branding agency can solve for you either, although we need these firms, who at least understand a little of the subject, to contribute their communications expertise to integrated marketing strategies.  There’s no getting away from it, its up to the organisation to take the initiative and prepare the ground.  Such an organisation should also be ready to handle the ongoing coordination and management, although probably with the support of a marketing or business specialist, but beware, there are a great many so-called experts out there who don’t really get it.

Michael Weaver
January 1, 2008

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