What is Integrated Marketing Communications?

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Think about Coca-Cola for a moment.
What makes them tick?
What is it that makes them one of the world’s most recognizable brands?
Sure, they offer reasonable prices for their products, have a unique bottle design, and speak to consumers on a more personal level.
But the one thing that truly sets Coca-Cola apart is their messaging. 
“Taste the Feeling.”
“The Coke Side of Life.”
“Open Happiness.”
Coca-Cola’s brand message has been so elaborate and consistent over the years, that their products have become ingrained in our culture. They’ve become part of us.
If you’re interested in presenting a cohesive, consistent brand experience that leaves your services or products top-of-mind—like Coca-Cola does—this guide is for you.
Read on to learn the following:

  • What is integrated marketing communications?
  • Why is integrated marketing communications important?
  • What do IMC campaigns entail?
  • How do you build an IMC plan that truly cuts it?
  • How can Welcome help marketers to streamline their integrated marketing communications?

Integrated Marketing Communications: Stripping the Concept Down to its Barebones

We won’t cut corners here, so let’s get to it.
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is all about aligning your marketing assets, channels, pieces of content, and touchpoints to deliver a consistent customer experience.
At its core, an IMC campaign serves a promotional, strategic, and collaborative marketing function. The target audience receives consistent and persuasive brand messaging through different marketing channels in an integrated manner. 
And like you might have already guessed, the purpose of IMC is to move the customer through the decision-making process. Of course, there’s more “meat” to the whole concept of integrated marketing communications, but for now, let’s stick to the basics.
Imagine discovering a new brand on Facebook and visiting the company’s website to inquire about one of their services. If their website promoted a different campaign or message than the one you saw on their Facebook account, you’d have a hard time comprehending the gist of the brand, right?
Integrated marketing exists to eliminate these differences and disparities irrespective of where, how, and when a buyer (or prospective buyer) interacts with your brand. 
Simply put: integrating all of your communication tools makes your marketing better.
But just in case you have doubts, the following section will help clear things up. 

Why is Integrated Marketing Communications Important?

There’s no doubt about it: today’s customers are digital-savvy, well-informed, and value-driven. And they expect a seamless experience across every touchpoint and piece of content. 
But that’s not all.
Customers expect brands to know what they’re looking for even before they start looking. And they’re smart enough to recognize inconsistent experiences when they see them.
And if words aren’t enough to convince you, these stats should help put things into perspective:

  • 72% of customers want to be engaged with an integrated marketing approach, but only 39% receive that (WordStream).
  • 61% of customers expect brands to provide what they need when they need it (Salesforce).
  • Over 70% of customers are on the lookout for new brands that make their life experience easier (Think with Google).

And as they say, numbers don’t lie.
Having an integrated marketing communications plan can give you a head-up over the competition. But more importantly, it can help you deliver on the customer’s expectations by ensuring:

1. Consistent Brand Voice

Let’s face it.
Attention spans are incredibly short in today’s ever-changing and crowded digital landscape (down to a mere 8 seconds). This means that customers won’t give your brand a second thought if your marketing voice isn’t consistent. 
But with integrated marketing, it becomes a tad bit easier to influence customers’ decision-making and retain their attention.
Inconsistent experiences breed distrust—and even dilute the impact of marketing campaigns for your target audience. So, it’s crucial to have a consistent voice for which your brand is known throughout all of your campaigns.

2. Internal Alignment

It can be hard to achieve a consistent brand message when there’s poor directional alignment between c-suite approvers (internal), consultants or agency partners (external), legal or corporate approvers (vertical), and cross-channel stakeholders (horizontal).
In order to deliver unified, integrated experiences you need integrated communications to ensure every stakeholder—and every piece of your marketing campaign—are singing the same tune.

3. Seamless Customer Experiences

Is your marketing team still putting out independent campaigns across web, mobile, and social media?
We hate to break it to you, but managing one-off campaigns is a bad, bad idea. Not only does it put you at risk of wasting resources and time, but it also ruins the one thing that customers yearn for the most: a seamless buying experience.
Having an integrated marketing communications strategy will help thwart the production of independent (and inconsistent) campaigns and help marketing managers plan and build omnichannel campaigns with unified messaging.

What Do IMC Campaigns Usually Include?

Wondering what makes up integrated marketing communications campaigns?
Bear in mind that this marketing strategy enforces a consistent brand message across various channels and touchpoints.
That means a campaign typically includes:

  • Public relations content such as press releases and brand statements (remember the Coca-Cola case study we talked about earlier?)
  • Social media content for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Visual assets including social media images, logos, and infographics
  • Content marketing assets including case studies, blog posts, and videos
  • Adverts such as direct mail ads, billboards, and social media ads

You’ll probably have your entire marketing department—and other stakeholders—working together to create an IMC campaign.
Now that we’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, let’s now look at what it takes to build a successful IMC plan.
(Drumrolls please…)

How to Build an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan That Truly Cuts It: A Mini-Guide for Marketers

Want to carve out your unique space in the industry? Want to stop sounding like everyone else and actually show up for your target audience with confidence and consistency?
Below, we’ll teach you how to build your IMC plan in six simple steps. Let’s do this!

Carry Out Market Research to Understand Your Target Audience

Your target audience is the small fraction of the market you want to reach with your marketing message.
Focusing on your target market, rather than trying to woo everyone at once, allows you to be smart about your marketing budget and specific with your messaging. 
Besides, people in your target audience are far more likely to buy from you than those outside of it.
Here are some criteria you can use to identify and define your target market:

  • Location
  • Business size
  • Education level
  • Age and gender
  • Income/revenue
  • Industry
  • Level of expertise

Remember, your selection criteria should be a mix of both demographic and non-demographic factors (physiological and behavioral traits included). Once you drill down on the specifics, you’ll understand who you’re not selling to. And that’s all that matters.

Define Your Target Customers

Your target audience can include two or more of your target customer types. So it makes perfect sense to define them.
The key here is to focus on the why for each of your target customers. What are their pain points? What hurts them enough to make them look for a solution?
Marketers can use these questions to dig deeper:

  • Who are your ideal customers?
  • Why have they chosen you instead of your competitors?
  • Why are they online looking for a service/product like yours?
  • What medium do they typically use?
  • How can you best and most efficiently communicate with them?
  • What is the outcome these customers want to accomplish?
  • What customer behavior defines them?

Once you’ve got a clear grasp of every type of your target customer, move on to the next step: identifying your USP.

Craft a Unique Selling Point

You might be tempted to skip this step, but power through it—it’ll help you big time when you get to the following steps.
To break the ice and influence your target customers, you’ve got to be unique. Our guess is, you already have tons of competition in your space. 
If you think you can get the upper hand over your competition without being markedly different, think again. 
So what is it that makes you stand out? What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Your USP is the core benefit or solution that differentiates your service or product from the competition. It positions you as the best option on the market.
This could be better functionality, competitive pricing, or superior features. Whatever it is, you only have to ensure your competition isn’t offering it. Otherwise, it won’t pass for a USP.
Check out the following USPs to inspire you:

  • Welcome: Don’t just organize your marketing, orchestrate it.
  • Avis: We’re number two, we try harder.
  • Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.
  • FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

Lay Down a Marketing and Customer Outreach Strategy

When you’re clear on who your target audience is and how best to lure them in, next you’ll want to identify the most viable marketing communications.
These marketing campaign methods are currently being implemented as independent strategies on different platforms. At least, that’s what average marketers are doing.
But there’s a better way, as you’ll see later on in this post.
With that being said, here are the marketing and outreach strategies you should be thinking of:

  • Branding
  • Packaging
  • Sales promotions and activations
  • Email marketing
  • Advertising (both print and PPC)
  • Digital marketing (e.g., content marketing, SEO, and website)
  • Digital response marketing
  • Interactive marketing
  • Influence marketing and PR

Your integrated marketing communications plan should include one or more strategies in order to reach the widest audience and drive home your marketing message. 
So don’t hesitate to test out and iterate until you remain with the most viable marketing mix.

Determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Aah, KPIs. The term may have become a cliché, but its importance has never wavered.
KPIs are quantifiable metrics that indicate the progress a marketing team is making with its integrated marketing communications campaign.
These metrics help you keep your feet on the ground, track campaign success, and learn how to improve the next time around.
Here are a few examples of metrics in a typical IMC campaign:

  • How many shares have you had on social media?
  • How many newsletter sign-ups have you received from blog posts?
  • What is your conversion rate for website marketing?
  • How many website visits have you had from social media posts?

Of course, there are more metrics and KPIs, but you get the drill.
Since different channels can communicate with a specific audience, it’s prudent to separate the metrics (data) for each channel. With channel-specific metrics, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of each touchpoint or channel in your marketing stack and how your target customers are engaging with it.

Set Up a Budget

At this point, you have your KPI(s), target audience(s), and marketing channels. It’s now time to lay out a budget that’ll set the IMC ball rolling. 
With an integrated marketing budget, you’re setting more than just an overall budget amount. You’re funding a marketing plan that includes all the various tactics (direct marketing, sales promotions, public relations, name it) and setting an allotted amount for each category. 
Allocating a budget for each channel and strategy might take a toll on your marketing department, so it’s best to bring the CFO into the loop. 
The important thing to remember is that without a carefully thought-out, well-orchestrated budget plan, your whole IMC campaign will not see the light of day. 
And remember, your IMC budget is not set in stone. You can always adjust if and when you need to.

Execute the Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy

That was quite a rollercoaster, right?
It’s now time to roll out your IMC campaign, but hang on a minute…
Remember those KPIs and metrics from step 4? 
Whichever KPIs relate to your overarching goal (e.g., launching a new product, improving brand awareness, rebranding, etc.), start tracking those metrics on a monthly or quarterly basis (depending on how long your campaign is running). This will allow you to see how successful your campaign is at reaching your goal.
As always, apply what you learn from each integrated marketing communication campaign to future campaigns. With the right strategies and tools, you can create a never-ending cycle of IMC campaign wins—and who doesn’t like winning?
Speaking of tools, an IMC campaign is only half as good as the tool it’s built on. 
If you do a quick Google search, you’re bound to stumble across an overwhelming number of integrated marketing communications solutions.
But which one is right for your company?
Great question!
It’s tempting to settle for any IMC tool out there, but that would be akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
We’ll tell you why.
You see, most tools require you to adapt your business to their parameters. But in the digital era, where the name of the game is flexibility and adaptability, you can do better. 
You want to get into the ring and dictate how your IMC campaign will take shape, not watch as your marketing strategies hit a dead end. 
You want total control. 360-degree visualization. You want a marketing tool that does it all.
Say hello to Welcome—an integrated marketing communications tool that helps you walk the talk.

Revolutionize Your IMC Campaigns with Welcome!

Welcome isn’t just another IMC solution—it’s a marketing orchestration platform that’s on a mission to “change the face of marketing for the better.”
We believe marketers spend way too much time pulling (or worrying about) marketing strings when they’d rather be out there moving the needle and supercharging their bottom line. 
Our all-in-one integrated marketing communications platform gets you out of the administration and back to the creative in the following ways:

  • On-time, on-message communication: Build and customize native workflows for any type of processes or marketing assets, ensuring your team can quickly react and get the brand message out there—and in record time, too.
  • 360-degree view of every communication channel and touchpoint: With Welcome, you won’t work in the dark and hope for the best. Instead, you get to keep an eye on what’s going out across every external and internal channel. Powerful yet flexible timelines and editorial calendars allow you to easily track what message is going out to whom, and when.
  • Craft the perfect brand story: Whether your marketing team is comprised of marketing agencies or in-house creatives, you can leverage Welcome to collaboratively polish your brand story. The best part? You can invite contributors to create, assess, and approve exceptional brand stories and messages. 

Ready to give it a try? Get started with a free Welcome account today!

Done reading and ready to try Welcome?

Welcome’s marketing orchestration software is free for up to 5 users, so grab 4 of your closest marketing buds and see what we’re all about.