Today's economic realities are forcing a new look at marketing integration. As advertising and promotion budgets undergo new levels of scrutiny, it's vital for marketers to understand the overlaps of their various advertising campaigns and ensure they're generating the maximum ROI possible for the company.
It doesn't matter whether it's an organization of 20 or 20,000. All too often, companies grow horizontally, adding functional expertise or specialists for given tasks, and creating silos.
For example, I recently spoke with a director of e-business for a midsized corporation. I asked them if they were measuring the offline conversion to sale from telephone inquires that their national and local search campaigns were generating.
Their answer: "I don't get credit for anything that doesn't convert online."
Given that 39 percent of sales follow up from an online local search happens via telephone, I thought surely, someone at the company would care. The answer has to be the key advertising decision maker.
As a VP of advertising or CMO, where do you start and end your exploration for communication integration and efficiency? Let's start with the basics and move toward the complex to address the questions.
Basic Integration 101
The most basic fundamental start to integration is the marketing/promotion calendar. Take a spreadsheet or use an Outlook or Google calendar and plot your various advertising and promotion activities denoting when they're live.
Start with your foundational media types (e.g., Internet yellow pages, business directories, SEO and other annualized type investments). Alongside the calendar, list the key marketing messages featured in the media type.
Next, list your media that is episodic or campaign flight-driven (e.g., paid search, display ads, TV) into the appropriate months when these campaigns are live. Again, alongside the calendar, list the key marketing messages that the campaigns focus on.
When you're finished with the exercise, you should have a comprehensive listing of all of the marketing and communications activities and their primary messages and specific timeframes denoted in the calendar. Next, note who within your organization is responsible for the campaign. If you work with specialist agencies, list which ones are responsible.
First question for analysis of the integration: Are the core messages and campaign objectives covered in your marketing calendar complementary with each other, or at odds? Is the new national TV campaign tagline or theme reflected in your direct mail, print and Internet yellow pages, or your newspaper efforts? Seems like common sense, but after 20 years working with some of the world's largest brands, I'm still amazed at how marketing and communication message integration basics are lacking.
The smarter clients I work with share the above marketing calendar with all of their marketing partners to ensure that each understands how their efforts fit into the client's overall communications strategy. The very best clients go one step further and create forums (conference calls, on-site meetings) where the key strategists from the various agencies/disciplines gather to cross-check ideas for improving message and execution integration.
Now stroll down the hallway to the CFO or head of sales to gather a little more information into your spreadsheet. Add in last year's gross sales by month and the forecasted sales by month for the coming year.
Analysis point two: Do your marketing expenditures mesh with your prior year and forecasted sales? In general (depending on your sales cycle close timing), you want marketing and promotional spending to lead slightly ahead of sales timing. Use the output of this analysis to realign your marketing promotions timing to be reflective of sales expectations or vice versa.
Advanced Integration 404
Technology companies have begun creating solutions to solve many of the integration issues faced by today's marketers. The category is known as Enterprise Marketing Management (or EMM). For companies that have a direct sales model (online conversion, dedicated sales force), these platforms offer a host of benefits to understand the entire sales process via measurement and optimization of a company's entire marketing efforts.
A few of the better known solutions include:
These industrial-strength solutions often carry a big price tag to match. But depending on how complex your product and sales channels are, they can be invaluable to integrating multiple variables into a cohesive advertising strategy and execution.
So why is the interactive/search guy evangelizing integration? As specialists, aren't we better off sticking to our knitting? Won't the other disciplines want to steal our budget or learn the nuances of our craft?
Specialists thrive through innovation, developing sales leads, and by helping clients (internal or external) grow their business. No all-encompassing media type can make a brand/company successful. Specialists who share information gain more in return by applying techniques that work in other disciplines that can transfer to grow the overall response on behalf of the client. That's how innovation happens.
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