Integrated marketing used to be fairly simple. But as Steve McKee recently pointed out in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, it’s now become somewhat of a mess.

A time of change.

In the olden days, if your television and print ads were tied to your newspaper and direct mail campaign, you had an “integrated” communications campaign. Today it’s much, much more complicated.

If you’re still utilizing traditional media vehicles—and why not if that’s how your target consumes content—they need to have the message and brand consistency that’s always been required. But they also must now seamlessly integrate with social media, web site content, search engine optimization, point-of-sale materials, PR efforts, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Google keywords. Not to mention customer service and internal communications.

It’s overwhelming how many marketing channels are available, yet necessary, for connecting with new prospects and existing customers to further relationships and increase and organizations value—and hopefully revenue.

No longer about yelling and selling.

If it’s not obvious by now, the role of marketing has changed drastically and forever. The future of marketing is about serving, not selling. It’s about doing things with and for your customers. And it involves participation, feedback, and opinions.

Without exception, it also involves lots and lots of technology. Add to this rapidly evolving marketing environment the impact that technology continues to make to shrink the distance between clients and proven communications resources that can deliver domain-specific expertise to a marketing communications challenge with greater efficiency and increased effectiveness.

So where can company leaders and marketing decision makers turn to organize, simplify and succeed in this newly integrated marketing mess? The answer lies beyond the traditional ad agencies and design firms that have not evolved to meet the new needs of marketers. Marketing leaders should be evaluating different types of resources that have some of these essential characteristics:

1. | Strategy before pretty pictures

If you’re lacking a clearly defined strategy, that’s where your search for a marketing partner should begin. Look to resources that understand and are driven to use brand strategy as their prime organizing principle for defining your unique attributes to drive success. They should have the competencies and abilities to do the heavy lifting required to define your customer value and figure out where your brand needs to go.

2. | Experience matters

Look for communications and technology professionals who have earned their experience in many different kinds of organizations (agencies, technology start-ups, in-house communications departments, branding firms, etc.) and who have a broad view of how the market, technology and communications are changing that affect your business and how you communicate with your target customers.

A communications partner should bring a unique perspective, deliver market proven skill sets and demonstrate that they have solved real-world problems for organizations that are like yours or in your category of business.

3. | Validate the walk they talk

From engineering web-based software applications to developing the back-end of content-driven dynamic websites, to engaging and building communities in social media, ensure that your potential marketing partner knows how to help your brand express your customer value and foster engaging relationships in many different media to help you succeed. Beware of gurus and “experts” who know everything about the rapidly evolving changes taking place.

4. | Does the passion come through?

Consider resources that value customer relationships and that are easy to do business with. And make sure that they have a passion and understanding of your business that will engage and inspire your customers to notice, consider, and ultimately interact with your brand and solution.

5. | Seek references.

Talk to a potential partners customers and listen to how they have performed, understand the results of their efforts and learn what value they’ve added to the brands that they have worked with.

There has never been a better time for small marketers to appear big with more tools, techniques, and tactics to integrate into your marketing plan. Check with your peers, check on Google and get started with a new, qualified marketing communications resource that can make a difference in your business.

Your turn.

So how are you addressing the continuous and transformative changes that are taking place in marketing and communications? Are you still working with a “traditional” agency trying to sell you access to an expensive, non-interactive universe of prospects with “creative” solutions that are ineffective or that can’t be measured?

Share your experiences and how your partners are helping you succeed or how they’re falling short. We look forward to your views.

7 thoughts on “Turn the Integrated Marketing mess into opportunity.

  1. This is right on, Paul — great post. I agree with your points, and especially the one about being wary of people who say they know everything about the new marketing model. This thing is in its infancy, and a lot of trial and error is necessary before this become a science. It’s exciting to see how creative some marketers are with these new tools – I’m glad so many of them are willing to share.

  2. Paul,

    As usual, an insightful and provocative post. This is irrefutable advice to “small marketers” needing to “appear big.”

    What I see from the big brands, perhaps driven by an inability to get all of the above from the big, traditional ad agencies or design firms, is an ala carte approach. This has even warranted one of the uglier buzzwords in recent memory: disinter-mediation. Basically, eliminating the middle man.

    Presumably, the big brands are still desirous of all of the above, but are choosing to take a dim sum approach to achieving it. They seem to believe that the integration is their ball to carry. I, for one, have never put a lot of stock in the one-stop-shop approach as it seems a close neighbor of jack-of-all-trades, master of none. And this seems to be the conundrum that the big shops are wrestling with. It is where I ply my trade and we’re not really that “big.”

    The issue boils down to economics, of course. Is it possible for an agency, that “middle man” (or middle person, if you prefer) to make the huge investment in the myriad competencies, front-end, back-end, and all the voodoo in the middle, you so accurately describe? And then make a profitable business of it?

    The question remains, who can bridge the gap between business strategy and the design of the complexities involved in contemporary customer engagement?


  3. Once again, a clever, concise and comprehensive analysis of our current situation as marketing advisors/practitioners. If you should ever leave the front lines, you would make great professors. There are two semesters of relevant topics in your comments. Not to mention your tweets. Keep it coming.

  4. Thom,

    Thanks so much for your considered comment!
    Agree with your POV and would like to add that I think the old model of “vertical integration” in an agency where there is domain expertise and fluency in every possible communication media (along with research, media planning, production, etc.) is just not credible—or affordable any more.

    And I believe that the strategic capabilities of most agencies has been draining out since 2000. So now, many marketers are less inclined to turn to an agency for strategic thinking do to the limited capabilities or poor work product. And interestingly, these same companies expect agencies to be proficient mouse movers with expertise in the latest “silver bullet” of marketing without recognizing that it takes money, resources and commitment to continually keep up with the tsunami of changes that are affecting everyone.

    So, I would propose that a more credible and appropriate model for the times is one where modules of domain expertise, join, collaborate, deliver client value and then disengage to move to the next opportunity for connecting, collaborating and creating solutions that meet client needs in a more affordable and efficient way. I’ve personally heard this thought expressed by more than one marketer or prospect. And I continue to experiment with it every day. But who really knows?

    Thanks again for your input. Look forward to sharing more soon!

  5. Dennis,

    Thanks for your comments!
    And for your recognition of my Twitter stream. I thought it was a milestone to move into a 4 figure Tweet profile. But I keep trying to figure out if there is real value there for all the effort??

    I do like the Twitter platform. And I think it’s the best for broadcasting a POV and engaging with others in a fluid and fast changing way. Unfortunately, I am concerned that it’s just going to become another sewer of ads. Are you tweeting? Let me know and I can follow you.

    Best to you and I look forward to sharing more soon.

  6. Barbara,

    Thanks so much for your comments!
    I agree it is a fast changing marketing world we are working in. And we all have to do our best to experiment in it and make sense of it. As the saying goes: “may you live in interesting times”. And are they ever!

  7. In many ways integrated marketing is harder than ever before (so many more noisy channels). But clarity of message has always been the first and most important thing, and it’s doubly true today. Great post, Paul.

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