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.