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Essentials of an Integrated Marketing Communication Process

The American Marketing Association (AMA) which represents marketing professionals defines marketing as “The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives.”

Effective marketing requires that managers recognize the interdependence of such activities as sales and promotion and how they can be combined to develop a marketing program. In marketing, exchange is a central concept. For exchange to occur there must be two or more parties with something of value to one another, a desire and ability to give up that something to other party, and a way to communicate with each other.

Marketing facilitates the exchange process and the development of relationships by carefully examining the needs and wants of customers, developing a product or service that satisfies these needs, offering it at a certain price, making it available through a particular place or channel of distribution, and developing a program of promotion or communication to create awareness and interest. The focus of market driven companies is on developing and sustaining relationships with their customers. This has led to a new emphasis on relationship marketing which involves creating, maintaining and enhancing longterm relationships with individual customers as well as other stakeholders for mutual benefit.

The marketer’s task is to devise marketing activities and fully integrated marketing activities and assemble fully integrated marketing programs to create, communicate and deliver value for customers.

Advertising and promotion play an important role in the exchange process by informing consumers of an organisation’s product or service and convincing them of its ability to satisfy their needs or wants. The American Association of Advertising Agencies developed definition of Integrated Marketing Communication as “A concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic role of a variety of communication disciplines – advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.” Integrated Marketing Communication involves coordinating the various promotional elements. Six major promotional tools are advertisement, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing, publicity/public relations, internet marketing.

The Integrated Marketing Communication approach helps companies identify the most appropriate and effective methods for communicating and building relationships with their customers as well as other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, investors, interest groups and the general public. Companies send messages to customers and other stakeholders through all aspects of their marketing mixes, not just promotion. Consumers make inferences about a product on the basis of elements such as its design, appearance, performance, pricing, service support, and where and how it is distributed. For example a high price may symbolize quality to customers, as may be the shape or design of a product, its packaging, its brand name, or the image of the stores in which it is sold.

The Integrated Marketing Communication approach to marketing communications planning and strategy is being adopted by both large and small companies and has become popular among firms marketing consumer products and services as well as business- to-business marketers. By coordinating their marketing communications efforts, companies can avoid duplication, take advantage of synergy among promotional tools, and develop more efficient and effective marketing communication programs.

To move to Integrated Marketing Communication also reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment, particularly with respect to consumers, technology and media. Major changes have occurred among consumers with respect to demographics, lifestyles, media use and buying and shopping patterns. Media strategy involves determining which communication channels will be used to deliver the advertising message to the target audience. Two most important aspects of the advertising program are development of the message and media strategy. Message development, referred as creative strategy involves determining the basic appeal and message the advertiser wishes to convey to the target audience. Once the message and media strategies have been determined, steps must be taken to implement them. Most large companies hire advertising agencies to plan and produce their messages and to evaluate and purchase the media that will carry their ads. Marketing Communication can tell or show consumers how and why a product is used, by what kind of person, and where and when. They can learn about who makes the product and what the company and brand stand for; and they can get an incentive or reward for trial or usage. Marketing communications allow companies to link their brands to other people, places, events, brands, experiences, feelings and things.

The Difference Between Web Marketing Channels and Destinations

Sometimes within web marketing, we can be guilty of placing all of our hopes on our favourite web marketing channels, be that SEO, social media, PPC or another latest technique for overnight success. Any method of sending visitors to our website is a “marketing” channel”. Web marketing however isn’t just about generating traffic, it’s also about enticing that traffic to act. Equally as important as our marketing channels are our marketing destinations. In simple words, “channels” are how we entice people to our site, “destinations” are the places we send them to within our website and/or web properties. This article looks at why we need to consider our marketing channels and destinations as individual parts of an overall online marketing strategy.

People often come into web marketing with an excited focus on one, or more, marketing channels. They have recently read an article outlining why LinkedIn can unlock the true potential of any B2B business, or how the latest changes in Google AdWords allow them to follow their B2C customers around the web. Often, people come into web marketing with the belief that if they can simply get traffic from whatever popular web marketing channel people are talking about today, they will be instantly successful. The truth is that NO web marketing channel can be the sole solution to all of your business dreams. Marketing channels are great at generating traffic, but once we have traffic, we then have to make it as easy as possible for our traffic to find what they are looking for and act.

I Get Traffic But No Customers From My Website

One of the most common statements within web marketing is “I get traffic to my site, but hardly ever any leads or new customers. Web Marketing doesn’t work for me.” If we are getting lots of visitors from any web marketing channel, but not in turn getting at least a handful of new enquiries, then something has to be wrong with the relevance of our web pages with what people are looking for when they find us? The most common reason for lack of conversion is the “destination” we send people to from our chosen web marketing channels. For example, if we “tweet” about white chocolate, but then send people from that tweet via a link to our website homepage that shows many kinds of chocolate, then we are asking our website visitor to do some work in order to find what they were interested in.

So what should I do?

Let’s look at another example. Let’s suppose you let holiday homes in some wonderful seaside, holiday town. Let’s also suppose that some of your homes are dog friendly. Let’s say that you currently run ads via PPC for dog friendly holiday homes in your seaside town. If everyone who clicks on one of your ads lands on your generic website homepage that’s simply shows images of random holiday homes, then we are asking our website visitor to filter out the dog friendly homes from the others. They have to so some work to find what they are looking for.

Alternatively, with a little more work on our part, we could send people clicking on our PPC ads to a dedicated page that only shows your dog friendly homes. Maybe we also show a few great reviews for each one and perhaps even include some images of happy dogs spending time at our pet friendly holiday homes? Our website visitor has landed on a much more enticing and relevant page. We have both given the website visitor less to do and, more importantly, shown them exactly what they were searching for. It’s easier for that website visitor to now act.

In this second instance, our web marketing channel (PPC) and website destination (dedicated dog friendly holiday homes page) work in tandem to promote our holiday properties much more effectively. You may have read/heard the phrase “Landing Page”? A landing page is the most commonly used phrase to describe a website destination used online. I prefer the term “destination” because it helps me envisage an exciting place we send our website visitors to where we help them to “do” something they are interested in.

So, channels and destinations? Anything more?

Last week we went over that the difference between “connect” and “buy”. We can also apply this principle to our work on web marketing channels and destinations. Let’s suppose that a good number of our website visitors to our holiday homes page are not quite ready to purchase their holiday today. Maybe they are unsure where to go on holiday? Maybe they even want to know what would be the best destination for a dog friendly holiday? At present, if they land on our dog friendly holiday homes page, we currently only have a call to action for people ready to buy now. What can we do to “connect” with all those people currently researching where they want to go on holiday with their dog?

What if we offered a free downloadable guide to “Great Dog Walks In and Around Our Wonderful Seaside Town”? If we offer this guide in return for our website visitor’s email address, we have given them an action they can take today that will help them decide whether our seaside town is the place for their holiday, or not. We also gain the ability to continue communicating with that website visitor beyond this initial visit to our webpage. Perhaps some of our website visitors won’t book this time but will next? Perhaps some might book another destination that we offer holiday homes in? Perhaps they were even researching on behalf of someone else? Whatever their reason may be, by giving them an action to take and “connecting” with them (via our free dog walks guide), we have the ability to communicate with them continually about dog friendly holidays. The onus is, of course, on us to communicate well.

Web marketing has never been just about channels. SEO, social media or even PPC are never a sole answer to your online success. To be truly successful, we need to think about where we send people to and how relevant that is to their point of interest. We also need to think about what we offer people as a next action to take. If people are ready to buy great, if however they want to learn more, then we want to help them do that too. Business is a path of customer care, when people come to us we need to look after them every step of the way.

Seeing Your Web Market As A Resource

Is your market like an iceberg?
I see a picture of my web market and it looks like an iceberg. The small portion above the water line is a group of individuals that are ready to purchase. This is the portion of the market that advertising is aimed at because these people are ready to purchase. It is this ‘ready market’ that consumer advertising feeds on. And because this ready market is constantly renewed as decisions to purchase are made it is like a feeding frenzy for all business owners.

As business owners we want to harvest our share of this ready market, but some companies take the lion share because they have deep pockets. Small business owners mostly get the scraps, or they find a better way to reach their market.

The greater resource
Like an iceberg the greater portion of our whole market is undecided and not ready to be scooped up. We tend to ignore them until they become a ready and mature market. Even our financial resources dictate that we focus on the ready market.

When we are hunting or trapping our markets and attempting to capture that market then this is how we think. And we are all hunting or trapping. Our marketing language tells us that much when we say things like “our TARGET market” and “CAPTURING our market.”

It is in this way that we define our marketing and it says a lot about our own business and the nature of our business. Hunters and trappers have an aggressive mind set, but not all business owners want to be aggressive and spear or trap their markets. But we all want more business.

Are there alternatives to hunting and trapping?
A history of civilizations shows us that cultivation works better in many instances that either hunting or trapping.

It is a wonder that marketing people do not think much about cultivating the greater market share instead of hunting down the smaller market portion that is the ready market.

Your whole market as a resource
It is a simple and practical matter for a web page to cultivate the whole market. There is no limit on the space and content of a web page, but there are necessary considerations on how to deliver information to the whole of the market.

People, which make up your market, simply do not read volumes of information. We cannot know just what stage of the buying cycle a single visitor is at, yet we need to cultivate that member of our market.

From the very beginning of the buying cycle, where members of our market are becoming aware that they have a problem, all the way through research and then comparison shopping until finally they are close to making a decision, takes in the whole of the market our web site needs to cultivate.

No other marketing medium can provide the tools and the affordable means of cultivating a market. In the past it was always the material store and sales people that cultivated the walk-in customer. It was even possible for a talented salesperson to walk a potential customer all of the way through the buying cycle and finally make a sale.

No one does that for a pack of gum
Even in a material reality there are limitations to resources and time spent. Salespeople do not really want to talk to a potential customer that doesn’t see their own problem, let alone talking them through research. Only if the sale represented enough profit is it worth the effort.

Your web site has a onetime effort, for the most part. It is as simple as writing up the content to include every step of the buying cycle. A single page may seem like a mile long and no one is going to scroll down through a wall of text, but the web offers tools for hiding information until it is wanted. A much shorter page without sacrificing needed information is the result.

Farming your web page
Instead of writing content to spear customers in the small ready portion of your market you can farm the much larger portion of that same market. And in doing so you are also including that ready market.

From top to bottom your web page can attract your whole market wherever they are at. And while those that are ready to purchase put an item in the shopping cart others are being fed the information they need take their next step.

When you feed your market and raise them up to be knowledgeable shoppers you have also built a relationship based on honesty and trust. Your web site has helped them and nurture them and in turn most will reward you with their business.

No longer strangers
Marketing people know that the toughest sale is always the first sale. Once that barrier has been broken more sales can be made. Sharing and being helpful builds relationships and in this way you and your market are no longer stranger – even before the first sale.

A web page designed to help your market with useful information is like the farmer fertilizing his farmland. First you put in and then you take out.

Helping and supporting is not a marketing strategy when it comes to skimming off the surface where you bump into all of your competition. Web marketers, for the most part, teach you how to get your elbows out and muscle your way past your competition just to get a line in the water.

And once more you are fooled
Even before we think about marketing we need to think about search engines. The picture of a feeding frenzy on ready buyers doesn’t apply when it comes to search engines. That place where every business is hunting or trapping the ready market is diluted with traffic from search engines.

Your web designer said they would send you tones of web traffic and – even though this is faulty thinking – if they do meet their promise it won’t be what you were expecting.

Search engines are not just available to the ready buyers in your market, they are available to the whole length and breadth of your market. Right off the bat the ready buyer traffic you receive is going to be dwarfed by about 9 to 1 where 1 is the tip of the iceberg.

Your whole market is searching for your solutions, but only a small portion are ready to purchase. This is good and bad.

It’s bad because you need a good portion of the ready buyers. It’s good because you can cultivate all the rest and turn many of them into your own resource.

If you want all of your market you must cultivate that market and make it your own. If you want to know how to cultivate that market look for my article titled, “Farming Your Web Market.”