It’s a constant concern for just about anyone running a business. Whether you’re a huge fast-moving consumer goods conglomerate or a one-man home-based office, the question always is: “How can I keep my business going?”
Integrated Marketing Communications, or just IMC for short, has been defined by the American Marketing Association as “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.”
Integrated Marketing Communications takes into account (at least as much as possible) every single possible imaginable way you and your customers (and prospects) interact with each other. This includes traditional and non-traditional media, both online and offline.
- Traditional media usually refers to mass media- the use of TV, radio and newspapers. As businesses find new and innovative ways to promote their products and services, you now have a wide array of non-traditional media to connect with your market: local store events, viral videos, the use of social media like Facebook, MySpace and Multiply, and even parties and concerts.
- Online marketing channels are huge these days: with search engine optimization (SEO), blogs, podcasts, social media of all kinds, online TV shows and workshops, and you also have online affiliate programs, pay-per-click ad schemes, and e-mailblasts. Aside from traditional mass media, offline marketing channels also consider direct mail campaigns, public relations, the use of billboards and industry analyst relations.
As you can see, you have a whole lot of marketing tools to play around with, and it can be easy to get lost in figuring out the best ones to use for any given promotional campaign.
Let’s review: the goal of Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, is to bring together all the elements of your corporation (advertising, sales, customer service, public relations, direct marketing, sales support, etc.) into a singular, unified force rather than having these different departments all work independently and separately from each other.
The end result is that you have a single concept; a single brand message across all your marketing channels, customized for any advertising or promotional effort, bearing in mind time, budget and the goals of the current campaign.
In the years I’ve worked in the broadcasting and marketing business, I can’t help but notice a large number of corporations that don’t embrace the management concept of Integrated Marketing Communication- they still hang on to antiquated marketing processes and practices from the past. While the concept of IMC had already been introduced several years ago, its importance to SME’s have grown- particularly with today’s more challenging business environment.
5 Reasons Why IMC Is More Important These Days:
1. More Contact Points. It used to be that traditional mass media (radio, print, TV) was the way to go when it comes to advertising a product, service or brand. While they still have their uses, your customers now interact with your brand in so many ways beyond this.
A customer may have heard about your restaurant from another friend when they had a great dining experience there the last time. He goes online to check out the menu, and calls up the resto to make reservations. When he and his date comes in, they can’t help but notice how cozy the place is, and get the chef’s recommended dishes for the night.
It is the aim of any Integrated Marketing Communications practitioner to cover ALL these contact points: including customer service, store design, direct marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, the internet, after-sales service, new media etc.
2. More specialized media. It used to be that mass media was enough to cover any advertiser’s needs. But with ever-increasing ad clutter, shorter attention spans and greater resistance to advertising, your customers now tend to be a lot more selective: they shut out the stuff they feel they don’t need, and go with the stuff that they want.
So media now tends to zero in on a particular niche market: you now have a cable channel just for kids- 24/7; totally unheard of at my time. You’ve seen magazines that cater to entrepreneurs, pet owners, budget travelers, mothers and sports fans.
Recently, we’ve seen even more specialized media: you have podcasts now that talk about starting up a successful small business, viral video clips of cats, and blogs on cheap hotels and resorts in the Asia-Pacific.
3. More than ever, customers are king. The power has shifted from the manufacturers (those who make a product) to the retailers (those who actually sell the product). We all know it: it’s easier to keep an existing customer happy than it is to win back a customer you lost. Retailers now place greater emphasis on protecting their clientele- and take great pains in whipping up the best possible experience for their patrons- before, during and after the sale.
4. Marketing in now more data-based. When a client blows US$10 million on a local TV ad campaign, does it know exactly how many people watched his ad? Out of those who did see the ad, how many of them actually remembered it was all about? And of those who did manage to remember what it was about, how many answered the call to action?
More advertisers are reluctant to shell out wads of cash for media buy- and rightly so. How do you know you’re getting your media investment back? Understandably, they want to see figures- to see exactly how that quarterly ad campaign budget is spent, and ask themselves: is it really worth all the time, money and effort?
Particularly among small- to medium-scale enterprises, you now have all kinds of marketing tools for any given promotional campaign. As business becomes more cutthroat, business owners who are also now more involved in the marketing process hang on tightly to their media budgets- and let go after carefully choosing the right mix of media- both traditional and non-traditional.
5. More widespread internet use. Thanks to the worldwide web, your customers can check out what they want anytime they feel like it. Conversely, it also means that your business can also exist outside your regular business hours, and therefore have the opportunity to keep selling 24/7.
Every company should have an online presence now- and it doesn’t have to be a static brochure-type website. Company blogs give a more human face to your business, allowing you to interact with your online audience. Innovative promotional activities can help bring in new business. And you can expect your clientele to talk about you- particularly so if your product, service or brand has made a tremendous impact on them- both in good and bad ways.