What is Integrated Marketing and How Does it Work?

Marketing Tools & Tips

This week I taught a training session on Building an Integrated Marketing Plan as part of our Marketing Superhero Bootcamp series. I was a bit overwhelmed at the number of questions at the end of session, so I thought it would be better to actually answer the questions via our blog. This is the first of up to five posts on different question areas related to my Integrated Marketing presentation.

Of the more than 70 questions posted in the chat room, they mostly fell into these five categories, for which I will be doing a blog each:

  1. Integrated Marketing components and bringing it all together (this post)
  2. Prioritizing Integrated Marketing Channels
  3. How to be successful at Integrated Marketing (or marketing at all) at small companies or non-profits
  4. Integrated Marketing metrics and budget
  5. Developing your go-to-market strategy and personas

What is Integrated Marketing

What is Integrated Marketing?

Let’s start with the definition, especially for those of you that did not join our bootcamp. Integrated Marketing is unifying traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and applying consistent branding, messaging and strategies, and using cross-channel promotions so channels reinforce and strengthen each other.

With the number of marketing channels increasing daily, the need for an integrated approach to marketing has become more critical than ever before. If we keep marketing disciplines or channels in silos, we are not gaining the full value of any of them. By leveraging each other and creating consistent themes, content and goals, our combined marketing efforts rises the whole ship, resulting in more success not only for marketing but also for sales, revenue and the company overall.

How Can I Bring the Pieces Together?

Integrated Marketing Collaboration

First, you need to find all the pieces. Maybe this is obvious in your world, but I can tell you I’ve had several experiences where my first step was identifying and getting to know the marketing people across an organization. Finding the people and what they do helps you both figure out who the team is and what the pieces that exist already actually are. There may be gaps in the Integrated Marketing chain you will need to fill.

Next, put together a proposal. As with any plan, you need to clearly state what you are proposing, why it’s important, what challenges or problems are inherent now with the team siloed, who is involved, and what you expect the end result to be.  This plan needs to be approved by whoever owns the overall organizational structure, which depending on the size of your department, business unit or organization, could be the VP of Marketing, the CMO, the Senior VP for your division or the CEO.

Make sure that as you are socializing this proposal, you don’t catch any of the impacted members off guard. Talk to them, get their input and ideas, ask them what their goals are, etc.  Make them a part of the process and plan.

Also, be sure to get HR involved early in the process. By communicating proactively with HR and having a champion from HR on your side, the organizational structure revamp will go much more smoothly.

Remember that the Integrated Marketing team does not necessarily have to literally be a single team.  I’ve managed many Integrated Marketing plans and teams where the members did not all report to me. You can create and implement very successful marketing plans and initiatives with a virtual team that may report into multiple areas. What ties you together is the strategy, the objectives, the metrics and the integrated plan of attack and calendar everyone aligns to.

How Do You Get Executive Buy-in or Drive Integrated Marketing Up?

Integrated Marketing approval

Some of this question I answered above if you are the person managing the process. However, I received many questions like this that were clearly from people not in control, who own one piece, or maybe are the only marketer in an organization.

Regardless of your situation, getting executive buy-in takes providing the executive the proposal, plan or language he/she likes to consume. I have always found having a sound plan that I can present to an executive or an executive team is a great place to start.

Do your homework! What is most important to the company or to the executive that you can leverage? Is it revenue? Is it competitive threats? Is it churn? By understanding the hot points for the executive, you can tailor your plan and conversation accordingly.

Show the data! Do you have any data to show how some form of integrated marketing worked before. For example, did you do a campaign that combined PR, demand gen, social media and events that resulted in the highest lead conversation to date. Maybe it’s not that dramatic, but literally any example you can provide that shows a glimpse of the future integrated nirvana will help. If you don’t have your own examples or data, find some outside. You can find almost anything online these days, and I’m sure you will find some example no matter how simple you can build on.

Reach out and collaborate informally! If you don’t have the structure or plan in place, then start building the relationships yourself. You don’t need executive approval to go chat with and learn how to work more closely with other marketers in your organization. That’s just smart. I have never seen anyone say no to meeting for a coffee or lunch or short chat, especially if you pose your request as wanting to see how you can help THEM expand their reach or marketing impact with what you’re doing.

Lead a project! Volunteer to your executive or marketing leader to lead a project, where you can build an integrated plan. It could be a product launch or something seemingly small like a local networking event or a new video or piece of collateral. No matter how large or small, you could take that project and show it’s impact in an integrated marketing way.

Take a video as an example. Before producing it, reach out to your marketing “teammates” and find out how they could use video footage. You might learn they need 15 second teasers for social media or 1 minute video for lead gen on the website or maybe a 5 minute video for events. By gathering this data beforehand, you can make sure your project builds in the flexibility to meet multiple needs. Then, share that video content with all the teams, ideally putting it in the format they need for their channel. Then report up the results and impact of your one “little” project. While you’re at it, if appropriate, feature the executive in the video, even if only for a short piece. Including the executive in the process and the end product will help your case (especially if the exec has a big ego).

How Do You Overcome Cynicism or Siloed Workers?

The best way to overcome cynicism or reluctant marketers across your organization is by listening to them, helping them and giving them something at stake. I have experienced cynicism at every organization where I have done this. Why are they cynical? Perhaps they have been moved around a million times. Maybe they have lost the chance at a promotion because of changing managers before. Maybe they don’t want to be in marketing and like sitting in engineering or sales or customer support.  There are a million reasons. You need to sell them and involve them.

reluctant marketer

Before you try to change the world, do a project where you involve people across the Integrated Marketing mix to participate. Have shared goals and metrics for the project. Make sure you know what they need to help them be successful.

So often, we are so focused on our goal we ignore finding out what others need to be successful. Often times, marketers feel like they don’t have a voice in the organization. If you can create a project where people feel heard, appreciated and rewarded, you will be showing them the value of working with you.

The same goes for siloed workers, who have developed a pattern of working alone and shutting everyone out. Give them something at stake or at risk.

For example, let’s say they are a technical content writer in charge of the user guide. As part of the product launch, you ask them if they would be willing to leverage the work on the user guide and create several blog posts about key user scenarios. And maybe also write a shorter “how to” document you could use in marketing. Maybe you even have them do a couple podcasts about how to use the product. Most technical writers are great writers, and long for the opportunity to show their writing chops in other ways.

Importantly and ALWAYS make a point of thanking the person for their involvement in the project, and send an email to their direct manager and maybe even their executive thanking them for enabling this person to be involved and letting them know what a great job this person did. Talk about the collaboration and the results of this integrated project.

What’s Next?

For you, what’s next is trying out my suggestions above! For me, it’s working on answering your other questions, such as how to prioritize the many different integrated marketing channels. And while I do that, please leave comments on other ideas you have for people who asked these questions!


Margaret Dawson

A 20-year tech industry veteran, Margaret is known for taking people, brands and companies to the next level through creativity, awesome positioning and messaging, coaching and hard work. She is a proven entrepreneur and intrapreneur, having led successful programs and teams at several startups and Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Microsoft and HP. She’s a frequent author and sought-after speaker on subjects such as cloud computing, big data, women in tech, and the convergence of technology and business. She is also an active mentor for men and women in technology. You can follow her on Twitter @seattledawson.

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