Integrated marketing communication (IMC) incorporates consistent messaging across both digital media and offline channels to target audiences based on unified first-party data.
This is the premier approach used by enterprise and mid-sized businesses to build brand awareness, execute effective campaigns, and orchestrate successful lifecycle activities:
- Ecommerce companies leverage consumer insights (e.g., recent products or services viewed, items added to carts) to create on-brand, omnichannel customer experiences (CX) to generate new business, repeat buyers, and greater customer loyalty.
- Car rental agencies deliver personalized website experiences and deals to visitors that can both convert prospective vehicle-bookers during their sessions and inform their retargeted ads and remarketing emails to those individuals later on.
- Bricks-and-clicks retailers collect known and anonymous contacts’ data from online and offline sources to enhance those individuals’ customer profiles, inform individualized offers on various channels, and improve the efficiency of your marketing.
Regardless of where a person initially interacts with your brand, it’s critical that all subsequent communications with them — digital and otherwise — feature the most appropriate marketing messages based on their unique engagement and interests.
What’s more, that communication needs to align, so to speak, on every medium and source on which it appears: from your website and email efforts to your social presence and ads.
In other words, you need an integrated marketing communication plan today. The good news? You probably have many (if not most) ingredients needed for IMC success.
Before you launch this approach in earnest, though, there are many pieces of the integrated marketing communications puzzle you must put into place to establish your strategy.
The first one to prioritize? A single source of truth that provides rich customer profiles, the coveted single customer view, and, in turn, customer identity “confidence.”
Without a central system that facilitates the flow of customer data in your martech ecosystem, implementing impactful integrated campaigns and relevant messaging to contacts based on actions and behaviors across multiple marketing channels will be tough.
And there’s one technology, in particular, data-driven organizations across industries use to accelerate their integrated marketing strategies today: the customer data platform (CDP).
What is integrated marketing communication? A breakdown
Prior to onboarding a CDP to get your integrated campaigns and orchestration efforts off the ground, though, it’s important to understand the intricacies of the promotional technique and how you can marry it with your existing marketing mix with ease.
“Where online and offline become one.” That’s how one business strategist framed the promotional approach for CMSWire. A succinct, but nonetheless accurate IMC overview.
The modern integrated marketing communication definition boils down to this:
A seamless, holistic marketing method that blends first-party data from all systems and sources and results in bespoke customer experiences across all channels through consistent, targeted brand messaging
Sound familiar? It may be a marketing technique you already employ. Ask yourself:
“Do we ensure that all messaging in our marketing efforts are based on real-time data access and insights, persistent across channels, relevant to contacts, and shared at the most pertinent places and times?”
If the answer is “yes,” you have an integrated marketing communication strategy.
What you may not have, though, is an integrated marketing plan that revolves around ideal customer profiles that consolidate identifiers and profile properties from across databases into one, unified system of record for your business.
Breaking data silos vital for IMC campaign success
Too many organizations today still have dreaded customer data silos.
The negative ramifications of failing to sync first-party data into a primary database for eventual integrated marketing activation are well-known (all too well, for some brands):
- Inability to promote the most applicable products or services to one’s audience
- Insufficient understanding of customers’ buying patterns and browsing trends
- Ineffective personalization capabilities due to fragmented customer profiles
Given 61% of marketers indicated breaking down silos to provide greater data access companywide and enable better data-driven (see: integrated) marketing was a top objective, it’s evident siloed data is the biggest deterrent to successful IMC programs.
Syncing data also critical for integrated marketing
The best way to eliminate these silos (and, in turn, obstacles to growing your marketing ROI)? Connect all your principal marketing and business technologies and ensure all customer data from those systems flows into the aforementioned single source of truth.
As Google VP, Media Platforms Sean Downey noted for Harvard Business Review:
“Marketers who use rich insights, cross-functional collaboration, and integrated technology are best positioned to break through the clutter.”
To commence your IMC efforts, it’s critical to couple all your martech: from your CRM software and email service provider to customer journey analytics and experience tools.
Once all solutions “speak” with one another, you and your team will be able to improve all aspects of your marketing communication by carrying out more fruitful integrated campaigns and conveying your uniform brand messaging across customers’ lifecycles.
What’s more, with all worthwhile customer data (i.e., cleansed, quality-hygiene first-party data) merged in a central database — preferably, a CDP — you can rest easy knowing incomplete profiles are a thing of the past and you’re set up for marketing success.
The benefits of integrated marketing communications (and technologies)
As noted, chances are you and your team have many, if not most, of the core components required for an effective integrated marketing plan today in place for your business:
- A robust online presence: Strategies for search engine optimization, social media engagement, demand generation, email nurturing, and similar digital marketing tactics
- A strong offline program: Print advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing activities to engage prospects and customers in the real world
But these activities won’t lead to the return on investment you (or your C-suite, for that matter) desire if they don’t work in unison to deliver a compelling, uniform CX.
Statistics from Econsultancy’s recent study on the pros of advanced customer experience strategies show just how much brands can benefit from syncing CX technologies:
- “Leading” marketers are 52% more likely than their “mainstream” counterparts to build fully integrated martech stacks that connect all marketing solutions.
- Marketing professionals with integrated technology stacks are 45% more likely to use first-party customer data to offer a personalized CX to their audience.
- Brands with leading marketers are 60% more likely to develop and optimize customer experiences in real time by leveraging analytics than mainstream marketers.
Translation: Leading marketers become such by optimizing, analyzing, and executing integrated campaigns with integrated marketing technology stacks in which their data coalesces and, in turn, increasingly improves their promotional efforts.
Just ask marketing experts and MIT Sloan Management Review contributors Matt Lawson and Shuba Srinivasan, who relayed the pros of integrated marketing technologies:
“It’s crucial to consolidate data to not only visualize the customer as he or she moves across channels but also connect those insights back to enterprise data, analyze and segment it, and apply those insights to meaningful and profitable actions.”
And what better system in which to consolidate customer data — and use to create a seamless customer experience — than the CDP: a platform that offers this data unification, analysis, segmentation, and activation — all in a single user interface.
An integrated marketing example to inspire your communications strategy
It’s one thing to learn about a concept like integrated marketing in the abstract. It’s entirely another to discover how the conversion-enhancing approach can be executed.
Take BlueConic customer Planet Blue, for example.
The California-based retailer has both a popular ecommerce store and brick-and-mortar locations. Many of the fast-fashion brand’s customers buy from them via both sales avenues.
Thus, it made sense to piece together all that online and offline purchase and intent data to better understand its shopper audience (e.g., clothing brands bought most, frequency of site visits, etc.) and provide bespoke customer experiences to them based on that data.
Something BlueConic now enables for the retailer.
The implementation of a loyalty program helped point-of-sale associates capture shoppers’ email addresses during purchases. Once BlueConic’s CDP was onboarded, the company was able to merge that offline buyer data with online engagement data and into unified profiles.
In conjunction with our CDP’s advanced capabilities, like predictive CLV and RFM models, Planet Blue has crafted an omnichannel CX strategy — and, thereby, an integrated marketing communications strategy — that delivers more value and increases loyalty.
Building your brand’s integrated marketing communications plan
Of course, the integrated marketing communications method — and the customer data platform — isn’t something only retail and ecommerce companies can benefit from.
Countless companies — membership organizations, media and publishing brands, and finance and investment firms, among others — use the customer data platform to augment integrated campaigns through more efficient segmentation, more advanced personalization, and more actionable audience insights.
In fact, it’s how so many brands form and refine modern customer engagement strategies that distinguish their marketing messaging, and organizations at-large, from competitors.
When initiating your integrated marketing communication strategy, consider what you already have in place and what finishing touches are needed (e.g., revised brand messaging, more effectual martech) to supply a stellar CX to your customer base.
Once those IMC-related gaps are filled, you will be on your way to far more efficient cross-channel marketing — and have the foundation for true customer data liberation.
Get even more insights into Planet Blue’s omnichannel CX efforts and how the single customer view informs its integrated marketing strategy in our case study.