Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is the coordinated promotional and marketing efforts of a particular business and brand. The various marketing channels - both traditional and nontraditional - work together to present a unified message, whereas those same channels likely worked independently in the past.
The modern world has (too?) many ways that a message can reach a consumer: direct mail, billboards, television and radio advertising, social media, sales promotions, articles, blog posts, email campaigns, online banners and ads, in-store displays, and trade publications. If a consumer encounters various methods - but with an inconsistent message, the result is typically irritation, frustration, and/or confusion. And none of those are good for business. IMC works to avoid that scenario. All your marketing efforts and channels work together.
Four Phases to Success
A good integrated marketing communications program will have at least four phases:
- Self-Evaluation - a thorough examination of all current marketing and communication channels, the message traditionally being sent, the targeted market(s), customer perceptions, and so forth. How are you currently marketing, and to whom?
- Communication Plan - phase two involves the creation of a coordinated message for each designated target market (who is it for? what is the message? how will you reach them? what is the end goal?) What is the message you want to send to each target market?
- Tactical Plan(s) - phase three is the creation and execution of a targeted and consistent message for each target base. How will you reach each market segment?
- Analysis of Effectiveness - measure the plan effectiveness against both plan-specific and company-wide objectives. How will you know if it’s working?
Measuring Effectiveness via Benchmarks
IMC works best when you monitor and evaluate its effectiveness from the beginning. It’s important, therefore, to set measurable benchmarks from the get-go.
Your benchmarks will vary depending on your particular industry and program objectives. You might collect online data via Google Analytics (or similar program) about number of visitors to a landing page, or concrete number of new subscriptions, or completed customer surveys, or customer rankings of various categories, or number of complaints.
The only thing that remains the same for ALL integrated communications programs is that you have to set benchmarks and implement ways to collect the necessary data. For example:
- Message Reach - you set a goal of 5000 people seeing your current message. This could be measured by tracking codes in an email campaign, or number of unique visitors to a sales or landing page.
- Customer Perception - you set a goal of an eight or higher (out of ten) ranking for service on a customer survey.
- Conversion Rate - you set a conversion goal of 4% for individuals visiting your online retail portal during a sales promotion. Number of overall visitors vs number who actually made a purchase reveals your rate.
- Favourable Reception - you redesign your product packaging and expect at least 75% of surveyed users to rate it as better than the old version on a social media poll.
Your benchmarks might be related to message reach, public perception, customer perception, marketing return-on-investment, or anything else related to your overall goals and objectives. Collection of the necessary data has never been easier through tools like analytics programs, social media, tracking links, focus groups, surveys (telephone, direct mail, online), marketing costs compared to new customers/conversions, and general brand awareness.
Benchmarks are connected to your goals, and every campaign, promotion, or push has to have them in place early. How many, how much, where, why, how, and so forth. The trick is to explicitly include these benchmarks, and then to check the data against them early and often. Is it working? Is it meeting the plan objectives? If so, you’re golden. If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.