Why Integrated Marketing Communications is Essential for Small Businesses
How can Integrated Marketing Communications help me, the small business owner?
Integrated Marketing Communication is essential to small business owners because they, even more so than large corporations can not afford to misspend or waste money on a single isolated marketing effort.
For instance, as a small business owner, it may be tempting to focus on one aspect of marketing – a new website, a direct mail campaign, radio ads or as a manufacturer, simply letting your partners market for you. However, what happens if that one piece of marketing doesn’t work?
ANSWER: Your entire marketing effort fails.
Instead, wouldn’t it be great to have an integrated marketing plan that takes the best parts of online marketing such as websites, email newsletters, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click advertising and use that to make your traditional, offline efforts such as direct mail, advertising and public relations even more effective.
For instance, this may be as simple as making sure that your website has the same key words as your radio advertising and that your banners at the little league games also have the same message. To internalize a message, a person must be exposed to it several times. If you hit them three times with three different messages it is nearly the same as being exposed only once. Even worse, it could be confusing and disorienting, resulting in a negative experience with your brand.
Integrated Marketing Communications addresses this issue by creating a plan with a consistent message and then delivering it through as many media as possible, online and offline.
What are the components of an integrated marketing plan?
An Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) plan should draw from all communications disciplines available, including online, offline, and interpersonal.
Online marketing channels include any e-marketing campaigns or programs, from search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click, affiliate, email, banner to latest web related channels for webinar, blog, RSS, podcast, and Internet TV. Offline marketing channels are traditional print (newspaper, magazine), mail order, public relation, billboard, radio, and television. Interpersonal marketing includes participating in community groups, networking organizations, your handshake, how you dress, and even how you answer the phone or return calls.
While not every communication discipline needs to be included for each campaign, it is important for any integrated marketing practitioner to be well versed in the various components so that he or she can select the ones most appropriate for a specific client’s budget and demands.
Is it better to go with an agency, or shop for individual services myself?
While both have benefits, an agency can be a benefit if you don’t already have a network of trusted service providers including printers, promotional products companies, tradeshow planners etc. who are familiar with your business. Often times, an agency can get things done for a client faster, more efficiantly and with better quality for the same or lower price. Plus, as a business owner you have to factor in the time you may spend shopping for the best price and reading reviews to make sure that the best price doesn’t give you the worst services.
However, the cost of each component shouldn’t be your primary concern when evaluating an integrated marketing plan. Instead, look at the expense and benefits of the entire plan working together. For instance, a website might cost $2,000 to build and then you might spend $10,000 in pay-per-click advertising over the next year, but if the content on the website doesn’t match the message on your direct mail, or your customer service people aren’t able to answer questions about the website then you wasted a lot of money.
Instead, don’t look at the website as a single entity. Make sure that it is perfectly integrated into your marketing strategy:
* Promote it at all opportunities. This includes not just pay-per-click ads, but also on business cards, in radio ads, even place a sticker on your products letting customers know they can download copies of the product manuals there, and print it on your receipts telling customers to download coupons on the website.
* Develop an email newsletter to offer your customers and prospective customers news and information they can use – not just a brochure to sell your products.
* Create a blog and allow people to subscribe to it. This will build trust and familiarity between your customers and your company. Don’t limit blog posts to just the president, sometimes a post from a project manager or even the receptionist can keep the blog interesting and attention grabbing.
* Create a contest – but make sure the message is consistent with your integrated marketing strategy. Have people visit your website to enter.
* If you run an advertisement promoting a specific service, make sure that that your customers can find more information about it quickly and easily. Perhaps even put a graphic at the top of your page saying “Attention 99.5 listeners, Click Here to Learn More about Gutter Cleaning”
Those are just some examples for how you can integrate your marketing plan and maximize the initial investment you made by building a website.
Isn’t an an integrated marketing communication just like any other marketing plan?
A marketing plan can be just a marketing plan for a website, or a marketing plan for an advertising campaign, but an Integrated Marketing Communications plan involves all aspects of marketing, across the entire company. This means that you are integrated all aspects of the company into a single cohesive plan.
After all you could have a great website marketing plan, an awesome advertising campaign and an award winning PR agency, but if a customer reads a press release or hears your ad and decides to visit your website where he can’t find more info about your PR or advertising message what’s the point of spending the money in the first place?