There is a lot of buzz these days about integrated advertising and marketing. But what exactly is it?

According to Rochelle Reiter, agency principal at Orange Label Art + Advertising, “It is the coordination and integration of all of a company’s advertising and marketing communications into a cohesive plan that maximizes the impact on customers and prospects. An integrated plan is designed to make all aspects of marketing communications (e.g., advertising, sales, marketing, PR and online) work together as a unified and integrated force, rather than allowing each component to function independently.”

To be successful and produce the needed return on investment, an integrated plan must have senior management buy-in.

“It’s important that a company’s leaders understand and comprehend the goals and objectives of an integrated campaign and are aligned on the strategy and messaging,” notes Wes Phillips, also an agency principal at Orange Label Art + Advertising. “Staff and outside resources need management’s support during the creation and implementation process, along with sufficient time and budget resources. If the resources are not made available, the integrated strategy will not be perceived as a priority.”

Smart Business asked Reiter and Phillips what steps a company should take to ensure a successful integrated strategy.

Why should a company make an integrated strategy a priority?

First of all, an integrated strategy helps to clearly differentiate your company from the competition. If all of your messages are consistent, your target prospects will understand what your brand stands for and what sets you apart. An integrated strategy also creates credibility. When your messaging is consistent across multiple media platforms, it establishes the impression that your brand is reliable and that there is little perceived risk in buying your products.

Another benefit is increased return on investment. When your advertising and marketing are integrated, each message across the various mediums leverages the next, thereby stretching your dollars to create a synergistic payoff. Overall, marketing costs are lower because you are not reinventing the wheel every time you need to develop a new ad, launch a new campaign, etc. For example, you can leverage your core campaign theme and copy messages and photography across different media to get more mileage out of your initial investment.

Your internal staff benefits as well. An integrated advertising and marketing strategy will help your team understand and become aligned on overall company objectives. This will prevent one department from coming up with an idea, implementing it and never communicating it with the rest of the company. In other words, an integrated approach helps you avoid a fragmented strategy, which results in confusion and lost market share.

How can a company get started on its plan?

First, define your business and marketing objectives for the short, mid, and long term. Next, conduct market research and define the target demographic. Who are your prospects, where are they, what are their habits and what are their unmet needs? Then, the core brand messages can be developed. After the brand messages are developed, the next step is to research which media vehicles and tools are available and which would be most effective for reaching your target audience. You then determine the personnel and monetary resources needed, which will assist with developing the advertising budget. A key consideration will be whether you will develop and manage the plan in house or outsource it to a full-service integrated advertising and marketing firm.

What internal resources are needed?

Fundamental to the success of an integrated marketing strategy is a strong, capable and motivating marketing leader. Then the organization’s senior management or leadership team needs to determine if internal staff has the depth, creativity and savvy to generate an integrated plan and implement it effectively and consistently. Because of the extensive demands an integrated strategy has on internal staff, many companies use outside resources such as freelance copywriters and artists to complement their team. However, when strategic thinking is required, an outside marketing or advertising firm can be used to help develop the brand platform and the overall integrated advertising platform.

How is an integrated plan managed?

Someone (usually the marketing leader recommended above) from inside the company needs to own the plan, monitor all activity and manage it for success. If the integrated strategy is not managed properly, fragmentation will occur. Some companies think that once the plan is launched, there is nothing left to do. However, even if you’re working with an outside firm, you still need to communicate with them on a regular basis throughout your sales cycle. That might be once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. A strategic marketing calendar is a helpful tool for managing the plan. This document summarizes in one place the brand, the themes, the events, the media platforms and the budget for a stated period of time — usually one year. It can be used to evaluate progress and can be adjusted based on new circumstances, information and results that are achieved.

WES PHILLIPS and ROCHELLE REITER are the agency principals of Orange Label Art + Advertising. Reach them at (949) 631-9900 or wphillips@orangelabeladvertising.com or rreiter@orangelabeladvertising.com.

Insights Marketing & Advertising is brought to you by Orange Label Art + Advertising

Published in Orange County
Friday, 14 October 2011 16:06

Tips to integrate e-mail and text marketing

Business leaders today are looking for opportunities to engage with customers and prospects in new ways that build stronger relationships, reward loyalty, and most importantly, drive sales.

There is no shortage of strategies or tools to enable stronger relationships — between the old standards of television, print advertising, out-of-home, direct mail, etc., that have been in the marketing plan for years and new technologies like e-mail, SMS/text messaging, mobile applications, social networks and location-based services that may be in the early stages of proving value. Marketing leaders have a lot to consider.

At Signal, we’ve developed a global solution for small, medium and enterprise businesses that simplifies digital communications via e-mail, SMS and social media. With a wide range of clients — from Sears and Redbox to family-owned businesses — we’ve learned a lot about what works and what does not.

Here’s a primer on how you can impact your bottom line with an integrated strategy leveraging SMS and e-mail to develop a direct line of communication to your customers and prospects.

1. Build a customer insights database, not a list of e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers.

So you have e-mail address and mobile phone numbers in your opt-in subscriber list — now what? Do you know if the e-mail and mobile number belong to the same person? What about the time of people are most likely to respond to your campaign, or whether they engage more with SMS or e-mail communications?

It is certainly valuable to build your subscriber lists for the purpose of sending messages, but consider the obvious benefits of transforming that list to a single “data warehouse” of customer insights and behaviors. Signal’s platform makes it easy to collect a wide variety of data then store it in a single customer profile, which can be used for segmentation and targeting in the future.

The more you know about your subscribers’ interaction with your communications across e-mail, SMS and even social media, the more efficient your marketing efforts become, allowing you to maximize spend.

2. Set expectations and deliver value.

Your customers and prospects already get enough self-promoting e-mail, so it’s important to offer content that adds value to your customers’ lives while also supporting your company objectives.

Have you ever signed up for a company newsletter because of a call to action like: “Sign up to subscribe to our newsletter for exciting company updates”? Though it may seem like a reasonable pitch — “exciting company updates!” — this prompt is generic and does not showcase the value that subscribers should expect from opting in to your database.

Instead, focus on the things that you know customers want: special offers, discounts, exclusive content, etc. Also, make sure that you are clear about how frequently they can expect to hear from you and what type of content you’ll be sharing. Make that content exclusive to that channel, whether it’s e-mail or SMS, and customers will want to subscribe.

By setting the right expectations that give subscribers a good reason to opt-in and stay subscribed, you’ll experience stronger growth and engagement, which in turn extends reach and ROI.

3. Affect buying decisions with timed offers and calls-to-action.

Understanding usage is an important step in delivering value to your customers and influencing their decisions through e-mail and SMS.

E-mail allows you to communicate with richer content as compared to SMS. However, open rates and click-through rates can change significantly depending on when your e-mail hits the inbox. If your content is valuable to your readers when they start their day at the office, a weekday morning may make the most sense. If you’re sending a promotion for a happy hour, then just before lunch is ideal so that customers can start to rally their friends during lunch.

SMS, on the other hand, is a much more immediate communication that can affect a buying decision in real time. About 83 percent of text messages are read within one hour, and open rates for SMS are typically 3 to 4 times higher than for e-mail. For example, a recent study found that 68 percent of lunch decisions are made in less than an hour or on an impulse. Timing is incredibly important if you want your message to impact a customer’s buying decision.

4. Prime the pump with e-mail; close the loop with SMS.

It’s no secret that better outcomes are the result of a fully considered marketing plan. However, too few businesses truly leverage their various channels to maximize the return. Understanding e-mail and SMS usage will help you execute a truly cross-channel strategy for maximum efficacy.

One useful strategy for syncing your SMS and e-mail actions is to use e-mail to build awareness or initial interest in your offer or content, then rely on SMS to prompt action at the moment of truth. For example, you can use your weekly or monthly newsletter or promotional e-mail to set expectations about an important upcoming event, then close the deal with a text message that reminds buyers about that promotion.

Marketing today is more integrated that it has ever been in the past. However, silos still exist — to the detriment of your business’ ability to leverage digital communications channels to their highest potential. Your path to successful cross-channel communications and increased ROI is to better understand customer behavior and preferences and translate those insights into campaigns that map most closely to what your customers want, when they want it.

John Sharry is an Account Executive at Signal, a Chicago-based company that offers a dead simple product that unifies e-mail, mobile and social marketing in a single platform. Recently named No. 108 on the 2011 Inc. 500 report, Signal offers more great insight on Twitter, Facebook and their blog.

Published in Chicago