Integrated marketing offers the promise of unifying the entire marketing process, from internal activities conducted by the marketing department, to a consistently projected brand and customer experience.
Integrated marketing is not a pipedream: it represents the coordination of all marketing activities and decisions; processes and workflows; supporting documentation and authorisations; the management of supplier and client relationships; the creation, execution and measurement of outbound campaigns, the tracking and management of responses, and the ability to embrace new-generation media and communication channels, such as e-mail and SMS.
Without such an integrated platform, marketing will remain a fragmented corporate discipline, difficult to control and direct, and providing customers with multiple, uncoordinated views of the business, and no unified customer experience.
For instance, digital marketing is now being used by companies of all size as it is perceived to have a low barrier to entry and, generally, a low cost. But companies which have entered this new world have committed all the errors they should have known to avoid. And, as happens so often in this kind of scenario, it has happened quietly and insidiously:
* SMS campaigns are conducted outside of the traditional marketing channels;
* So are outbound call centre campaigns; and
* So are outbound e-mail marketing campaigns
All too often, each of these campaigns is run by a third party and directed off an independent database, often the property of the third-party service provider. The contact centre might also be run by an outsourced entity, and all of this means multiple channels and many points of contact; all of which undoes the ability of companies to learn more about their customers through building their profile.
So here's what happens: you're a perfectly happy banking customer. Suddenly you receive SMSes offering you credit. You get e-mails and unsolicited letters from all channels. And they all irritate you, without exception.
What's going on? Clearly, the company's marketing activities are uncoordinated, and you're paying the price.
Through using multiple agencies, and multiple, uncoordinated channels, your customers end up with a fragmented experience.
And let's be honest, which of the people reading this has not had precisely the above experience?: a commitment and promise delivered via advertising and PR, through branch excellence and customer delivery ...
and then undone via uncoordinated new-generation channels.
The solution is that all of your marketing activities should be coordinated through an integrated suite, rather than multiple applications from different vendors, which often overlap and conflict with each other.
Part of the problem is that analysts such as Gartner recommend a Magic Quadrant approach, where companies are advised to adopt a best-of-breed approach. This approach means you end up with disparate SMS engine, e-mail engine and other contact databases.
And customers are baffled as to why they receive fragmented communication. Why a Platinum card member is offered a Gold membership.
Why decades-happy bank bond customers are offered a home loan. Why someone who doesn't qualify for loan finance is constantly offered easy money.
This says a lot about who is actually in charge. Those in marketing often deal with multiple agencies: an advertising agency, a direct marketer, a digital agency, a Web design agency ... no one person or supplier has responsibility or answerability for delivery of the entire customer value proposition.
The consequences are severe:
* There is no holistic view, so marketing opportunities are missed, and the ability to learn about customers is eroded;
* Because there are conflicting customer views, there is no consistency in messaging, and no coherent view or strategy;
* Marketing tends to be interruptive, rather than inclusive or permission-based - think of how many calls you receive during any given week you'd rather not have had, from companies with which you'd really not do business, given your first encounter with them.
By way of contrast, let's look at a good example: Alec Hogg's MoneyWeb. This is one of the most successful integrated websites ever launched in South Africa. It sends thousands of e-mails to its readers a day, based exclusively on the principles of permission and respect. Customers may opt in or out at any time, depending on their particular requirements. The website is also served by its supporting radio station, the Power Hour on Radio 2000. Whichever way you encounter MoneyWeb, you are brought back to the website, one of the richest in the industry. This is outstanding opt-in, permission-based communication.
The same platform should be used to manage the entire marketing lifecycle, from planning to briefing, from conceptualisation to delivery. For instance, the same platform should be used for taking a brief and executing an outbound e-mail strategy.
This creates branding consistency - so your billboard and website have the same look and feel, for instance - and confers complete control over the marketing process. Our clients which have gone this route report significant gains in productivity, enhanced control and cost savings, and enhanced brand equity.
The promise of integrated marketing is to unite many disparate activities, from the way the marketing team behaves to the creation of a cohesive set of outputs in the market, and the way customers experience the brand. In this way, brand equity can be created and preserved, and customers can enjoy a consistent set of interactions and experiences.
Cambrient is a South African full service Web development, content management and marketing process management company. Its solutions for large and medium-sized websites are based on world-class content management systems. Because these solutions are locally developed, they are priced competitively and clients' requirements can be addressed immediately. Cambrient has developed over 300 websites, many of them for the top corporate names in South Africa, and internationally. In a world where websites are becoming the single most important way to access information anywhere, Cambrient's content management focus is on organisational information assets and their appropriate structuring, storage and re-purposing. Cambrient's marketing process management solution automates key processes in the marketing department, freeing up marketers for creative work, cutting down on admin, lowering costs, creating transparency and reducing financial risk.