Everyone’s doing it, so why aren’t you? It’s time to break down marketing silos

The question of integrated marketing communications is taught at almost every marketing course at the most basic levels and yet so many organizations treat online marketing as an after-thought, and the question has to be asked: why? Over the years, I have worked with a multitude of clients and find it shocking that although integrated marketing communications (IMC) is talked about, so few organizations are actually practicing IMC on an ongoing basis.

The purpose of this article is to detail a few tips on how to better integrate your online, offline and social media communications.

Integrated online marketing and organizational silos

One of the major barriers to IMC with respect to online is the concept of organizational silos. Many large organizations have dedicated teams to online, social, email and other marketing channels; all too often these organizational silos get so absorbed into day-to-day management of their respective areas that they often forget to peek over the cubicle wall and see what the other teams are working on.

At a higher-level, organizations need to have better communication and integration between marketing channels to ensure that all channels are aligned in terms of message and strategy. Many of the companies I have worked with tend to ensure that offline channels are aligned, but only remember online channels as an afterthought. In many circumstances, online marketing groups are asked to scramble to produce an online marketing blitz to support an already ongoing offline campaign. Although online can move fairly quickly to support offline efforts, better planning and communication will lead to a more effective and integrated communications message.

Establishing a unified marketing communications calendar is a quick solution to provide better visibility across teams and ensuring that all channels have adequate notice of marketing campaigns to obtain a better degree of integration. For example, social media promotion may need longer lead time to start seeding the channel, creating the buzz, and developing the required online marketing assets to speak to the needs of each audience.

Within many large organizations, politics becomes a barrier to building a more effective marketing program. I have experienced discussions where digital marketing consultants are faced with making recommendations that cross organizational silos and routinely get the answer: “Well that’s handled by another team and we don’t really work closely with them.” We seem to forget that we are all playing for the same side and at the end of the day which department gets the credit for the sale is irrelevant. The most effective hockey teams are where the defense jumps into the rush and the offense collapses back and block shots on goal – it’s not an us/them scenario. Tracking a sale should be a secondary objective to actually getting a sale.

After thinking about this concept for quite some time, I am changing my tune. Instead of getting into marketing attribution models, let’s first focus on integrating the core marketing channels so that we can actually have an attribution problem that needs to be solved.

The conversation is happening, speak up! – Social marketing

Brand advertising is happening whether you want it to or not; brand management is deciding whether or not you want to be a part of that conversation. Never before have marketers been able to measure, engage and respond to customers in ways that social media has enabled. This changing paradigm from one-to-many to a one-to-one marketing should be embraced rather than feared. So many organizations are too cautious to enter into the social media space and need to make the conscious decision to get involved. Do you want to shape your brand or have others do it for you?

Entering into the social media space can appear to be overwhelming since there are so many platforms and tactics to use. However, starting to enter the space can be easier if you choose your battles in key segments. For example, B2B companies should start focusing their efforts on such platforms as LinkedIn, Slideshare, and Twitter; while B2C companies may want to focus more on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter among others.

Integration of your social channels and your other marketing channels can be easy:

  • Use paid advertising on social channels to drive initial engagement. Things rarely go viral on their own and creating a following may take some investment of capital and content creation to reach out and engage that audience.
  • Remember the different marketing channels when creating a campaign.
  • Always include social media buttons on all digital content – including emails. Often your email lists and your social media followers are not the same people so take the opportunity to cross-promote your different channels. Likewise, provide a good reason that your social media followers should subscribe to your email and provide a link to your subscription form. (Mobile optimized for those on mobile devices, please!)
  • If you are hosting a webinar or speaking at a conference/event. Post your slides on Slideshare, include your Twitter name, and have supporting team members engaging the audience via twitter before, during and after your session or webinar. You can post a recorded session on to your YouTube channel for those preferring to watch it after the fact.
  • Ensure point-of-sale promotions are featuring your social media information for people to ask questions about your products/services and possibly engage with that person at the very moment they are purchasing. (See aforementioned section on Mobile Integration)
  • If producing a press release or article, be sure to leverage your social media channels and your network of followers to provide some additional lift and visibility to that article. Your press releases should also support your social media channel with the adequate information provided to further engage with the company.
  • LinkedIN is a great channel to really start talking to a highly engaged B2B audience. LinkedIN is nearly 3X more effective than Facebook for driving leads. Ensure your company has a robust and up-to-date profile with your products and services fully built out. Ensure that your other social media channels are integrated with your LinkedIN profile.
  • Facebook is where people engage with friends and spend their spare time and have fun. Your Facebook profile needs to fit that intention and be engaging to be effective. Direct response advertising must be conducted extremely cautiously; however think ‘engagement’ vs. ‘promotion’.
  • Place Social Media Engagement icons (including RSS subscriptions) in a prominent location on the website.

Bi-directional conversation

With your social media strategy, be sure to include guidelines for employees to work with your social media channels in a very open and authentic method. Included in your internal Social Media best practices/guidelines document provide information on how employees should be speaking about the company and the brand. Each person in the organization needs to understand that they are a Social Media Marketer and the Brand image of the company is at stake. (Do your employees know what you brand should be?) Social media is not advertising, it’s a bi-directional conversation and that should always be remembered when communicating in this channel. You customers are speaking with you and you need to listen & respond.

There will be negative feedback and your company needs to be prepared for it. With a clear social media listening strategy, negative feedback should be flagged immediately and the company needs to be prepared with a response plan. Who should be responding and what should the response be (being defensive is not a good idea)? The social media platforms are a very public location and your company’s actions will echo beyond that conversation.