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Integrated Marketing Communication is more than the coordination of a company's outgoing message between different media and the consistency of the message throughout. Steps in an integrated marketing system are:
- Customer base which is an essential element to implementing integrated marketing that helps to segment and analyse customer buying habits
- Strategies involves insight from analysis of customer data is used to shape marketing, sales, and communications strategies
- Tactics to be employed in once the basic strategy is determined, the appropriate marketing tactics can be specified which best targets the specific market.
- Evaluating results of customer responses and new information about buying habits are collected and analysed to determine the effectiveness of the strategy and tactics.
It is an aggressive marketing plan that captures and uses an extensive amount of customer information in setting and tracking marketing strategy. The Federal Express, is a leading courier company in the United States of America, that has adopted ‘IMC' in their operations and this has brought about a remarkable success. However, with all these successes there is still need for improvement. In an age of increasing information overload, the consumer has developed a coping mechanism to deal with the amount of information being received. There is increasing evidences that customers and prospects are basing most of their purchasing decisions on what they perceive to be important or true (or what they think is right or wrong) rather than on solid, rational, economically derived information. To the consumer, perception is truth.
A perception may not be correct, but it is what they know, and what they know is all they need to know. Any minor inconsistency that does not match the existing “mind map” will be ignored. An organization that is static in operation definitely will not survive the very competitive market, both local and international. So there is the need for the research and development department of organizations to be very sensitive to the customer needs.
According to Mcgoon Cliff (1998), Integration requires a high degree of interpersonal and cross-functional communication within the organization, across business units and with outside suppliers. It cannot be driven by formal policies and procedures alone, at Federal Express, a courier service company within the marketing department ‘IMC' activities are centered around customer segments. Each segment is staffed by a cross-functional team composed of a manager, a marketer, an analyst, an agency account executive and a representative from the agency-managed fulfillment house. These cross-functional teams meet as frequently as necessary. E-mail has greatly facilitated this integration. All marketing vendors are connected to FedEx and to each other through the FedEx corporate e-mail system.
Elliot Susan (1998) noted that the ‘IMC' evolves communication around customers and assist them more through the various stages of the buying process and in doing this they develop a dialogue and nurtures its relationship with customers of Federal Express and this has cemented a bond of loyalty with customers and this has protected the company from the inevitable onslaught of competitors and given them (FedEx) a powerful competitive advantage.
Mcgoon Cliff (1998) stated that ‘IMC' communicate the FedEx values to its stakeholders in four stages and this include Tactical coordination of marketing communication, this is where most organization seeking IMC begin, and focus is on functional areas including advertising, promotion, direct response, public relations and special events. Emphasis is on developing “one-sight”, ‘one sound' policies and programs.
Secondly, stage the scope of marketing communication. Here the organization begins to examine communication from the customer's viewpoint, looking at all contact and entry point of customers with the company. The critical question changes from “How do we reach the customer?” To “how does the customer reaches us?” Outside instead of inside out. Also, the scope of communication activities broadens to include internal marketing to employees, suppliers and other business partners.
Third stage is the application of information technology. Here the organization uses data gained through IT to provide a basis to identify value and monitor the impact of integrated internal and external communication programs to key customer segments overtime.
The fourth stage is the financial and strategic integration. At this top level of integration, emphasis shifts from skills and data to driving corporate strategic planning using customer information and insight. Financial measures of marketing are adopted based on return-on-customer investment measures.
According to MMC Learning Journal (2009) Communications are in fact multifaceted, multi-step and multi-directional. Opinion leaders talk to each other. Customers talk to opinion leaders. Understanding multiphase communications helps marketers communicate directly through mass media and indirectly through targeting innovators, and other influential people. How messages are selected and processed within the minds of the target market is a vast and complex question. Although it is over several hierarchical, a message model, like attempts to map the mental processes through which a buyer passes en route to making a purchase.
There are many other models that attempt to identify each stage. In reality the process is not always a linear sequence. Buyers often looped more information. There are other much more complex models that attempt to map the inner workings of the mind.
In reality, marketers have to select communications tools that are most suitable for the stage which the target audience has reached. For raising awareness or developing interest, while free samples and sales promotions may be the way to generate trial.
Despite the many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications (or IMC), there are also many barriers. Here is how you can ensure your Golden Rules of Integration.
- Get Senior Management Support for the initiative by ensuring they understand the benefits of IMC.
- Integrate At Different Levels of management. Put ‘integration' on the agenda for various types of management meetings - whether on delivery trucks or PR, Sales Promotions staff are integrating their messages. To do this you must have carefully planned internal communications.
- Ensure the Design Manual or even a Brand Book is used to maintain common visual standards for the use of logos, type faces and color.
- Focus on a clear marketing communications strategy. Have crystal clear communications objectives, clear positioning statements. Ensure all communications add value to (instead of dilute) the brand or organization. Exploit areas of sustainable competitive advantage.
- Start with a Zero Budget. Start from scratch. Build a new communications plan. Specify what you need to do in order to achieve your wants, often less than you ideally need, so you may have to prioritize communications activities accordingly.
- Think Customers First. Wrap communications around the customer's buying process. Identify the stages they go through before, during and tools which are right for each stage. Develop a sequence of communications activities which help the customer to move easily.