An integrated marketing approach makes use of multi-channels.

Any company in existence today will appreciate the importance of an integrated marketing strategy, which entails taking advantage of a combination of communication tools and media to spread a message. This message needs to be cohesive and consistent across all platforms, but this is where it gets interesting: what channels are being used and why?

Integration of various components of a marketing strategy has become essential as technological advances change how business stakeholders interact with each other and with potential customers. There are three reasons why a multi-channel marketing strategy is needed:

Firstly, it is cross-channelled. The integrated marketing strategies of companies take advantage of a combination of communication tools and media to spread their message. Integrated marketing draws upon the power of traditional advertising and public relations efforts, as well as the use of new online communication tools including social media.

Secondly, the strategy needs to be customer-focused. Successful marketing strategies start and end with the customer in mind. Making customers a top priority is known to be a successful strategy but this is rarely executed because most marketing budgets are focused on obtaining new customers as opposed to retaining existing ones. Lastly, each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses. By leveraging the strengths of one to offset another’s weakness, effectiveness improves and costs are reduced.

It’s crucial to understand the strengths that each platform that is available; and how the integration of a social media strategy can further increase effectiveness. At the onset, we should stress that multi-channel marketing is needed when carrying out marketing campaigns, as each performs a specific function and has very specific advantages.

ADVANTAGES OF PLUGGING IN SOCIAL MEDIA:

Social media can multiply your SEO impact
Spreading virally by online word-of-mouth, news about your business can reach far and wide, creating ripples that self-perpetuate and strengthen your brand. While the actual spreading of your content is free, there is an upfront cost to produce it.

Social media drives offline sales
Many search users research online, but make their purchases offline. Google presents these searchers with locally relevant results. Local business review sites rank well in specific geographic areas, and can drive more people into stores.

Social media is constantly evolving
Working with a social media consultant can help you prioritise tasks and devise a tactical plan to utilise the medium to maximise effect. That alone will make the difference between achieving mediocre results and delivering outstanding value to dominate your niche for years to come.

Social media creates long-lasting synergy
Conversations about your brand that originate on social media can create positive (or negative) perceptions far afield – and the impact will linger long after the initial event or action has ended.

Overlooking social media can harm your brand and reputation, lower your revenue and hurt not just your SEO effort but your entire business. Adapting your strategy to include social networking can present a significant, untapped opportunity.

However, bearing this in mind, Tania Wannenburg, Digital Manager at Media in Africa, firmly states that trying to have a successful, engaging profile on every media platform is the biggest mistake a company can make. “Unless you have unlimited resources, you will end up spreading yourself too thin, which in the long run, will do more harm than good,” she continues. “Find out where your audience is and focus your efforts there. For example, if you are B2C, Facebook is usually a good option. If you have interesting news and trends to share, however, opt for Twitter, and if you’re looking at attracting females by means of beautiful images, Pinterest might be the way to go. In turn, LinkedIn is the ideal choice when looking to connect with industry professionals.”

Tania goes on to say that Facebook currently dominates as the B2C marketer’s top choice, while LinkedIn is the preferred choice for most B2B marketers. “Talk to your audience and find out what they want,” Tania emphasises. “One of the safest ways to do this, is to plug in to existing platforms. Run a campaign on a company’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages and see what yields the best results. Then start compiling your strategy from there. Remember to keep your logo, voice, and design consistent across every platform, so that you become recognisable anywhere.”

Marketing trends indicate that marketers are going to spend around 35% of their total budget on digital marketing this year. This is a substantial investment and the importance of applying the funds correctly cannot be overemphasised. Having said this, more than 84% of marketers are adopting an integrated marketing approach. “No platform is strong enough on its own, and with consumers taking time to research their options before they make a purchase, it’s important to be visible and active on all the different platforms,” Tania explains. “Forget about the above-the-line or below-the-line approaches. Think through-the-line. Forget about thinking outside of the box…there is no box! It’s time to be creative, innovative and present.”

Tania adds that it is imperative to note that when planning a digital strategy, conversion is not the alpha and omega of a digital marketing campaign. The top two benefits of social media marketing are increasing exposure and increasing traffic.

“What is social media not?” questions Tania. “Social media is not cheap. Social media is not free. Social media is not easy. Social media is not overrated. Social media is not all about the number of fans or followers. What is social media then? Social media is about engagement. Social media is a way to create a voice of authority. It’s a way of listening to conversations around your brand and to start leading the conversation. It’s about reaching your audience on platforms where they want to be reached, telling them what they want to hear. It’s about proving that you are an expert in your field, while all the while doing it in a non-intrusive way.”

From a specifier’s perspective, it’s important to follow your supplier’s social platforms. By following your supplier’s social platforms, you are able to engage with them on a personal level that is not often easy to achieve. You are also able to track their latest product offerings, trends, launches and events, preventing the possibility of ever missing out on anything important to you as a specifier. It also affords you the opportunity to support your supplier directly and actively, which is once again unique to social media.

Taking all of the above into consideration, it becomes clear that one dimensional marketing is no longer an option. In order to stay relevant in a world that is literally changing at one’s fingertips, you need to know how to communicate to your customer in a way that is most effective, using the most beneficial channels.

According to Forbes.com, when social media is integrated with the company’s marketing strategy, the company’s management of its customer and brand assets is seamless. Strategic elements such as segmentation, targeting, positioning, and all go-to market activities reflect a clear and consistent understanding of the value the company offers to its customers and how the company seeks to capture value from attracting and retaining these customers over time. The result of social media integrated into a marketing strategy is improved efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of the marketing plan.

This is why an integrated marketing approach not only serves business, but also its customers. The goal is to speak the language of your customers, and there is no better way of achieving this than through the vast array of marketing channels available – keeping in mind that social media is one of the key channels that should not be overlooked going forward.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to www.artemia.com; www.forbes.com; http://searchengineland.com for the information contained in this article.