Integrated marketing: from customer-centric marketing to customer-facing processes

Integrated marketing is the past, present and future of marketing success. However, integrated marketing has changed. It’s not what it used to be/mean and has gone far beyond its original definition and scope.

Integrated marketing originally was and still often is looked upon from a pure ‘company-centric’ or rather ‘campaign-centric’ and ‘messaging-centric’ perspective: as a way to bring together various marketing methods and tactics such as direct marketing and advertising.

Integrated marketing

The evolutions of integrated marketing

The main objective was rationalization and cross-fertilization of all these methods, consistency, alignment, better planning and feeding back the data of actions and campaigns into ‘our’ systems to improve marketing and business overall. In that sense we should also mention integrated marketing communications where PR, sales promotions etc. came in the picture.

The marketing organization will have to redefine its role from managing customer interactions to integrating and managing all the company’s customer-facing processes (Philip Kotler).

The aspects of cross-fertilization, consistency, better planning and data all still matter a lot. However, one key part was left out of the equation for a long time: the customer. The consumer, who often is still seen as an email address in a list or a share on a social media channel. That view of consumers as list members rather than real people is one of the reasons why ‘genuine’ integrated marketing needs to find its place in many businesses as you’ll read below.

Since we started talking about integrated marketing and integrated marketing communications (not the same) there have been some significant changes in our profession and customer/consumer behavior.

Among them are the well-known increase of marketing tactics/methods, ever more technology and the ongoing fragmentation of media, devices and channels – and the ways people use them.

Integrated marketing knows no boundaries or channels (at the starting point)

While content marketing, data-driven marketing, social media marketing and everything we’ve seen since the initial definition of integrated marketing communications in the previous millennium really are all part of a bigger picture, they are also umbrella terms and sets of tactics that require specialization and can serve many goals.

Unfortunately we’re still too often blinded by the next shiny thing and with each ‘next thing’ it seems as if something else should die.

When social media popped up one could read statements such as “social media marketing will replace email marketing” everywhere. The same was true when content marketing came along. It was going to ‘kill’ search engine marketing. The list goes on. Reality is a bit more complex – or rather: rich and beautiful – and certainly less black and white than that. Even today we see similar “xyz is dead” messages popping up.

Integrated Marketing is obviously common sense, but amazingly still not common practice (Peter Fisk)

Integrated marketing deserves a different look and is more important than ever. Nothing has killed anything and the right mix of tactics in an ongoing continuum and around the customer requires an integrated view, more than ever blurring the lines between “digital” and “physical” as they blur in how consumers, you and me, think.

Today we see how email marketing, social media, content and search engine marketing, to mention a few, all seamlessly work together as it’s the bigger picture and the smart customer-centric marketing that matters. It’s important to remember that all these sets of tactic s can mean so many things and to look at the individual touch and experience rather than at just the tactics, channels and often isolated campaigns.

From cross-fertilization to an integrated approach around the customer’s worldview

The best integrated marketing programs breathe cross-fertilization, reinforcement and connected touchpoints, powered by data and content with channels and stories in customer context as the glue making it all work.

The lack of a really deep customer understanding is one of the key issues to solve in order to get an integrated marketing approach.

The true integrated marketing view is not just about campaigns, channels and tactics. Well on the contrary: it’s a people first view. A highly individual and human one, infusing all customer-facing processes as Don Peppers says. It’s here that integrated marketing has fallen short in the past. The customer, CRM, data, tactics, online and offline, media, advertising, direct, data-driven: it’s all connected around the brand story, relevance and the customer.

A few years ago Don wrote how integrated marketing communications – as it was originally defined – doesn’t make sense in this century anymore. It shouldn’t just involve integration of our own messages and communications, Don wrote. It should integrate your customer more directly into the marketing, sales and service processes themselves he continued.

Before offering a new definition of integrated marketing communications (do check it out), Don nailed it when writing “The only truly integrated view of the entire start-to-finish process is the customer’s own view”.

As you can read in his article it’s not just the channels and tactics that are integrated. It’s also about the various customer-facing functions: sales, customer service,… The industry knows it. Just look at the evolutions of marketing software vendors: they all move further away from their original key offering, whether that was email marketing, CRM, web content management, automation or customer experience management. It’s certainly not a coincidence we see the integration of integrated marketing on the level of the marketing software stack. CRM, automation, personalization, service, sales tools: they all get connected.

Truly integrated marketing happens when the customer’s own worldview infuses all your customer-facing processes (Don Peppers)

We know there are cost efficiencies when we integrate tactics and align better in general. We also know that a unified brand experience pays off in the sense that results are higher than when tactics and approaches are isolated as is still often the case. Last but not least, from that oh so crucial customer perspective, consistency and alignment between divisions and functions ensure better experiences, service and customized communications, avoiding too much overlaps, pressure and disconnects.

Challenges in regards to the adoption of an integrated marketing approach

Despite all these – and other – benefits often we see that it’s hard for businesses to achieve such an integrated approach. Simply implementing the best software and tools doesn’t cut it. Technology is never the answer to what’s essentially a cultural issue.

It is a people issue. This also goes for the collaboration and syncing of marketing teams and agencies. Integrated marketing requires a different form of collaboration within agencies and in the ways agencies work with their clients. The role of technology and data is clear but it’s not to make marketing more “digital’”, well on the contrary. Integrated marketing knows no digital or physical boundaries.

Some things to consider regarding integrated marketing

The purposes of integrated marketing

The goal of integrated marketing is mainly to achieve better, stronger and more personalized customer engagement and relationships. Cost savings and enhanced efficiency are the result, not the end goal. Integrated marketing also looks at the customer and experience in an end-to-end context. This way it will for instance align marketing activities so consumers don’t get overwhelmed by messages and interactions from various departments or campaigns. It takes the preferences, ease of use, emotional drivers, trust, intent and channel-agnostic behavior of the consumer as a reference.

Towards deep and true customer understanding

The lack of a really deep customer understanding is one of the key issues to solve in order to get an integrated marketing approach. This is certainly also a management issue.

Customer understanding is still looked upon too much from the perspective of segmentation, broad research, vague persona constructions and, the worst of all, generational labels. We don’t use data enough yet and underuse all the ways we have to get far more close, personal, relevant, to the point and truly driven by real insights. This goes for Voice of the Customer (VoC) initiatives, simply listening to people (front-line employees and customers), involving customers and the huge potential we have with an avalanche of data that can be turned into actionable intelligence.

Integrated marketing requires integrated CRM

The clear desire of consumers to interact with brands and business across channels and upon their terms in a seamless way drives the need to move towards a fully connected and integrated CRM approach.

The first waves of CRM were really about a rather inside-out view with a focus on achieving a customer view without too much involvement, integration and acting upon what we gathered nor integration. Social CRM aimed to further tear down the walls between marketing, customer service and sales with a single view. But still it hasn’t led to genuine transformations in how we sell, interact with customers and deliver service. With a truly integrated CRM we move to customer engagement across the board. Interlinked, data-driven, deeper, outside-in, involving, cross-functional, around the customer as a person and focused on (inter)action with that customer. Engagement and building up the business from the customer perspective.

The integrated data management challenge

Bringing together customer analytics and marketing analytics, collecting and connecting data from various sources is essential: research, social listening, transactional data and engagement data.

As digital marketing already plays a big role in integrated marketing this isn’t that new. However, the role of digital continued and continues to drive the integrated end-to-end data strategy need. Furthermore, deep insights into the customer, relevance and efficiency from the ‘people first’ perspective simply reflects in the way we get, manage and deliver data to answer the right business and marketing questions whereby consumer questions become analytics questions. Data is needed in each aspect of the customer-oriented equation and all stakeholders in the marketing process: end-to-end and in each step where it matters. The goal: driving engagement regardless of channels/devices and depending on intent and context.

The human integrated marketing driver

Other challenges include decentralized planning, silos, a lack of common metrics, resource challenges, not enough focus on the customer life cycle and lifetime value, an ability to bridge ‘digital’ and ‘physical’, absence of required skills, a missing focus on customer-centricity, no deep understanding of the cross-fertilization possibilities of various tactics and much more. With a clear role for management as mentioned.

In the end, it all boils down to those three famous words: people (customers, teams, partners), processes and tools/technology with people being the main one.

Indeed the three traditional pieces of the equation whereby people and the business goals drive the processes and required tools and lead to great marketing in this wonderful mix of data and creativity we can tap into now, if we don’t mistake terms as relevance and value for utterly wrong über-personalization that adds no value at all as we still too often see.  And whereby people drive the need for integrated marketing, in all aspects.

Integrated marketing viewed upon from different angles and tactics

Several ‘forms’ and ‘tactics’ of marketing, certainly in the digital space, have been looked upon far too long from a siloed approach.

We’ve been advocating a more holistic and integrated approach each time a ‘new or different’ way of looking at (digital) marketing was introduced, based upon the same customer-centric principles we find in the digital transformation of marketing and the role of customer experience in digital transformation. It’s a holistic view that goes hand in hand with holistic views on information management, technology, human collaboration, psychology and business and management as such.

As an example of our commitment to integrated marketing, check out this content-powered integrated marketing program from….2003.

Stay tuned for more cases and thoughts on integrated marketing. In the meantime, below are a few articles (some are a bit older) on the need to have an integrated view within several “types” of (digital) marketing).

For more, type in ‘holistic’, ‘integrated’ or ‘customer-centric’ in our search engine….

Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: frenky362

J-P De Clerck
J-P is the founder of i-SCOOP. Born and based in Belgium, he likes to share information, thoughts, inspiration and anything regarding the convergence of marketing, management, customer-centricity, publishing, digital technologies, psychology, transformation, optimization, media and IT - in the hope it serves you. The mentioned areas are those he has been active in since 1992 as a marketer, a consultant, a publisher and a trainer. Connect on Twitter via @conversionation or on LinkedIn.