The other day I found myself in a heated discussion about integrated marketing. On the one side, it was argued that integrated marketing is a decade old concept that was proven not to be either practical or particularly effective. The other camp argued that integrated marketing is a core element of anything we call marketing2.0 and regardless of name, is something that is essential for the future of marketing. Both sides of the debate have good arguments and I couldn’t find any fault with their logic, however I think both miss the point.
The future of marketing does not hinge on integrating messaging across multiple channels like we tried to do at the advent of the internet age. We’ve learned that different media and different mediums require unique messaging. Just because a TV ad is video, does not mean that it’s going to be a hit on YouTube. Traditional print copy losses most online readers before the first sentence is complete and anything that hints of advertising or hype will be shot down within any community.
On the other side, simply participating in every new social network like Twitter, Imeem or Boing Boing does not automatically mean great marketing. Companies still spend as much on Yellow Pages ads as they do on internet marketing and broadcast TV is still the biggest single line item in any marketing plan. They key is not trying to be everywhere, but trying to be in the right places, where the right customers are.
I started out by saying that both points of view are missing the point. It’s not that they are wrong, but I think the real meaning of integration in today’s marketing world should reflect solutions to the problems that are keeping CMOs up at night. The biggest struggle marketing has is not with customers, but with the rest of the company.
For decades, marketing departments have used their own metrics and their own milestones for success. Even as their methods and tools have become more sophisticated, most marketers still speak in terms of reach & frequency, opens, click-throughs and response rates. Those that do attempt to measure business metrics like ROI, tend to use implied or derived revenue data and quite often their formulas do not reflect basic understanding of finance principles.
And this lack of business rigor is reflected in the way other parts of the enterprise view marketing. From the CMO council to Forrester Research, there are multiple studies that say the same thing. Most CEOs do not believe that marketing can justify its expenditures, even if they know intrinsically there is value in what is being done. Few CFOs accept any numbers marketing presents as accurate and VPs of Sales tends to argue over the influence and therefore impact of marketing programs. In general, they assign the revenue to the one who closed the sale, not the one who found the lead.
The answer is the integration of marketing into the rest of the enterprise, allowing the CMO to take their rightful place as a business leader in the C suite. Like everything else in business, this integration has people, process and technology elements. From a people perspective, marketers have to become increasingly left brain thinkers. Identify themselves as business people, no matter how creative they may be and learn to look at everything they do by asking the question, does this advance the business? From a process point of view, organizations have to stop thinking in terms of the marketing funnel, the sales pipeline and customer service and understand and track the customer along the complete customer lifecycle continuum.
And finally, look to technology as the enabler of both people and process. Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, has got to come out of the Sales closet it normally hides in. If companies’ marketing, sales and customer service groups are not all using the same CRM application, or at least the same data, then they are bound to remain siloed in their approach to the customer. If the data collected from each customer touch point is not brought together and form the basis for a robust business intelligence solution, then each division will continue to report on its own metrics; campaigns, sales, incidents and not understand the value contribution of each interaction.
So, by integrating marketing into a closed loop environment, built upon a platform where all customer interaction is captured in a CRM system and then reported on and analyzed through the multiple lenses of a BI solution, companies will be able to understand their customers across time and behavior, as well as across media. The result will be achievement of integrated marketing through the integration of marketing.