To succeed today, one needs to let go of older working methods. This is because everything is dynamic and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The same principle holds for marketing as well. There exist several different platforms across traditional and new-age media today. And this makes it essential to adopt a marketing communication strategy that is tailored to and at the same time consistent across the diverse media channels today. This is where integrated marketing and an integrated marketing agency come into the picture.
This article will understand what an integrated marketing agency is, its functions, and how it helps firms achieve the desired results.
What Is an Integrated Marketing Agency?
The term integrated marketing communication has been around for four decades now. The American Marketing Association (AMA) has put a formal definition for it. And this goes as –
A planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer for a product, service, or organization are relevant and consistent over time.
However, a more straightforward way to explain integrated marketing would be to understand it as marketing from a customer’s point of view.
As a marketer today, it is essential to map the entire customer journey before taking action. This makes it easier to send contextual messages to the customers to nudge them along gently. Also, there exist several tools and methods that make it possible.
People often tend to confuse multi-channel marketing and integrated marketing. However, there is a critical difference between the two approaches.
Multi-channel marketing focuses on broadcasting the message on every medium. But, integrated marketing emphasizes communicating the message to the customer.
What Does an Integrated Marketing Agency Do?
As mentioned in the opening lines of this piece, marketing today is dynamic. This is similar to the Red Queen changing the game whenever Alice made a move on the chessboard.
To adapt successfully to this disruptive nature of marketing, one needs new solutions. An integrated marketing agency offers several digital and offline services. As a result, it can create a comprehensive marketing strategy that leverages different channels for the best results.
An integrated marketing agency is home to teams with distinct skill sets. These teams can work together under one roof and augment your firm’s marketing efforts.
For instance, the agency can strategize and implement a PPC campaign. The leads from this could be nurtured through an email campaign under the guidance of account managers.
Thus, an integrated marketing agency is like a seamless extension of your organization’s business team.
Services Offered by an Integrated Marketing Agency
The different teams in an integrated marketing agency can include and not be limited to:
- Facebook Ads Management
- Google Ads
- Social Media Marketing
- PR / Media communications
- Email Marketing
- Graphic Design
- Conversion Rate Optimization
- Account-based marketing
- Web Development
- Analytics and tracking
An integrated marketing agency that wants to do things the right way and from scratch would begin with customer research. People behave differently in different situations, making it essential to understand the complete customer persona. Also, the agency should work with the firm to know the market as well. Some methods to achieve this are:
- Focus group discussions
- Interviews and surveys
- Competitor research
- Industry Data
Consistency of the brand message is a key component of integrated marketing. And a good design goes a long way in ensuring consistency. A quality agency delivers a consistent experience across channels and formats such as social media posts, emails, and video ads. Design services include:
- Graphic design
- UI/ UX design
- Web design
- Motion graphic design
The information has been collected, and the strategy has been finalized. So, now it is time to put the plan into action.
The job is only half-done once the campaigns are launched. Now, a team has to monitor and optimize them constantly. Several parameters such as creatives, content, targeting, bidding, and budgets need regular tweaking.
So, there must be a dedicated team to make these changes whenever required. The services that come under this category are:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Sponsored social media
- Email campaigns
- Automation and tracking
- Conversational marketing and chatbots
How Can Integrated Marketing Agencies Help Brands Thrive?
When launching a product, it is necessary to have consistency. This way, the imagery and communication will not confuse the customer. Moreover, this increases the top-of-mind brand recall and helps associate certain symbols and colors with brands.
Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Starbucks are some well-known brands that have benefitted from this association over a long period of time. Also, receiving the same or similar messages like a newspaper inset, an app notification, or a YouTube notification is bound to enhance your brand recognition tremendously.
Also, marketing today is no longer a single-channel exercise. This is because customers no longer get all their information from a single source. Hence it becomes essential to reach out to them on their preferred media.
Only an integrated marketing agency can help your business put together a plan that’ll help you reach all your customers most effectively.
For instance, when buying laptops or mobile phones, a lot of consumers do their research on Youtube. This has given rise to a considerable number of tech influencers who are regarded highly by many users. Now, brands tie up with these influencers to create hype and increase sales of their products.
Product placements in popular movies or TV shows are another excellent example of integrated marketing.
The famous sandwich brand, Subway benefitted immensely after helping fan favorites such as Chuck or Community stay on the air. And yes, fans did throng to these restaurants as a thank you gesture.
From the examples above, it is clear that integrated marketing is here to stay, and so are integrated marketing agencies.
What Makes a Truly Integrated Marketing Agency
All marketing agencies would like to call themselves integrated marketing agencies. But, how do we know if their claims are valid? Well, there are some ways to find out.
Range of services
You need to ask the agency about the services they are willing to offer.
For instance, do they handle product packaging, web design, and programmatic ad campaigns? This is the easiest way to know if the agency you work with is truly an integrated marketing agency or not.
Do they stand up and take responsibility to fix various issues and communicate them with the client? Or do they just pass the buck and wait for the business team to handle their mess?
The answer to this is another way of deciding whether the agency you work with is an integrated marketing agency or not.
Who is attending the meetings?
It is necessary to know the people who are a part of the initial meetings. Are these just the account executives, or are the members from various teams also a part and actively brainstorm ideas with you?
Give them a pilot project.
Work with the agency on a pilot project before assigning any significant campaigns. This way, you can learn if the different teams work cohesively as a unit or not.
Also, be sure to make a few changes to your brief. This will help you understand if the changes are communicated across the different teams. Moreover, you can see how well it reflects in the final output.
Non-Essential work is outsourced
Many large integrated marketing agencies outsource some non-essential operational tasks. This helps focus all available bandwidth on more strategic tasks like campaign planning, lead nurturing, etc.
Balanced portfolio of work
The agency should have handled different projects across various verticals. If their past clientele or work is too skewed in favor of a particular type of work, it indicates inexperience in other fields. This is definitely not a good sign for an integrated marketing agency.
Also, different awards and certifications in various disciplines show expertise in various areas.
Experience with various teams
The teams working across the different verticals should have worked with the agency for a fairly equal amount of time. Also, the headcount amongst the teams must be even. This demonstrates that the agency's projects are spread out across the various domains of marketing.
Advantages of Working With an Integrated Marketing Agency
We have established that your brand must work with an integrated marketing agency. Let us now dive into the benefits of working with one:
These agencies are cost-effective.
Bringing a quality marketing agency on board is an expensive affair. However, when an agency offers a plethora of services ranging from social media ads, to PR campaigns, to website development under one roof, the prices charged seem to make more sense.
Access to tools.
Saving up on agency costs will also help you expand your tech stack as you can use the extra budget to explore more tools. Moreover, hiring an integrated marketing agency gives you access and enables you to understand the latest tools at a lesser cost.
A 360-degree understanding of the customer journey.
We are all aware that there are several touchpoints in the customer journey today. This begins right from their initial engagement with your brand until they complete the final purchase.
Only an integrated marketing agency can completely understand the entire customer journey than a firm whose forte might not necessarily be marketing. Furthermore, this allows the business to reach out to the customers with the right message at the right time.
Great! You have now understood the complete customer journey! Now you can identify those customers that are more likely to convert. Further, you know the demographics and how the customer engages with the brand. Hence you can now target customers more effectively.
Cohesive campaigns with one goal in mind.
An integrated marketing agency assists you with cross-channel campaigns. All these campaigns have a single goal – to drive more sales or business for your brand.
For instance, blog posts might remind prospects about the USPs of your offerings. An email campaign can let customers know about upcoming sales and offers. TV and print ads can reach out to consumers who prefer traditional media.
Finally, the launch can be live-streamed on social media to reach the younger demographic. Such cross-channel campaigns achieve their goal effectively. Additionally, they drive traffic from one channel to another.
Rules While Working With an Integrated Marketing Agency
One must keep in mind to set a few ground rules before working with any agency. The setting of ground rules ensures that things happen in an orderly manner. Some of these rules include:
Sharing a brand voice document.
Familiarizing the different teams with the brand voice document ensures that all marketing communication sounds similar and aligns with your preferred brand image. This, in turn, creates a consistent cross-channel experience for your customers.
Agree on overall business objectives.
All the fancy marketing metrics and KPIs are meaningless if the marketing efforts are not aligned with the goals of the business. Also, it is ideal to breakdown these goals into short-term and long-term-milestones and work backwards, if necessary
Define channels, roles, and audiences.
While there are teams with distinct roles in an integrated marketing agency, it is better to have a scope of work(SoW) document that defines each team's responsibilities.
Also, it is a good idea to brief the team on your preferred channels and customer personas. After that, you can get the agency's input to refine your initial strategy.
Create a shared cloud repository.
Establish a Centre of Excellence (CoE) where the teams can share best practices, workflows, and other process documents. All the creative assets can also be shared here. This is the best way to avoid confusion regarding the final approved versions of creatives and other marketing collaterals.
An integrated marketing agency can complement a firm’s efforts to grow its business. To achieve this, it assists brands in creating strategies that evolve and adapt to the changing consumer preferences. Also, it helps brands manage the interplay between marketing and technology to maximize the returns on investment.