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Integrated marketing communications

Having access to so many potential customer touch points is certainly a plus. But it comes with the increased risk of giving people a fragmented impression of your brand due to misaligned messaging. Integrated marketing communications (IMC) aims to alleviate that risk.

The amount of marketing channels and messaging formats available to modern companies is virtually limitless. At any given moment, you’re likely communicating with customers on social media, attracting prospects via search engines, and promoting your products through traditional advertising. 

Keep reading to learn:

  • What integrated marketing communications is
  • The benefits of an IMC approach for companies
  • Steps to putting together an IMC strategy
  • How Siteimprove can help

What is integrated marketing communications? 

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the act of ensuring that all of your marketing and communication channels tell the same story. It’s the process of aligning your branding, your tone of voice, and your messaging across every customer touch point.
The end goal of IMC is to ensure that customers get the same experience with your company, regardless of which channel they interact with. 

Benefits of an integrated marketing communications strategy

The main purpose of pursuing an IMC strategy is to unify your marketing efforts and eliminate silos across various departments. This has multiple benefits:

Improved brand experience and identity

By using the same messaging and communication style in every channel, you avoid painting a fragmented picture of your company. When properly implemented, Integrated marketing communications ensures that every point of interaction further reinforces your brand and solidifies it in the eyes of the customer.

Shorter path to conversion

Integrated marketing communications ensures that people have the same perception of your brand at all points of their user journey. This helps them more naturally navigate to the next step in the customer funnel. They don’t have to readjust expectations and “relearn” what your company is about at every turn. In the end, this speeds up their path to becoming customers.

Better reporting

A side benefit to having an effective IMC strategy is that it streamlines internal reporting. If every department pursues the same unified goal and measures success using compatible metrics, reporting quality improves. By breaking down silos and aligning marketing efforts across teams, you ensure that everyone is on the same page.

How to create an integrated marketing communications strategy

An effective IMC strategy doesn’t emerge on its own. You’ll have to work across departments, get organizational buy-in, and set shared targets.
In order to succeed with your integrated marketing communications strategy, follow these steps. 

1. Define the brand guidelines

First off, you can’t hope to align your communications without having a set of common brand guidelines. Your brand identity helps anchor your future marketing campaigns and gives the whole organization a shared understanding of what your vision is.
So start by deciding what represents your brand, and define:

  1. The brand’s visual identity
  2. Brand colors
  3. Tone of voice
  4. Values and principles

The more precise and thorough you make your brand guidelines, the less room you leave for ambiguity and disagreement down the line. Your brand guidelines should become the go-to document for any team that deals with external communications.

2. Create user profiles

Your customers aren’t a homogenous group. They differ in terms of their demographics, their levels of interest in your products, and their reasons to buy.
This means your company may have to adjust its messaging depending on the recipient. To facilitate this, you’ll want to create user profiles (closely related to customer personas) to segment your customers into distinct audience groups.
By splitting your customers this way, you’re better able to adapt your communications across different touch points. You can even tailor your user journeys to each target audience in order to streamline and improve their experience with your brand.

3. Map out a cross-platform content marketing plan

The next step is to plan out your future content marketing roadmap. This covers the entirety of your content for every relevant external channel, including:

  • Organic traffic (SEO)
  • Paid marketing (PPC)
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Traditional advertising

Having a shared content plan lets you better coordinate content pieces so that they complement each other and go live at approximately the same time. It also helps you spot and eliminate any inconsistencies or overlapping messaging that can be consolidated. Finally, the content roadmap keeps your internal teams on track and aligned.

4. Create a website content inventory

Your website is a marketing channel in its own right. That means it has to reflect your brand, just like any other customer touch point.
To ensure compliance, start by creating a comprehensive website content inventory. This covers the entirety of your website content, including:

  • Landing pages
  • Blogs and articles
  • Press releases
  • Support information and FAQs
  • Multimedia files, videos, and images
  • Internal and external links
  • Documents and PDFs
  • Sitemaps

Every element of your website inventory has to align with your current brand guidelines. Make sure the messaging is up to date and consistent with the brand.

5. Employ a content marketing platform

One way to ensure content consistency is by investing in a content marketing platform. This lets you keep the brand experience homogenous across touch points.
With a good content marketing platform, you can monitor the performance of all content in a single place. You’ll also be able to receive actionable improvement recommendations. Finally, having a content marketing platform makes it easier to get executive involvement and buy-in.
In short, such a platform holds every piece of content up to the same standard by helping you:

  • Check for compliance with brand guidelines
  • Perform spelling and grammar checks
  • Evaluate content quality, readability, and freshness
  • Spot broken links and other content errors

6. Deliver a consistent brand experience to users with disabilities

To reach the broadest possible audience, you have to make your content accessible to users with disabilities. This group sometimes relies on screen readers and other assistive technologies to navigate your site. They’re an often overlooked segment of the population when it comes to the digital realm.

Make sure these users have an equal chance to experience your brand in a consistent manner. This means that, for instance, your visuals and colors might need to take possible visual impairments into account. It also means using descriptive alt tags on images to relay their context accurately and generally making your navigational elements accessible.
Having your site follow web standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is the best way to ensure proper accessibility and ADA compliance.

7. Use marketing automation software

Marketing automation software lets you set much of your customer messaging on autopilot. This has many benefits, including automating repetitive communications tasks and creating advanced behavior-triggered workflows.

In the context of integrated marketing communications, using automation software guarantees that each message is exactly the same. This eliminates the risk of inconsistent branding and lets you streamline your user journeys.

Combined with your content marketing platform and your analytics tools, marketing automation software is a necessary element of an effective MarTech stack. Use it to gain end-to-end control over your customer communication.

8. Take a consolidated approach to PPC and SEO efforts

There’s a tendency in companies to treat PPC and SEO as separate marketing initiatives. Paid traffic and organic traffic teams may even end up working in their own silos.

It’s certainly true that the skill sets involved, the time horizons, and the metrics differ between the two. However, there’s also a lot of overlap when it comes to things like competitor analysis, keyword research, content, and the on-site user journey that the two sources of traffic feed into.

As such, it makes sense to consolidate the two activities to encourage best practice sharing and content alignment. This prevents double-work and ensures consistent messaging, which is the cornerstone of integrated marketing communications.

9. Invest in an enterprise-level analytics platform

When you’re employing an IMC strategy, all marketing channels work towards one ultimate goal and can be seen as touch points along the same user journey. Because of this, you need a unified way to measure their performance.

Investing in an enterprise-level analytics platform gives you this kind of holistic performance monitoring. You can set up shared metrics and create top-level dashboards with integrated insights across channels.

By uniting disparate analytics tools into an all-in-one solution, you gain the ability to view the entire customer journey from first to last touch point. This makes it far easier to plan, analyze, and optimize your integrated marketing communications efforts.

How Siteimprove can help with your IMC strategy

As you can see, an integrated marketing communications strategy requires you to pull together many separate strands of information and marketing initiatives.

Siteimprove is an all-in-one marketing platform that lets you do exactly that. It’s a one-stop solution that provides the needed marketing tools and reporting in a single place.

Among other things, Siteimprove offers:

You can scale the solution to your needs and decide which of the Siteimprove tools are relevant for your IMC strategy.

Each Siteimprove module comes with exhaustive documentation, as well as personal support and training. The insights you get from the tools are accompanied by intuitive explanations and next-step recommendations. All of this is aimed at helping you extract as much value as possible out of your marketing efforts.

With Siteimprove, you can reduce the complexity involved in running multiple marketing campaigns and achieve a truly integrated marketing communications strategy.

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