Posts Tagged ‘IMC’
I just received an interesting comment on my “For Hire” post that asked:
“Are there really any leading authorities – aside from published authors – on integrated marketing and communications? There are a lot of self-promoters who claim expertise in what is usually “the obvious”.
This comment, while obviously an attempt to discredit my experience, made me realized that there are probably many marketing professionals out there that have the same misunderstanding and misperception when it comes to understanding the theory and benefits of true integration.
I want to help fix that.
From the dawn of its time, which would be about 1993, when the “Fathers of Integration” Schultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn wrote The New Marketing Paradigm: Integrated Marketing Communications, integration has always been based in customer-centric (putting the customer at the center of the organization) and data-driven marketing. Unfortunately, marketers conveniently ignored the customer-centric, data-driven part of integration. We’ll get to that in a bit…
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Most companies (small to Fortune 500 and everything in between) are not customer-centric—even if they think they might be (market-oriented or customer-focused isn’t the same, but they are a great start!). Driven by revenue generation, product and service development (i.e. profit centers) usually takes the lead and determines the hierarchy, culture and power within the organization. While products and services may be innovative, creative, and useful often the complete inward focus creates a fundamental disconnect between function and actually solving a customer’s challenges—from the customer’s perspective—and therefore companies only gain a temporary brand loyalty foothold. It’s why products and services (whether B2B or B2C) continue to face the challenge of commoditization. Even if customers force fit a product or service that alleviates short-term pain, there is still the hurdle of solving long-term challenges. If they are not focused on or solved, the next company that comes along with a solution and complete focus on achieving loyalty will win. Because companies focus on short-term gains, they lose 50% of their customers every five years or so. Ironically, it is more costly to acquire new customers than it is to make existing customers satisfied.
Breaking the Cycle
There is a reason why companies are not customer-centric. It is an operational practice, which can be difficult, challenging and downright painful especially considering it requires a hard look at what—and who—is wrong when it comes to focusing on the customer. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, however. There are examples of B2C and B2B companies that get it like Zappos, Southwest, Target, Best Buy, Carnival Cruise Lines, Cisco, Jones Lang LaSalle, and Lafarge.
So then, how does one break the cycle of being solely hierarchical and product-driven?
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Given that I am a proponent for customer-centricity, I could not help but add my thoughts to Ron’s post since it is at the heart of what I practice and believe as a marketer. As well, I am seeing the trend for customer-centric becoming destined for buzzword bingo and I would hate for it to become meaningless well before its benefits are recognized and experienced.
Ron offers a well thought-out case for what customer-centric is and why it may not in the best interest of an organization (be sure to read all of the comments, too). After thoughtful analysis, Ron arrives at this bottom-line:
“… All this talk of customer-centricity is an utter and complete waste of time. The term means nothing. There’s no common definition, no definitive way to measure it, and therefore, no real proof that a company that claims to be customer-centric is any better (for any of the stakeholders) than any other firm.”
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[Originally posted on Serengeti's Endless Plain blog on 9/16/10. I have edited some of the contents for this post.]
A post by Dawn Westerberg, “Social Media, Customer-Centric, and #IMCchat,” prompted a long response from me, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here too.
If you read THoM, you might already know that every Wednesday night I co-moderate a chat on Twitter called #IMCchat (that’s the Twitter hashtag, if you want to search Twitter), which stands for integrated marketing communications chat. If you are new to Twitter or if you haven’t been on a Twitter chat yet, I highly recommend checking them out (here’s a list of Twitter chats that Meryl Evans keeps up-to-date). Chats are a wonderful way to ask questions or engage in conversation around a topic that is of interest. It’s also great to learn, get advice and share information.
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There are a lot of marketers out there that understand that integrated marketing and communications (IMC) is a preferred way to do business because it is an outside-in approach. If an organization isn’t integrated, what are the best approaches to getting management buy-in? Anna Barcelos and I wanted to share nine key ways to provide management with the value of IMC.
Sales-Oriented Vs. Market-Oriented – Which Are You?
It’s often been said that the mindset of “If we build it, they will come” is not viable for long term business. To understand why, let’s look at the difference between a sales-oriented and market-oriented organization.
Sales-oriented organizations have a heavy reliance on promotional tactics to sell whatever products/services the organization has selected to produce. Sales teams, not marketers lead the pack and have the burden of performance (i.e. revenue generation).
In the short-run, markets can be created with aggressive campaigns and sales work; however, the lifetime value of a customer is minimal. The organization mindset is focused on ‘the next big thing,’ hungry and aggressive sales teams, and sales beating up marketing for not dishing up qualified leads or customers ready to spend.
Market-oriented organizations identify what markets need/want first and tailor their operations to deliver products/services that meet those demands as efficiently as possible. Within a market-oriented organization, marketing takes the lead not sales.
Because the market-oriented company has its complete focus on the customer, the end result is often brand loyalty, sales, and strong customer lifetime values.
Getting Management Buy-In
If you are in a sales-oriented organization, how then can you get management to understand the benefits of customer-focused integrated marketing and communications? Here are five areas to focus on:
- Execute long-term customer acquisition programs across channels instead of short-term lead generation to feed the sales funnel. While the former may take a little longer, the end results produce longer term customers with much higher life-time values. Demonstrate this with metrics and show management. They are always interested in seeing results tied to revenue generation.
- Emphasize that a customer for life is a much more cost-effective model versus solely focusing on new customer acquisition.
- Communicate the benefits of how integrated marketing communications delivers a consistent message to both existing and prospective customers.
- Involve key players from “silos” within the organization in planning process. If you can’t beat them— join them. Realistically, sales-oriented organizations will always have silos due to individual department goals/quotas. If sales and marketing work together, both are vested in acquiring/retaining customers.
- Build incentives around existing and new business initiatives to not only motivate sales, but customer service and marketing as well.
You would think that a market-oriented organization would have a leg-up on getting management buy-in, but a lot of times there are still silos and separate budgets in place that affect true IMC. But by demonstrating the value of IMC, chances are you’ll have an easier time convincing management of its inherent benefits. Here are four ways to show value:
- Do an A/B test of an integrated campaign versus a non-integrated campaign (suggested by Valeria Maltoni, Conversation Agent) Testing is a risk-free, quick way to prove the value of IMC. Large companies shy away from radically changing their current marketing efforts. Testing gets them interested without any disruption in day to day. If tests delivers expected ROI, then scale.
- Leverage/collect behavioral data and analytics for follow up IMC campaigns with existing customers and build profiles on potential untapped new markets. It’s astonishing how companies have amazing databases that they are not exploiting as much as they could.
- Survey/talk to customers for the best insight on what works with them and what doesn’t. (“How can we be better?” “ Where do you want to find information?”) Management is always interested in seeing results of these efforts!
- Maintain communication across all departments. Market-oriented organizations are more customer-centric than sales-oriented organizations. Goals are aligned across the organization from top to bottom. Everyone plays a part in the customer experience. IMC works well within these organizations, but communication is key.
Whether an organization is sales- or market-focused, and the latter may be more beneficial, the reality is that unless upper management encourages a customer-centric culture, self-contained silos and status quo will continue to be the norm. The benefits of outside-in planning that IMC offers will bring you closer to the customer and social media has really helped put that into perspective. The voice of the customer is louder than ever, which is forcing traditional organizations to rethink their marketing communications strategies and encouraging customer-centric organizations to develop deeper relationships with their customers. Both take time, but small efforts across an entire organization will deliver what’s most important—a happy, loyal customer.
Share your expertise with us! Have you encouraged management to implement IMC? Have you broken down or bridged silos in your organization? What worked best? What didn’t work? What would you add here?