We introduced integrated marketing communications (IMCs) in our Beginner’s Guide and furthered the subject by explaining why you might need (or want) one.
The advantages of having an IMC are numerous, from building trust and brand recognition to improving your return on investment (ROI), an IMC can address many challenges a marketing department faces. It can increase profits by driving sales and improving audience reach, and it can generate credibility and propel efficiency.
Even before companies really started using the Internet for business they were hunting for ways to create a consistent message across all their content output and media touchpoints. Remember that social media didn’t really start taking off until the late 90s, and even then it took a while before businesses started using them to actively market their products or services. The fact is, the search for integrated, consistent strategies have been a bit of a unicorn in the marketing world – we’re all chasing it, but it’s not easy to find.
An integrated marketing communications approach requires a lot of planning, consideration, and – eventually – staying power. You might be surprised by how many businesses and organizations don’t have an IMC strategy. We’ve discussed the reasons for implementing an IMC in our previous articles, but consider for a moment the environment in which most marketers try to implement an IMC.
It’s very difficult to take existing strategies, brand messages, and thought processes and merge them under one IMC banner. Even if you start with a single concept in the nascency of a business, there are always aspects that will force diverging strategies to crop up and take hold. That’s simply the way the world works; finding ways to unify things is always harder than letting them slip apart.
This is where building a strong integrated marketing communications strategy comes in.
6 Steps to an Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy
1. Identify and Analyze your Customer
Do you know who your target audience is? Do you know what sort of things they enjoy and what they avoid? Buyer personas are a great way to really establish who your customers really are – or should be!
2. Choose and Prioritise your Channels
Once you really have a handle on who your target audience is, you need to reach them where they live – i.e. you need to be active in the digital spaces they occupy. Establishing what social media platforms to use and how to get the most out of your website are vital to setting up an IMC strategy. Know your territory and the people who live there. According to SproutSocial’s 2022 Social Media Demographics for Marketers, social media demographics can be broken down as follows:
- Number of monthly active users: 2.91 billion
- Largest age group: 25-34 (31.5%)
- Gender: 43% female, 57% male (no data on other genders)
- Time spent per day: 33 minutes
- Number of monthly active users: 2 billion
- Largest age group: 25-34 (31.2%), with 18-24 close behind at 31%
- Gender: 48.4% female, 51.8% male (no data on other genders)
- Time spent per day: 29 minutes
- Number of monthly active users: 1 billion
- Largest age group: 10-19 (25%)
- Gender: 61% female, 39% male (no data on other genders)
- Time spent per day: 89 minutes per day
- Number of daily active users: 211 million (up from 187 million)
- Largest age group: 18-29 (42%)
- Gender: 38.4% female, 61.6% male (no data on other genders)
- Time spent per day: 31 minutes
*data based on pre-Elon Musk takeover period
- Number of monthly active users: 810 million
- Largest age group: 25-34 (58.4%)
- Gender: 48% female, 52% male
- 63% of LinkedIn users access the network weekly, and 22% daily
And that’s not even going into the world of YouTube, SnapChat or Pintrest – to get those details you’re going to need to read SproutSocial’s full report. The wealth of information of each platform’s demographics provides insights into each channel. This knowledge lets you know which channels you should be prioritising ahead of others when it comes to your IMC strategy.
3. Establish and Your Unified Brand Identity
Of course, if you are going to send out a unified message you need your message to be unified. An integrated marketing communications strategy revolves around a consolidated brand message – a marketing initiative that presents a unified brand identity.
To that end, you need to gather all your previously disparate marketing strategies, plans, schedules, and initiatives and join them under one banner. This doesn’t have to happen all at once – it can take a lot of time and effort to bring these things together, especially if your company has been running for many years without an IMC. It’s important to do it right, so take your time and ensure that your IMC strategy forms the strong foundation your business can use to stand on for decades to come.
4. Set your Targets and Objectives (and your KPIs!)
Start by getting a grip on your strengths and weaknesses. The best way to do this is to run an internal SWOT analysis, which will provide situational insight and help you identify areas that need improvement. Once you know the lay of the land, it’s important to set goals and targets – what are you looking to achieve with your integrated marketing communications strategy? Is it only about improving external reach and impact? Or are you looking to streamline internal communications as well?
Remember to attach some target numbers to your objectives – “What gets measured, gets done” after all – these can be percentage increases or solid numbers when dealing with metrics like web traffic or followers. Having set targets and KPIs like this will allow you to see whether your IMC strategy is having the right impact.
5. Check your Internal Resources (People & Tools)
Another pitfall that you should avoid by looking into it during the setup of an IMC is what resources you have available in the business. This could include software, like CRMs, marketing management tools, and social media scheduling tools; but you should also take into account what human resources you have on your team. You may find that an IMC requires a different team structure or additional team members. You might discover that you need additional software or tools to properly reach your audience. Do you have the tools and the team you need to make this happen? If not, you need to know so you can take appropriate action.
6. Check and Set Budgets
Money, money, money. Generally speaking, IMC strategies improve the efficiency of outreach, meaning they should positively affect your spending on social and search advertising. An IMC is going to profoundly impact the way you spend money so it’s key to have a good understanding of your existing and new budgets. By keeping an eye on your budgets you’ll also be able to track any changes – up or down – with your IMC in place.
An integrated marketing communications strategy is a powerful business aspect that will help your business stand out. Stronger brand messaging driving your customer reach and engagement will in turn positively impact your ROI and your bottom line. Marketing can be tough, especially these days when target audiences are more and more difficult to isolate and identify. We now need to reach them across different platforms and channels, making sure we produce specific content that they find interesting and useful. Developing an IMC can help keep things straightforward and moving in the right direction.
Taking the first step can be hard, especially if you’re not sure where to start. Did you know that we offer free social media audits? It’s one of the best ways to get the ball rolling on the development of an IMC.
Originally published: 12 June 2021
Updated: 16 December, 2022