Today, many companies find themselves in an incredibly complex environment. Traditional marketing models have broken down, fragmentation is rampant, and the fight for relevance depends on adopting a model equal to the challenges ahead. As marketers face mounting revenue pressure, a dizzying diversity of customers, markets, channels, and products, decreasing budgets, and siloed organizations, studies have shown that an integrated marketing approach is fast becoming the model of the future.
Why does this approach matters?
As the name suggests, integrated marketing is an approach that brings coherence to the complexity and fragmentation that characterizes the marketing world. Specifically, integrated marketing refers to the process of aligning and coordinating a marketing organization to deliver a consistent, seamless, customer-centric content experience across all channels.
Since content is the common currency of every market and consumer touchpoint, integrated marketing increases operational efficiency and drives superior performance through collaboration. The business case for integrated marketing is the shift from becoming a competitive player to a profit powerhouse.
The fight is real.
In the light of the above, there arises that an obvious question of ‘why more marketing organizations haven’t adopted an integrated approach?’ In more than a decade of partnering with marketing organizations in order to help them achieve integration, this is the short answer I’ve come up with: The fight is real.
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
Though it’s easy to blame the complexity lying outside our organizations as the chief obstacle standing in our way, the foremost challenge to building an integrated marketing organization is internal. Said differently, we have met the enemy, and it is us.
Competition is not the answer.
The enemy to integration that lies within most organizations is internal competition stemming from once-functional divisions within and between teams to handle multi-channel challenges. But with multi-channel rapidly giving way to omnichannel, silos based on specific channels are serious liabilities and active areas of dysfunction, and integration is mission critical.
How can we overcome the enemy to integration within our own organizations? The solution lies in the key shift from a culture of competition to a culture of collaboration. With increased competition comes increased collaboration, and with increased collaboration comes increased organizational integration and customer-centricity.
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Six milestones for building an integrated marketing organization.
Secure executive sponsorship and cross-functional buy-in.
Without dedicated executive sponsorship and cross-functional buy-in, an integrated marketing organization is a non-starter. (And leaders who cater to silos need to understand that their refusal to adopt an integrated approach is actively enabling their competition.)
Assemble a cross-functional team tasked with integrating the organization.
If you’re a leader in your organization, find champions and cross-functional leaders who will support you. If you’re a champion, find like-minded colleagues and recruit an executive who can help drive the initiative for integration.
Conduct a SWOT analysis.
At this stage, the idea is not necessarily to find solutions but to uncover key issues and challenges across the team and with stakeholders in order to get on the same page. It’s especially important to identify hidden silos (which can show up as unduly narrow areas of specialization) and other barriers to collaboration.
Proceed with collaborative planning that’s guided by an unifying big idea.
Collaborative planning needs to be guided by a big idea that serves three functions. First, this big idea should center around a dynamic storytelling and serve as your north star. Second, it should be ambitious, purposeful, and aligned with your brand values. Last, it should inspire a range of brand assets, activations, and a variety of content tailored to different audiences and channels. Every activity done by everyone in your organization should be informed by and lead back to this big idea.
Implement holistic workflows.
Holistic workflows provide the cross-functional transparency and clarity that accelerates quality content production through coordinated execution. Every piece of content needs to have its own distinct yet clearly interlinked workflow in the production process. This includes everything from idea to sign-off and approval to compliance review and so on. I always advise that companies create an inventory of all content types that exist in the organization. It then maps the stages and production cycle for each content piece, prescribe checkpoints, assign tasks, and determines ideal timeframes required for completion. Throughout the process, it must take great care to delineate clear roles and responsibilities and to actively include stakeholders and any third parties.
Support your efforts with integrated technology stack.
Technology is a major force in enhancing the coordination needed to overcome silos and achieve high levels of collaboration. Ideally, a marketing tech stack should support digital marketing, lead generation, and multi-channel campaigns. Integrated tech stack is a sign of an organization’s maturity since it allows channel communications and metrics to be automated.
It has become important and strategic for marketing organizations to adopt an integrated approach, and early adoption brings first market advantage. In the face of the complexity that characterizes today’s marketing world, the future of marketing lies in overcoming fragmentation through intensive coordination and coherence. In the shift from competition to collaboration, marketers are already achieving the marketing model of tomorrow.