How to: Plan an integrated marketing campaign
Although this guide is designed for seasoned marketing professionals, newbies and solo soldiers should not be afraid to take inspiration from the tips and strategies. For those who have been in the industry a while – Brand Managers, CMOs, Marketing Managers, Account Managers, Media Planners and anyone else in similar categories – you know there are different names for marketing and media planning concepts. Please forgive us if we use nomenclature you’ve banned in your office*. We promise it isn’t personal.
Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the practice of targeting customers/audiences using diverse channels, with consistent messaging. Integrated campaigns use this practice on the campaign level to reinforce messaging across multiple platforms.
Although IMC is sometimes referred to as multichannel or omnichannel marketing (*see above), for this guide we’re making a distinction. IMC ties multiple channels together with consistent messaging, where multichannel marketing uses different messaging on different platforms to target different audience segments.
IMC has gained popularity in recent years as an expanding media landscape and the demassification of audiences force marketers to innovate their tactics.
- 72% of consumers want to be engaged with an integrated marketing approach, but only 39% are receiving that
- 87% of US internet users use more than one device when browsing online
IMC is considered more effective than single-channel strategies. With increased touchpoints comes increased recognition and more opportunities to drive conversions.
- Over 70% of consumers are on the lookout for new brands and products that make their life easier
- 61% of consumers expect brands to provide what they need, when they need it
It’s important to point out here that integrated media plans should not exclude offline activity; 90% of global shoppers who visit brick-and-mortar stores research online before making the trip.
- Reach a wider audience
- Balances short-term results and long-term brand growth
- Increases recall and recognition potential
- Generates consistency and credibility
- Repurpose assets to reduce content development cost
However, more channels also equates to more complexity in the planning and delivery stages. More data sources to track, more risk of missing material deadlines, and more analysis to optimise performance and budget allocation.
IMC is almost certainly more effective for building a loyal cohort of paying customers. So, how do you go about identifying the most effective channel mix without losing days in audience research and analysis? And once you launch the campaign, how can you combine all those disparate data sources into a cohesive story?
It’s easy to think that an integrated campaign is designed for a diverse audience. But that’s not the case: your audience may be narrow and niche, yet active across multiple platforms.
Spend some time getting to know your intended audience before going ahead with a marketing campaign.
- Where and how do they consume media?
- What are they looking for? (Entertainment, education, solutions, information etc)
- Do they respond to images or text?
- What is the average income?
- How old are they?
- What are their interests and hobbies?
- Where do they live? What city? In a house, or apartment?
- Which marketing tactics have worked in the past?
IMC aims to target potential customers with the same messaging across multiple channels, which means you want to be sure that your audiences are active on multiple channels.
Otherwise, you are talking about a multichannel marketing strategy, with diverse messaging spread out across the media landscape.
Strategic objectives and KPIs form the foundation of any marketing plan. Everything flows from the campaign goal: which channels you leverage, the budget mix, messaging and creative, campaign duration, mid-campaign KPIs and more.
Use goals as a rudder in decision-making. For example, if your goals are increased short-term sales then a shorter consumer cycle (say, a shoppable Instagram post or promotion landing page) may be more beneficial than pointing to an educational blog post with affiliate links.
Overarching marketing goals will ideally originate at the strategic business level, provided the Marketing Manager has a seat at the decision-making table. From there, campaign objectives and KPIs work towards those goals.
Campaign goals, combined with strategically targeted audiences, will be key to defining your channel mix.
- What channels do you have available?
- Where is your audience most active?
- Do those channels link up with your goals?
- Do you need to establish new channels?
- What balance of above-the-line and below-the-line activity will work best?
The media universe is almost as wide as the observable universe. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but there are more than a few channels to choose from. Don’t be scared to exclude low-performing channels, as the intention is to optimise budget rather than pepper your message over every conceivable platform.
Tip: Use data to drive decision-making. If the C-Suite wants the campaign to focus on Twitter (for example), then pull data on why that is/isn’t a good idea before allocating budget.
It almost goes without saying that you need a clear messaging strategy and engaging creative content to roll out an integrated marketing campaign, or any campaign. Remember that one of the big benefits of IMC is the ability to re-use collateral across multiple platforms.
Repurposing campaign creative works in two ways:
- Reduces cost of creating campaign assets
- Creates familiarity with your audience
Messaging, in turn, is borne from the campaign goals. Chasing more sales? Craft messaging to entice a purchase. Want email sign-ups? Spruik the benefits of subscribing. Launching a new product? Make sure your USP is clear and valid.
Your next challenge is scheduling content. With so many channels in play, not to mention insertion orders, offline collateral deadlines, supplier timelines and (for agencies) the eternal client feedback cycle, scheduling is a media planning nightmare. If you want to know how to streamline scheduling, skip ahead to point 7 then come here.
Much of the work in steps 1-4 can be undertaken by the Marketing team, normally with strategic direction from the upper echelons. But here is where you need to establish buy-in or the risks of your campaign collapsing escalate.
Map out your internal stakeholders and ensure they are not only on board with the integrated strategy but committed to seeing it through.
- Client-side marketing team
- Agencies (creative, media, social, advertising, PR)
- C-Suite or upper management
- Brand managers in different regions
- Media partners
- Accounting and back-office
- Creative team or freelancers
- Product development team/engineers
- Sales teams
Remind them that results are not always instant because IMC builds long-term brand loyalty in conjunction with driving short-term success. Collaboration can be tricky for diverse or remote teams. Again, for tips on overcoming those issues skip ahead to point 7.
We don’t need to remind you that marketing plans cost money. According to HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing report, a little over 91% of marketers are ‘somewhat confident’ or ‘very confident’ that their efforts are influencing revenue. And yet, only a nudge over 75% of marketers are _reporting _on how marketing directly influences revenue.
This goes back to the strategic business goals that inform campaign objectives, and it bears repeating endlessly:
- Proving ROI means you are likely to receive a bigger budget next time
If you can prove that marketing is directly contributing to revenue growth – and it’s not always easy to do so, but we’re getting to that – then the business is more likely to re-invest in marketing with greater confidence.
40% of marketers say their biggest challenge in IMC is implementing ‘advanced techniques’. There is a misconception that effective integrated campaigns require a capacious team with experts in each channel/platform. But that’s not an efficient way to work.
Marketers who ignore technology’s role in streamlining campaign planning, delivery, optimisation and reporting do so at their peril.
Media planning software is the key to a successful integrated media or marketing campaign. The challenge we face as marketers is juggling so many diverse channels, tactics and information streams, and analysing an overwhelming amount of data to understand whether the campaign is progressing towards success. With the right marketing campaign management tool, you can forget about the endless spreadsheets and data comparisons and benefit from:
- Real-time data tracking from all channels
- Target analysis
- Flexible dashboards to view and export results
- Collaboration tools to plan and deliver campaigns
- Mid-campaign optimisation driven by useful data
- Drill down on regions, audience segments, channels etc
- Identify which assets are performing
- A single source of truth for the entire team
And here’s where we confidently put forward Mediatool as the SaaS solution that does all of the above and much, much more for IMC.
As marketers ourselves, we set out to create a media planning software to reduce admin time and streamline campaign delivery. We did that, then continued to build Mediatool into a comprehensive marketing management tool for agencies and brands.
Mediatool is a planning, visualisation and workflow tool that supports IMC activity from end-to-end, and throughout the cyclical nature of effective integrated marketing campaigns. Every part of the campaign is managed through one platform tailored to suit your business. From initial campaign brainstorming through to exporting branded graphs and charts for quick and visually stunning reporting, it’s all at your fingertips.
With customised marketing dashboards and hundreds of productivity features, including third-party data integrations, insertion orders, flexible calendars and user-based access, Mediatool is purpose-built for excellent integrated marketing campaigns.