Marketers in the industrial Business-to-Business (B2B) environment need to recognise the far more complex sales processes than those which characterise Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sales, requiring a more specialised marketing strategy. Understandably so; buying a R10 chocolate compared to million-rand machinery is an entirely different trade environment. It requires a targeted, actionable and integrated marketing strategy.
Integrated marketing is about consistently communicating a brand's messages across traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and using different promotional methods that reinforce each other. It's simple really; the more visible your brand the greater the brand awareness and the more likely you are to grow your market share. Integrated marketing is not a new concept; marketers previously used press releases and print adverts in tandem as part of an integrated strategy. But with the rise of digital marketing platforms, integrated marketing has taken on new meaning. With all the marketing channels now available to us, B2B companies are faced with the challenge of not only mastering a wide variety of communication platforms, but of knowing which platforms will be effective for each specific marketing objective and target market.
Content driven by context
The only way for an integrated marketing agency to be successful is to base its approach on research, market knowledge and testing. The agency needs to fully understand the nature of their clients' businesses and marketing goals before implementing a marketing strategy. Without this, communicating a brand's message consistently and effectively is impossible.
The agency needs to ‘get into the heads' of their clients' target audience. Where and how do they gather their information? What are their reservations about buying something? Do they trust online messaging or does a product need to be endorsed? Without asking these hard questions, the agency has little hope in effectively communicating the message and creating brand-awareness across the various media channels.
Finally, the agency needs to understand, research and test each marketing channel's strengths and limitations on a case-by-case basis, including the audience's ability and willingness to absorb the message from that medium. Everyone wants to market on Facebook because of its massive reach capabilities, which works when you are selling the chocolate. But, when your target audience and the sales process are as specialised as B2B, agencies need to develop calculated brand messages to be communicated across the appropriate channels only.
Gone are the days of “I know 50% of my marketing efforts work, but I just don't know which 50%”. Today, agencies are able to measure the effectiveness of every message communicated to the target audience as well as the effectiveness of the channels used.
This data ranges from knowing how many people viewed your online banner, how many phone calls did a specific advert in X trade publication generate; right through to how many people opened your e-mail?
It is through this actionable information that the clued-in marketing agency will test, select and test again to find the right channels for your integrated marketing strategy.
Making every character count
Now that you know where you are going, what are you going to say? The role of clear, consistent content is vital to the success of your marketing strategy. Messages need to reaffirm the audience's choice to potentially partner with you while being appropriate to the chosen channel.
Companies like to do business with successful companies, and content needs to highlight your most important value propositions (through endorsements and credentials) that persuade the audience to take their business to you and not to your competitor.
Integrated marketing strategies grow business!
When faced with implementing an integrated marketing strategy into their marketing mix, industrial B2B clients notoriously respond with “people know my products and they know my brand - my money could be used elsewhere”. If you are nodding while reading that, you aren't alone.
But consider this: a successful integrated marketing strategy can give you pre-qualified leads. By infiltrating various media channels with consistent messages that reaffirm your company's value propositions, you are building brand awareness and brand trust before your audience has even considered a sale. For example, if I am launching a new forklift range, a single press release is unlikely to persuade me to switch my brand and buy yours.
But, if your targeted audience has seen your brand endorsed in an online banner, noticed your advert in their preferred trade magazine, your website appeared first in Google's search results when looking for a forklift online and now they're reading about you in a news article, you've successfully created trust, brand authority and hype before the sales process has even begun.
That's the power of an effective integrated marketing strategy.
Megan Stark has implemented effective integrated marketing strategies for B2B clients for 30 years - firstname.lastname@example.org
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