What is Integrated Marketing Blog Post Hero Image - Several marketers sitting around a table discussing strategy with a green wall behind them.

What is Integrated Marketing?

In Brief

Integrated marketing is an Agile marketing operations (MOPs) framework conceived to help organizations deploy complex omnichannel messaging strategies at scale. The approach facilitates deeper collaboration between strategic, creative, and technical teams in an outcome-, rather than channel- driven workflow. It  enables marketing teams to build the type of seamlessly integrated brand experiences that are more reflective of today’s dynamic, highly personalized buyer journey. Because of that, the integrated approach is becoming a cornerstone in the modern marketer’s playbook, empowering leaders in the space to close the marketing gap and build advocacy throughout the path-to-purchase.

If you’ve been wondering what integrated marketing is and how you can implement it at your organization, read on.

A Brief History of Integrated Marketing

Before getting started, it’s important to note that while the term “omnichannel” has traditionally referred to the digital marketing space, a modern reading requires something more expansive, including non-digital outreach like public relations, out-of-home, and mass media – each of which has been heavily influenced by the digital marketing landscape. Doing so frees us to begin thinking in outcomes, instead of channels – a key difference in integrated and non-integrated approaches.

To the uninitiated, the volume and diversity of expertise needed to implement multiple overlapping communications (AKA: Omnichannel Marketing) as a single storyline can feel overwhelming – like being asked to direct a symphony without any sheet music.

As methodologies for better leveraging this new communications ecosystem have taken shape however, we’ve watched the role of “marketer” evolve a similar amount of entropy – multiplying time and again to accommodate the needs of a rapidly maturing communications landscape.

The origins of integrated marketing then, aren’t a mystery; leaders in the space needed a framework for managing the type and volume of expertise it took to execute concurrent messaging across a wide array of platforms, channels, and devices. 

Its rise has been distinctly more evolution than revolution however. Larger companies, with the resources to test and refine potential methodologies over time and across a wide range of use cases, have spent years working to align operational strategies with omnichannel outcomes.

In so doing, they became the tip of the proverbial spear, testing and refining these methodologies until the skeleton of a working marketing operations (MOps) framework became apparent. The result – “integrated marketing” – offered a deeply collaborative process purpose-built for managing very diverse and deeply complex messaging over multiple channels simultaneously.

What IS Integrated Marketing?

We know that integrated can be defined as a way to deploy omnichannel communications at scale. But what IS Integrated marketing? How does it work? What are its benefits and fallbacks for marketing leaders? How can I implement it in my organization?

To start, Integrated marketing uses ‘Agile’ project management methodology to facilitate deeper strategic, creative, and technical collaboration between teams. The Agile framework originated in software development as an alternative to the waterfall method but it’s now an almost universal approach to product development. It’s also been adopted as a default method of workflow management by a wide range of other industries, from marketing to manufacturing.

The use of Agile in integrated marketing is most clearly demonstrated in three aspects of its implementation:

1) Its emphasis on collaboration, including regular standups and sprint meetings that drive information sharing between subject matter experts

2) Iterative planning cycles that test various strategic hypotheses on an ongoing basis

3) Overlapping – instead of series-based – task management that ensures blockers are quickly handled while other tasks continue moving forward

There are many qualified resources that explore Agile’s deeper purpose and history. Its primary benefit for marketers however is that this emphasis on collaboration, marketing operations, and outcome-based thinking allows us to bind multiple independent initiatives together around a common outcome. Because the goal of integrated is seamless storytelling, spotting an “integrated” campaign in the wild can be tough. But you can generally count on a few key aspects:

  • Leverages Agile project management methodology
  • Outcome- rather than channel-driven
  • Combines two or more marketing channels

So, what’s the difference between the “integrated” and “omnichannel” marketing terms? The former provides an approach to marketing that allows us to communicate with buyers in all the places they call home (or work). The latter allows us to implement them at scale. In short, they are two sides of the same coin.

Why Integrated Marketing?

You’re probably not shocked to find that the topic of “marketing operations” doesn’t pique a huge volume of interest from communications leaders. After all, most of us didn’t start a marketing career based on the drudgery of collaboration and project management methodology. Neither are marketing operations a “quick fix”. Improving them won’t make you the darling of your company’s communications program and their impact on the bottom line will take time to become apparent.

They can, however, represent one of the most rewarding and deeply transformative changes you can make to your communications program over the next five years. That’s because team collaboration and management is at the heart of some of the most elusive and impactful topics in marketing today, including brand sentiment, evangelism, and loyalty.

Integrated marketing strategies, therefore, represent a supercharged operational framework that gets to the heart of these indicators with outcome- rather than channel-based solutions. That includes the use of integrated MOPs strategies to create deep collaboration between strategic, creative, and technical experts with a deep focus on building omnichannel brand experiences. The result is a marketing operations strategy that allows brands to leverage the full power of today’s marketing ecosystem.

” The result [of integrated marketing] is deeply compelling messaging delivered at the right point in the buyer journey to influence purchasing behavior at scale.”

We can use the relationship between traditionally divergent ends of the marketing ecosystem – like SEO and public relations – as a great case to showcase the functioning and impact of integrated marketing. While experts in these areas normally wouldn’t sit on the same floor (nevermind in the same room) and have entirely different tasks and workflows, they are, in reality, deeply connected.

One generates demand for your products and services and the other optimizes them to be found by those with that demand. Collaboration on what in the past have often been described as independent arms of the marketing ecosystem can offer deep value-added insights that show how one SMEs strategy can impact another SMEs results.

By definition, omnichannel marketing offers multiple types of integrated outreach over a single timeline. In this instance, the benefit is greater than the sum of its parts. Well planned integrated campaigns have the power to bind a single cohesive brand narrative across many independent platforms, channels, and devices, each working collaboratively to deliver a single core objective. The result is deeply compelling messaging delivered at the right point in the buyer journey to influence purchasing behavior at scale.

Buyer beware – the “integrated marketing” term is sometimes co-opted to reference siloed marketing strategies running in parallel. True integration is more than that. It’s the collaborative application of these strategies in a way that tells a cohesive omnichannel story about your brand – one that shapes a buyer’s sentiment through seamless omnichannel brand storytelling. Integrated marketing isn’t just a function of scale. It’s a result of deeply collaborative planning.

Is Integrated Marketing Right for Me?

If integrated marketing sounds like a heavy lift, it can be. Since these types of MOPs frameworks were developed by leaders in the enterprise space (noticeably less concerned with budgetary constraints than tactical ones), you’d be forgiven for assuming that their impact was limited to larger, resource-driven use cases. A little creative thinking however can help us scale down their most important concepts, giving smaller organizations a pathway to omnichannel marketing campaigns while continuously building scale.

Team Integration

To build an integrated team, you’ll need to assign four roles: A strategist, a creative, a technician and a project manager. While the strategy and project management roles tend to overlap in small teams, it’s important to recognize the benefit they present as unique subject matter experts. Larger teams can extend their impact with channel-based contract or agency partners, while smaller teams may want to look for an integrated marketing partner.

Collaborative Ideation & Planning

Integrated marketing is based on deep collaboration between subject matter experts at every stage of your organizational workflow. Be relentless about removing departmental barriers and remember that this isn’t about oversight. It’s about shared insight. Avoid groupthink by using collaborative sessions to inform and ideate.

Iterative Development

As a core tenant of the Agile project management framework, the data-driven testing and redevelopment of ideas based on continual feedback should be a key feature of your program helping to identify challenges between teams early and drive incremental improvements to your process throughout. This can be done during regular sprints, but short daily meetings help ensure blockers are removed quickly.

Integrated Storytelling

The goal of integrated marketing is seamless omnichannel storytelling, not complexity for complexity’s sake. Start by defining your pain point, strategy, and approach with a clear project scope. It should act as a roadmap for your campaign ensuring that each player starts and ends with the same objective.

Your Next Steps with Integrated

While integrated marketing can represent a significant shift in an organization’s marketing operations framework, it’s proven time and again to be our single best tool for delivering omnichannel marketing at scale. 

To that end, marketing leaders in the SMB and mid-market spaces are going to have to become increasingly fluent in the strategy to create parity with larger, better resourced competitors – many of whom are already using integrated to deliver on the full power of the modern marketing ecosystem, thereby putting distance between them and potential challenger brands.

Looking to implement a marketing operations framework but need some help? We’ve created a shared integrated marketing backbone powerful enough to compete with larger brands, flexible enough to support growing brands, and diverse enough expertise to nail the latest marketing trends. It’s time to scale smarter with Catalyst.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.